If I have a pound for every time someone had asked me what the most exciting thing I’d ever found was, or which exotic places I’d been digging in, then I’d be very rich. The truth is I’ve never found anything amazing, and I’ve never worked outside the UK (unless you count a month training dig in Menorca in summer 2000, although I wouldn’t exactly call that work). I’m not a typical archaeologist, but it doesn’t mean I love my profession any less.
As part of the project management team at MOLA we are responsible for all the unglamorous aspects of archaeological excavations; the planning and preparation, the costings, the invoicing, the endless meeting about piling, but without us then the exciting work would never take place.
We have often been working on a project for years before excavation starts; negotiating with curators, meeting with planners, quantity surveyors, architects, and demolition contractors. Poring over plans for temporary works and figuring out how we can stop the pavement falling into the excavation area with sheet piles, whilst not destroying any archaeology in the process of inserting the sheet piles. We have to make judgements about time and cost of excavations based on sometimes scant information, trying to do the best for our clients whilst ensuring the archaeology is properly recorded. Archaeology is never straight forward, and we generally have no say in when we can go on site to start work, but we will do everything we can to fill gaps in the MOLA excavation programme and try to maintain constant employment for our hard working field team.
So today, as I sit at my desk sending out invoices and thinking about all the amazing artefacts I have never found, I am happy knowing that my work means something. Without archaeologists excavating and recording the remains left behind by an infinite number of lost Londoners before they are gone for ever beneath another glass sky scraper, then the world would be a much more boring place.