Craig Alexander studied economics at both the University of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He worked in strategy consulting at McKinsey & Company and Accenture, and then decided to pursue his childhood passion for archaeology, returning to Cambridge to do an MPhil
Craig Alexander studied economics at both the University of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He worked in strategy consulting at McKinsey & Company and Accenture, and then decided to pursue his childhood passion for archaeology, returning to Cambridge to do an MPhil (thesis on the Neolithisation of Italy) and a PhD (thesis on spatial and demographic analyses of Iron Age Valcamonica and its rock art sites, villages and cult sites). Craig then took part in a three-year EU-funded project to develop a new 3D scanner for rock art, which was tested and refined at sites in Valcamonica. He has active research programmes in Valcamonica (statistical analyses of various aspects of rock art) and Puglia (trace element analysis of Neolithic pottery to reconstruct the exchange and sourcing networks of Western Europe's first agricultural society).
You can find out more about his project here: http://www.3d-pitoti.eu/
What first sparked your passion for archaeology?
I grew up in Swindon, and, every year – for four years – my primary school trip was to Avebury/Silbury Hill/West Kennett. The strangeness and wonder of these places – so different from my quotidian reality at Ferndale Junior School – struck me deeply. A personal interest in, and love of, the British Neolithic has remained with me ever since. In fact, long after leaving Swindon, I even proposed marriage at the D-shaped stone feature south of the chapel at Avebury! By the time that I finished secondary school (age 14), I had read all the archaeology books in both the school and town libraries. Although I chose to study economics at university – for the usual reasons – my passion for the past has never left me and the decision to leave the business world and take an MPhil and PhD in archaeology is amongst my best!
What does archaeology mean to you?
Archaeology, mathematics and statistics are my lifelong academic passions – and finding ways to combine them productively is endlessly fascinating. In archaeology, we can begin to see different ways of living – that ours is not particularly privileged amongst all the alternatives. Indeed, that it may not even be sustainable. The application of statistics provides a check on our flights of fancy – yes, it may have been so, but it may not have been terribly likely!
What is the most memorable thing to happen to you on a tour?
Two things leap to mind: first, something that I learned from a tour guest: said guest had, after retirement, completed a PhD on Roman water pumps and, at the Grotte di Catullo in Sirmione, he told me that the Roman technology could have pumped water from Lake Garda below us up to the level of the massive villa. I have since shared his insight and the title of his book with several people involved in Roman archaeology – thank you for sharing your research with me! Second, the guests’ reactions to the rock-art in Valcamonica – this UNESCO World Heritage site was Italy’s first on the UN register but it remains unknown even to many archaeologists outside the small world of rock-art. The tour guests had little idea what they would be seeing and so, confronted by something like Naquane rock 1 with thousands upon thousands of images of both quotidian and more esoteric subjects, people were quite overawed.
What is your favourite archaeological site?
Favourite archaeological site? Not an easy question! The most-visited would be Avebury, without a doubt. But the magnificent wall paintings of the Quarta Cella of the Republican temple in Brescia also hold a special place in my heart, as do the great nuraghi of Sardinia. Perhaps I can answer once for each continent that I have visited, plus the UK? UK: Avebury. Mainland Europe: perhaps the massively complex Nuraghe Su Nuraxi in Sardinia. North America: Chaco Canyon, especially Pueblo Bonito. Central America: Caracol (Belize).
How many tours have you led for Andante?
If I am not mistaken, I have led two IceMan tours and one Relaxed Lake Garda.