Keeping up appearances in the Palaeolithic

Archaeology has always been a passion of mine, though I didn’t truly discover my love of all things Palaeolithic until my undergraduate. To be honest, I’d turned up wanting to study Egyptology (a revelation that some colleagues may find shocking/amusing). However, my life was turned around by those sexy stone tools that often form the only traces of hominin material culture. I changed course and ploughed forth with fervour, trying as best I could to devour as much knowledge about our early ancestors as possible. My studies saw me bounce between the Neanderthals and their predecessors, Homo heidelbergensis, studying their tools and behaviour, adaptations and responses. My love of the period took me all the way to the heady heights of undertaking a PhD looking at the potential for quantifying individual behaviour during stone tool manufacture (more on that in another post).

Now that's a sexy handaxe.

Now that’s a sexy handaxe.

At the end of this journey I find myself as one of those individuals still struggling to find an academic position one year after the completion of their PhD. While the majority of my working week is taken up by the very non-archaeological job of working in a university library, which does the handsome task of bringing in the dough, my free time is spent keeping up to date with the latest research, publishing, editing, grant writing and, of course, consistently hitting refresh on the old jobs pages.

That’s kind of a gloomy note to end on, but things aren’t really all that bad. Since I passed my viva in late 2012 and graduated last summer, I’ve tried to keep my fingers in various archaeological pies (or should that be pits?). I’ve manage to complete a stint as an assistant editor for the prestigious European Journal of Archaeology, published one edited volume and submitted another, organised an international conference, been hired as a post-doc to complete a project involving archaeoacoustics, and submitted one grant application. While that last one didn’t fly, I’ve picked myself up, dusted myself off and am in the process of writing several more.

In essence, I’ve taken to heart the message sent out by many of my colleagues who have found themselves in a similar situation – stick with it and continue to contribute to the profession in whatever ways you can. Because, as a couple of friends of have shown, that postdoc might be just around the corner.

For me, the weekend’s task will primarily be writing the next draft of a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship application. However, I briefly found the time to act as a stand in tape dispenser while we rigged up another grid line for the geophysical survey that is part of my wife’s New Light on Old Sites project, which we’ll be starting next week. So despite not having a ‘real’ job in the profession, an archaeologist’s work never really stops…

Dispensing tape while making geophys lines can be rough on the hands...

Dispensing tape while making geophys lines can be rough on the hands…