Kenneth J. Basalik – My Day of Archaeology, 2016

The business of archaeology, like business in general, can be a frustrating experience. I work for a cultural resource management firm in the Philadelphia area. I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar in Utah last week, but the time away from the office meant that my work had piled up in my absence. No big deal except that I am going on vacation next week for two weeks. You’d think that would be great, gone for a seminar, back a week, and then two weeks off. The problem is that when you tell your clients that you will be out for two weeks, they suddenly need a product before you leave. Never mind that you told them your schedule more than a month ago, that they have been holding on to the material you need to proceed with the project for months, when they send the material you need, it is incomplete and you already have a full schedule (since you planned ahead to get your work done before you left).

My day started, like that of many others, sitting in traffic to get to work. The first half of the ride is pleasant, but then I encounter a tanker truck that can’t seem to get above 25 miles per hour. When I get to the office 15 minutes later than expected (but still an hour early), I am tense and frustrated. The office is empty (after all I am an hour early) and I begin to unwind a little and start on simple administrative tasks. I actually get to examine some prehistoric pottery recovered from a site along the Schuylkill and address relative easy questions about scheduling field work. As the morning progresses I am beginning to feel that I can get through the day, and hopefully get out on time. Then the phone calls come. Can you do this for me? Can you send this out today before you go away? Can you answer a few questions about the ramifications of the archaeology work that I had another firm perform? And then the big one. We’ve reviewed the rush job and we realize that we didn’t send you all the information, can you revise the report ASAP and get it back to us today? Sure, sure I can, but you need to email the material. Three hours later, after slogging through a review of a less than stellar report and making (hopefully) useful comments, no material. Four hours later, still no material. I call. “Sorry it is taking longer than we thought to pull the necessary material together. We will get it to you tomorrow.” There goes my Saturday (good thing I was leaving town for vacation). Another day in the life of an archaeological manager. A touch of material culture, a bit of thoughtful consideration of archaeological issues, and a plethora of business related headaches.

Kenneth J. Basalik, Ph.D.
President, Cultural Heritage Research Services, Inc.
Lansdale, Pennsylvania, USA