Trio from a Different World

Archivist Ian Gregory discovers another intriguing photograph from Derbyshire’s collection:

While cataloguing images at Buxton Museum, I came across a photo of three men from 1925. The trio are on a limestone plateau bare of trees at Dowlow in Buxton, and are digging a hole in the field. They may well be archaeologists.

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One thing that struck me was that they are dressed in white shirts and waistcoats while toiling at a physical job. My first thought was that their world must have been very different from mine. Or was it? If this was a scientific excavation then we have something in common; a desire to not only know where we came from, but to verify whatever theories they had with hard evidence. This was science as we know it today. Since the Industrial Revolution and compulsory education were already underway perhaps this isn’t surprising.

If I could meet these three today, would we understand each other? Or would there still be wedges between us and not only regarding dress codes? I think there would be stumbling blocks: attitudes to women, attitudes to ethnic minorities, to the British Empire and probably other issues too. Incomplete knowledge could intensify some prejudices. Back then, no one in Europe knew that there had been urban literate cultures in Sub- Saharan Africa before first contact with Europeans. No archaeologists bothered to dig in Africa. No one knew our species was born on leopard-haunted plains.

In some respects my first impression was correct; the trio in my photo came from a different world. In some ways, but perhaps not in all.

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