The day begins…

Another year, another Day of Archaeology!

It may seem odd to begin a Day of Archaeology talking about accounts… but we are in the process of signing off the 2013-14 accounts so this is uppermost on my mind at the moment. After yesterday’s meeting with the auditors my first task today is to prepare the financial parts of the Trustees’ papers for the Board Meeting next Friday. It will be quite a busy Board meeting as there is a lot to discuss about the various changes I am making at the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust – all very positive news, but a lot of it!

This year is the last year that my administrator Jenny will be with us; she will retire later this year and just at the moment we are recruiting for her replacement. Applications for the job – advertised here – close at the end of the day on Monday, so there is still time to apply. Since I am the line manager of this post, and we have no HR department (just me!), then this has been another time-consuming process… it is always a fascinating one though.

Most of the team are out of the office today on various fieldwork projects. We have just finished two substantial Cadw-funded community archaeology projects and so the building is full of the detritus from those! I am immensely proud of Viviana, Sophie and Richard for their work at Buckley. This was quite a new departure for the Trust, with over 350 schoolchildren involved in an excavation of a post-medieval pottery site over a period of three weeks.

Pupils from Elfed School at Buckley with CPAT staff and members of the Buckley Society. Pupils from Elfed School, along with CPAT staff and members of the Buckley Society. 10535739_260455044150244_8390290249251283690_o

At the same time we also ran the fourth field season at Hen Caerwys, where the oldest and most experienced member of the team – Bob – was joined by our newest and youngest recruit, Menna. It is really rewarding to see experience and knowledge being handed on in a very practical way to the next generation. I was lucky enough to come out from behind my desk last weekend and spend a bit of time wielding a mattock on site at Hen Caerwys.

Mennas dog Merlin helps with the surveying of her trench at Hen Caerwys last week.

Some more Cadw-funded fieldwork will be done later in the summer, and Richard is out for the next two weeks doing geophysics in advance of those. At the moment Nigel is organising everyone’s very busy schedule over the next month or so for various contracts ranging from watching briefs to large evaluation projects – with churches, quarries, medieval villages and prehistoric ring-ditches among the targets.

Meanwhile, on the curatorial side, Mark and Wendy continue to monitor planning applications and, where necessary, issue briefs for work. This year has seen a gradual upturn in the number of applications being received, which suggests that the economic recovery may be cautiously approaching mid-Wales. Finally, Jeff has taken a break from his usual HER duties this week to help Viviana with the first schools placement week. Today the six local pupils will carry on with a variety of field- and office-based activities. Yesterday they were outside my office on the back steps cleaning pottery in the sunshine – great to hear their enthusiasm and interest as a refreshing counterpoint to the tedium of the accounts.

Later this morning I have to go over to my old stomping ground at Ironbridge to give a lecture on the origins of metallurgy to students on the Building Conservation course there. Sadly this is the last time that this course will run in its current form. I am very much looking forward to seeing my recently-honoured former colleague Harriet Devlin MBE!

All in all a typically busy start to a typically busy day in the life of the Director of a Welsh archaeological trust!


75 Years of the Institute of Archaeology, or, my day #1,383 in the IoA House…

Archaeology has meant many things to me – Archaeological musings in Bahrain circa 1986 (aged 4);

Bahrain 1986 Archaeology

So it begins…the author, aged 4, exploring the desert…

Archaeogical digs in Colchester; Archaeology BA from Southampton 2000; Archaeological reconstruction Scottish Crannog Centre crazy Iron Age Woman 2003;  UCL MSc Archaeology and Human Evolution 2005; Archaeological reflection St Kilda 2006; Archaeological Consultancy 2007: Archaeological Administrator 2008-present…as I enjoy day 1,383 in the Institute of Archaeology house I can reflect on my time here, which has flown by (thanks to my tremendous colleagues and the most splendid of students!!!) and my Admin Archaeological work…

A typical day:

8.27am arrive…drink coffee

9am commence work – emails / tours / forms / UCAS / meetings / external meetings / student meetings

11am more coffee under the auspicious gazes of Wheeler, Grimes, Childe and Kenyon in the Staff room…


Wheeler Method – the father of the IoA (on this our 75th Anniversary year!)

12pm sometimes desk cover for the reception – lots of waving at people (should a receptionist wave?)

1pm – ham, salad cream and rocket on rye – hearty lunch of archaeological champions

2pm – 5.30pm – forms / liaise / meetings / sort / web / social networking (for work!) etc and so forth.

As far as an admin job goes this particular one rocks – it’s the best of both Archaeological worlds – I still get the chance to dig / attend some lectures / talk to archaeological folk / do some archaeological outreach but I get an office, with a fan, a musical boombox and a computer – less problematic for my tired archaeological knees.  I also get to administer the applications of the new generation of Archaeologists.

This year has been our 75th Anniversary – the anniversary of Mortimer’s dream coming to fruition and his wife, Tessa Wheeler, securing the money for the IoA in Regents Park (St John’s Lodge) –  super photos from the 1950s onwards.

We have had the following events in the IoA this year:

6 Inaugural Lectures

5 75th Anniversary Debates

1 Alumni Party (IoA Director Prof Stephen Shennan’s speech)

…and 1 Massive World Experimental Archaeology Day in Gordon Square – Pics here!

Sat 9th June World of Archaeology!

Working at the IoA is a joy – every day is different…and for me it provides the perfect balance of admin and Archaeology – plus it is really close to the British Museum for all the best outings!

So…to plug the IoA once again – you can follow us on Facebook there are pics and news about the workings of an Archaeological Institution (thanks to the Guardian and the student survey – the UKs number one Archaeology Department! Thank you graduands!)

Charlotte Frearson – Undergraduate Programmes Administrator / Museums Placement Organiser / Fieldwork Administrator / Social Networker / Moodler…

networks, administration, garden centres, maternity…

I’m currently on maternity leave, looking after our five-week old son, so my archaeological brain is somewhat disconnected at present. However, before the arrival of the boy, my job(s) entailed many things.

My mornings were spent working at the Ancient India and Iran Trust in Cambridge, a small, independent library of 25,000 volumes dedicated to the archaeology, history, linguistics and cultures of India, Iran, and Central Asia. As the Administrator of the institution, my job involves anything from organising a plumber to fix the leaky tap, to writing, editing and designing our newsletter, Indiran (download a copy here), to thinking about potential donors and contacts for fundraising.

Afternoons I was generally working on turning my PhD into a book – I work on the spread of religious innovations in the Roman world. My research uses network analysis to plot epigraphic finds (gravestones, altars, dedications of any sort – usually containing information about the person who died, dedicated etc, sometimes containing information about a deity, sometimes having a date too) onto the map to try and think about how ideas expressed in these finds were transmitted. By using networks to link these epigraphic findspots together, we bypass the rather static ‘dots on a map’ created by simply mapping the findspots themselves and turn the catalogue into an altogether more dynamic set of data, revealing potential flows of information and innovation. Inscriptions are wonderful – physical, archaeological material, found, excavated, and located in definite places (though mobile to a degree), and offering us the actual words that the long-dead chose to use. There’s nothing like the feeling of finding a new inscription somewhere on a hillside in eastern Turkey, and trying to decipher the chipped, eroded letters.

Now that my maternal brain is the one that’s in the forefront, I spend my days mainly feeding, burping, changing and cooing over our baby, and that’s just lovely. But the archaeological brain never switches off – this afternoon my mum, me and the boy went out to a garden centre – and on the way drove through the landscape of south Cambridge. You can’t help but slide surreptitiously through the veneer of modern life, with the tarmac and the cars, the newbuilds and the enormous hospital, to find yourself in the layers of pre-now – is this lovely straight section of road part of the Roman road that cuts below the Iron Age hillfort hidden in the trees to the right? Beyond, the Fleam Dyke and the Devil’s Dyke cut sharp lines across the sunken fenland, miles of rough grass mound rich in bee-orchids and wildflowers, marking out ancient defences and allowing views down the Icknield Way. The houses that etch out village lives so far distant and unfamiliar to the commuters that occupy them now – merchants in saffron, farmers, Great North Eastern railway workers. The archaeological brain slips briefly into all these pockets of previous, accidentally almost, before refocusing on the road ahead.

A rare summer lull for us gatherers

Boxes with bones from the Medieval cemetery at Sala silver mine, Sweden. These were excavated as part of a research project led by one of our osteologists, Ylva Bäckström. (Photo: Åsa M Larsson)

Usually this time of year, most of us at SAU should be knee deep in a trench or stumbling through brush doing a survey. But this is a somewhat unusual July for us. For once, most of my co-workers are experiencing something incredibly rare for archaeologists: a long summer vacation! There are two reasons for this. Firstly, we moved our office to a new building last week, and the chaos before, during and after was not deemed conducive to an effective work environment.  So it was mainly me, Britta (our administrator), and Anneli (one of our project leaders) who stayed on as movers carried the staggering amount of office stuff, books, and assorted prehistoric stuff we have littering our workplaces. Really brought home the insight that we have gone from being mobile hunter-gatherers to being virtually immobile gatherers…