Reverse Archaeology

Experiments in Carving and Casting Space


  • Rupert Griffiths Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Lia Wei School of Oriental and African Studies



Collaboration, experimental archaeology and cultural geography, creative methods, marginal landscapes, ruins, materiality


This photo-essay draws from a three-year collaboration—Site_Seal_Gesture (2013–2016)—between archaeologist Lia Wei and geographer Rupert Griffiths. The initial point of departure was a reflection on the use of creative practice in our respective academic fields, and our shared interest in the relationship between time, materiality, and the human subject. This quickly developed into a shared discursive and artistic practice. Building blocks for a common language emerged through sketch dialogues and shared itineraries, which made connections between abandoned military defence architectures on the southeast coast of the UK and second-century rock-cut tombs in Southwest China. Speculative connections between past, present, and future were drawn out and deposited in models cast in plaster and life-size replicas carved in chalk or stone. Through the entwined actions of dwelling and making, the creative manipulation of archaeological materials constructs a unique tunnel between marginal landscapes and multiple temporalities.


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Author Biographies

Rupert Griffiths, Goldsmiths, University of London

Rupert is a Visiting Research Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has a PhD in social and cultural geography from the Royal Holloway University of London and has a background in art and architecture. His creative and empirical work deals with marginal landscapes—variously termed terrain vague, dross-scape, friche, or edgeland. From the perspectives of practice and materiality, he looks at how these landscapes are encountered and understood by artists. Through his collaborative work and creative practice, he also explores the margins between cognate disciplines such as geography, archaeology, and anthropology.

Lia Wei, School of Oriental and African Studies

Lia studied calligraphy, seal carving and landscape painting at the China Academy of Art and Sichuan Fine Arts Institute (2007-2010). She took part in a collaborative experiment in contemporary ink painting—Biface Graphy/Open Scroll (2009-2013)—and in a China Ministry of Education research project—Great Vacuity Buddha-King: Sutra Engravings and Visual Culture under the Northern Dynasties’ (2012-2016). She is now senior teaching fellow on the Art and Archaeology of the Silk Road at SOAS, University of London, while conducting her PhD research on rock-cut burials in Southwest China.


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How to Cite

Griffiths, R., & Wei, L. (2018). Reverse Archaeology: Experiments in Carving and Casting Space. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, 4(2), 195–213.



Creative Archaeologies Forum