A Student’s Day of Archaeology

Some of my Day of Archaeology Projects

Fig. 1 – Some of my Day of Archaeology Projects (Photo by Daniel Leahy)

I am currently a second year undergraduate student at the University of New England (UNE) in New South Wales, Australia.  I’m studying a Bachelor of Arts (BA) majoring in Archaeology and History.

I had planned to visit a local site on the Day of Archaeology, however poor weather on the day (and for much of the week before) prevented this from happening.  Instead, much of my Day of Archaeology revolved around my studies.  This included catching up on recorded lectures for some of my classes; completing an online quiz about historical archaeology; and making more notes for an upcoming history essay comparing memorials of the First and Second World Wars and the Vietnam War.  Studying via distance (i.e., online) meant all of this was done in the comfort of my own home.

Recently I have been involved in a project called the ‘Digital Air Force’ for the website,, whose goal is to digitally document Australia’s aviation heritage using modern technology.  Part of this includes 3D scanning artefacts related to aviation heritage.  So on the Day of Archaeology I started work on creating a digital 3D model of a small piece of metal from a Second World War aircraft crash site (see bottom of Figure 1).  In a nutshell, this process – known as ‘photogrammetry’ – requires a lot of photos of an object to be taken from all angles.  These photos are then loaded into a computer program which determines the angle and distance at which each photo was taken, builds a model of the object, then stitches the images together to form the textures of the object.  This is a process I learnt about at an archaeology conference last year and have been experimenting with in my own time.  The first part of this model was created overnight and resulted in what is known as a ‘dense point cloud’ of the scanned object (see Figure 2, below).  At the moment this still needs quite a lot of work done to remove the surrounding items which were captured, clean up parts of the artefact itself, and join ‘chunks’ to form a complete model but it is hoped this will be completed over the weekend.

Dense Point Cloud (WIP) of WWII Aircraft Wreckage

Fig. 2 – Dense Point Cloud of WWII Aircraft Wreckage (Image by Daniel Leahy)

Personally I became interested in archaeology (and palaeontology) at a very young age.  I was however dissuaded from pursuing a career in either of those fields because of a perceived lack of money that would be made.  Instead, I followed my uncle into the I.T. industry, completing a Bachelor of Information Technology degree then working with a variety of systems for about ten years.  It was at this time that I felt I had to change careers and decided to formally study archaeology, which today I feel is one of the best decisions I have ever made.


(P.S.  July 29th was also my birthday, hence the greeting card from an archaeologist friend which can be seen in Figure 1).

WACSC’s Day of Archaeology: a visual snapshot of our committee

Hello everyone!

We are members of the World Archaeological Congress’ Student Committee joining together for this quick post from Crete, Australia, India, Iran and the United States of America. We’re representing ourselves and our respective ‘days’ of archaeology through this collage to highlight some of the diversity of who we are and what we do. Today we are working in the field, writing our theses, teaching our students and even helping out with the organisation of the DoA! While we’re are all very different archaeologists and are spread across the world, what unites us is a passion for supporting and advocating for our fellow archaeology students through our work within WAC.

Have a fantastic DoA,
Marta, Jacq, Aadil, Sepideh, Courtney and Kate! (on behalf of the entire WACSC)

WACSC Day of Archaeology

WACSC’s Day of Archaeology 2015

Where is the WAC Student Committee today?

Hello! The WAC Student Committee is run by archaeology students for archaeology students. We’re a diverse group representing 8 different countries including: India, Iran, Australia, Italy, Honduras, the United States of America, Nigeria and Mexico. In this post four of our committee report on their DoA.

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Photo courtesy of Natalie Marquez.

Marta Lorenzon

Somewhere along the way apart from being a field archaeologist, I specialized in analyzing building material from archaeological contexts. So this year leaving behind the obvious glamour of being 24/7 in the field digging through mud, sand and rock- usually covered with my own feature of dust and sweat – I focus on analyzing mudbrick particle size and creating a report on mudbrick typology for a dig in Egypt. In this region, mudbrick architecture is quite common in both domestic and public context. Thus I spent my DoA examining the data collected last month in order to show how microscopic and macroscopic analyses of mud brick material are quite relevant to investigate raw source materials, building material techniques and production.


Photo courtesy of the Limina Collective

Jacqueline Matthews 

As an archaeology postgraduate student my usual day sees me sitting at a desk; reading journal articles and books, writing, seeking out literature, using my library’s special collections to collect ethnographic data, and meeting with supervisors and peers. My DoA started with some fantastic news: my MPhil research proposal, which I started four months ago, was approved! This approval is a key milestone in my degree; it ultimately means I’m now officially ‘doing’ this research. The rest of my day was quite out-of-the ordinary as I was in-transit as I headed out on fieldwork in the Pilbara region of Western Australia for a couple of weeks (more information and pictures in my personal DoA post). While I love my research and am lucky enough to receive a scholarship to allow me to focus on it, it is nice to have a break from my routine, get some fresh air and reconnect with some of the practical realities of ‘doing’ archaeology, which I often miss as I focus on theory in my research.


Rock Art site selfie, southern Arnhem Land

Jordan Ralph

I work on a casual basis as an archaeologist in two different sectors: academia and consultancy. My day of archaeology was spent travelling from my research assistant job at a field school in remote Northern Territory to my cultural heritage management job in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

I’m often asked if my job takes me to interesting places all over the world. Unfortunately, although I have travelled quite a bit, I haven’t had the pleasure of working outside of Australia. But that doesn’t make my experiences any less interesting. My job does take me to a lot of places within Australia – many places I’ve been to need different levels of permission, a good chunk of which is needed from local Indigenous communities. It can be a long process, but it’s right.  Last week for example, I visited a number of rock art sites in southern Arnhem Land, where I conduct my research, which only a handful of non-Indigenous people have ever seen. Today, I’m on my way to a new adventure in the Pilbara. While I’m relatively familiar with southern Arnhem Land, I’ve never worked in, or even been to, Western Australia. For the next two weeks I’ll be living in a mining camp and exploring, recording and excavating sites in the impact zone for mining development along with the rest of my team.

As for today, I’m travelling between jobs. In the last five days I have travelled 6,570km – something that has come to be part of my life.

Kate Ellenberger

Binghamton University Archaeological Field School, Courtsey of Kate Ellen

Excavation at the Binghamton University Archaeological Field School. Photo courtsey of Kate Ellenberger.

It’s the DoA, and I am on a speed-vacation between teaching my first archaeological field school and the annual week-long public archaeology program I help teach each year. One of my best friends from college is getting married tomorrow, so I traveled across the country to be here for a couple of days. I will return home for 7 hours before arriving back at work, ready to teach teenagers about archaeology.

This is a slice of my life for the past 5 years since I began graduate school for archaeology;  many small commitments and pockets of work that add up to a very full work life, with the occasional social intervention. If I’m lucky, when one demanding commitment ends, there’s another job to get me to the next step in my career. This week that means transitioning from educating college students to teaching young teens, and after that I’ll be installing an exhibit (did I mention I am a museum curator, too?), and after that revising websites for a local archaeology company. As a young professional I’m asked to take on many varied tasks. I’m happy to do them. Looking to the future, I am contemplating just which of those tasks is the one that I could stick with for a while. For now, I’m riding the adrenaline roller coaster of being a young archaeologist.


A Third Day In The Life (Of An Archaeological Geophysicist)

Wow, time has flown. This time last year, I was doing radar work in Ballarat on gold mine sludge. But that’s more geological than archaeological, and it should have been covered in last year’s non-existent post (what happened last year, admins??), so I won’t discuss that further.

Let’s see… what was I doing this year?

Ah, yes. Friday. It was the last day of an eight-day project using ground-penetrating radar to search for unmarked graves in a cemetery. The day didn’t really involve any geophysical surveying as such – all that had been done over the preceding week. Instead, Friday was spent using one of my new toys – a Topcon Power Station robotic total station. I love it. It has reflectorless mode so I don’t have to walk around the cemetery to map things. Set-up is a breeze with re-sections (I was previously using a 25-year old reflector-only total station that required two operators and couldn’t do re-sections).

Can you tell from my passion for a robotic total station that I don’t have a romantic partner?

Anyway, I don’t want to sound like a Topcon salesman, so I shall move on.

Basically, what I did that day was map the headstones that were present in the cemetery. That took me from 7am until about 1pm.

It’s one thing to have a geophysical survey performed, but you really need to have a map of the surrounding “stuff” so you know exactly where the geophysical survey was performed (and, hence, where all the unmarked graves are located). If you don’t do this, you’re just wasting time (and the client’s money).

Once I collected all the points needed to create the site map, I packed up, headed to my motel room and entered all the data into GIS (I use Global Mapper. It’s far easier and better than anything else. Yes, including ArcGIS. Deal with it. 😛 ). Then I spent the afternoon colour-coding the different points and lines and shapes and what-have-you. Little trees to indicate trees. Dark grey areas to indicate marked graves. Light grey areas to indicate concrete slabs for the lawn section. A crossed orange line to indicate the cemetery boundary fence. You get the idea. Make the map look pretty. Then whack a north arrow, scale and legend on it and Robert is your mother’s brother. And then the clock hit 5pm and it was time to sleep. (This week involved working from 6.30am until about 7pm each day. So I was overjoyed to see the bed Friday night).

So that was the excitement for my Day of Archaeology.Until next time, live long and prosper.Dave The Grave HunterPS: Sorry for the lack of photos. Here are some on my Facebook business page.

On the Road. An Australian Archaeologist In-Transit


Literally pulling on my boots. Note that in addition to their obvious aesthetic value, these are also steel-capped for safety and include bonus resistance training for my legs.

As a more theoretically inclined archaeologist my usual habitat is my university department but today I actually pulled on my work boots and set out for two weeks of consulting fieldwork in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Somewhat unfortunately for readers of this post, the 11th of July was actually my travel day. Working in remote areas as an archaeologist usually means at least one full day of travel just to get to your base (for many consultants in Australia this will mean a mining camp). Today I haven’t actually left the state but was still in-transit for about 5 hours. In this short post, I want to share a few images and experiences from my work day to give you a sense of some of the more mundane, everyday realities of doing archaeology in Australia.

Luggage is always an interesting logistical concern on fieldwork, you need to be prepared for almost anything and bring it all with you, but cable ties and well-honed tetris skills can solve almost any issue we encounter.


There is nothing quite like driving >100km after spending a few hours in a plane, but the pay-off, getting to work in an amazing archaeological landscape will be worth it.


I definitely won’t be looking this happy tomorrow when I wake up at 5am (FYI, sunrise here in the Pilbara is around 6.45am at the moment; ouch!) and then spend the morning reviewing our field safety procedures and organising equipment before driving out to one of the sites we’ll be working at with local Traditional Owners for the next two weeks.




Grassroots archaeology in northern Australia

Northern Australia has two seasons – the Wet and the Dry. By July the Dry season is in full swing, the skies are blue and clear, the grass is turning yellow, the days are cooler; this is the field work season. I work at the grassroots level, employed mostly by Aboriginal corporations to work with Traditional Owners identifying, documenting and managing their significant heritage places. Documenting knowledge from the Elders and training younger Traditional Owners is a big part of my job.

Last night I returned from a four day trip working on an Aboriginal owned property in the Gulf savannah. I have been going out on country (‘country’ is the term Aboriginal people use to describe their particular cultural estate) with these Cultural Heritage Officers and rangers a few of times a year since the Cultural Heritage Officers started in 2012. This trip we were setting up a site management system, marking sites that had been found on topographic maps and encouraging the rangers to use site forms and collect detailed information on the cultural sites they find.

Many Aboriginal people from this area were forcibly removed from their country to government reserves and missions when white pastoralists moved in in the 1870’s. While some men and women stayed and worked for the white pastoralists as stockmen and housemaids, other families were moved away and have never had the opportunity to reconnect with their traditional land. For the rangers and Cultural Heritage Officers recording archaeological sites and cultural heritage is an opportunity to reconnect to the culture of their ancestors.

Today I am putting together a poster about what the Cultural Heritage Officers do and what archaeological sites they have found on the property. It will be displayed in their office to show other community members. I like making posters because I find them a great way to communicate visually to a broad audience.

Today is also a planning day for the next field trip, recording rock art shelters with another team of Traditional Owners and university volunteers, for my PhD research. It has taken months to get to this stage of the project, building a relationship with Traditional Owners through meetings and reconnaissance trips. The recording will include digital enhancement of rock imagery and video interviews of Elders talking about the traditional stories embedded in the landscape. I’m very excited about this upcoming trip, but today I must stay focussed on booking vehicles, confirming land access, downloading data and checking budgets.

“Excavating an Archives”… well, at the end of the day




Hello, All. I am happy to participate again in the third annual Day of Archaeology (2011, 2012).  Congratulations and a big THANK YOU to all of the other participants and volunteers!  The past few years have been a wonderful experience – I love seeing what other archaeologists are doing around the globe, as well as sharing my own work.

My name is Molly Swords and I am an historical archaeologist based out of Moscow, Idaho, and employed as a Cultural Resource Specialist III for SWCA Environmental Consultants (SWCA).  For the last few years, we have been processing on an enormous archaeological collection for the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD).  This project has also led to a new partnership with the University of Idaho as I teach both Applied Cultural Resource Management and Issues in Heritage Management classes.

In keeping with my two previous day of archaeology posts- I’ve chosen to document what my day looked like today…

Kali D.V. Oliver and Theodore Charles, graduate students at the University of Idaho

Kali D.V. Oliver and Theodore Charles, graduate students at the University of Idaho

This morning, I had a lovely start to my day. I met two University of Idaho graduate students for an early morning coffee meeting.  We talked about progress on their thesis topics, upcoming conferences where they could present their work, and options to consider as avenues for archaeological publishing.

I dedicated a good portion of my morning and afternoon to editing a couple of technical reports and organizing artifacts for a museum exhibit.  The company that I work for, SWCA is putting together a museum exhibit at the Bonner Country Historical Museum on the Sandpoint Archaeological Project with the support of ITD.  This exhibit is a fantastic way to illustrate this amazing project to the local community and visitors to Sandpoint.  The museum exhibit should be open in mid-August; so, make sure to check it out if you are in the Lake Pend d’Oreille area!

At lunchtime, I decided to call Mary Anne Davis, the Associate State Archaeologist for the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). I wanted to check in with Mary Anne Davis about details for students presenting and the possibility of having a University of Idaho session at the Idaho Heritage Conference (September 25-27). Go Vandals!  This year is Idaho’s territorial sesquicentennial (the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s signing of the congressional act creating the Idaho Territory). In celebration of this anniversary, folks and organizations around the state have been hosting events, including a very impressive Idaho Archaeological Month in May, and will continue to observe the sesquicentennial with the first ever Idaho Heritage Conference.  This conference is a partnership between of a number of organizations in Idaho (Idaho Archaeological Society, Idaho Heritage Trust, Idaho Association of Museums, Idaho State Historical Society, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Preservation Idaho), all of which will hold their annual meetings, preservations, training, and field trips together for this conference. Mary Anne and I also discussed having something similar to the Day of Archaeology during Idaho Archaeology Month next year.

AACC Stacks of Reference Resources

AACC Stacks of Reference Resources

AACC Comparative Collection

AACC Comparative Collection











The last part of my day was spent at the Asian American Comparative Collection (AACC), housed at the Alfred W. Bower’s Laboratory of Anthropology at the University of Idaho.  I am doing some research on Overseas Chinese for a publication that I am currently writing.  If you do not know about the AACC yet, a volunteer coordinator and one of my archaeological heroes, Dr. Priscilla Wegars, runs it.  The collection houses around 27,500 entries in the database covering artifacts, documents, bibliography, and images.  This collection is such a wealth of information and Priscilla is such a treasure.  I wanted to spend some time going through the stacks of resources, including dissertations, theses, and gray literature, to help me shed more light on the Overseas Chinese in the American West.  In the span of 40 minutes, Priscilla provided me eleven amazing documents.  (Honestly, with Priscilla’s help it took about 10 minutes).  When I told Priscilla that I was going to “blog” about my day of archaeology and ending up at the archives she said that I was “excavating the archives.”

AACC Food Storage Jars, typically referred Ginger Jars

AACC Food Storage Jars, typically referred Ginger Jars

** I have included the link for the Asian American Comparative Collection Foundation at the University of Idaho, they are currently accepting donations in order to keep this world-renowned and heavily utilized collection available in the future**

All in all, it was a lovely Day of Archaeology.  If you want to follow me on twitter- for more archaeological tidbits- I’m anthrogirly.

AACC houses a variety of cultural materials including those from China, Japan, and the Pacific Islands (including Australia and New Zealand)

AACC houses a variety of cultural materials including those from China, Japan, and the Pacific Islands (including Australia and New Zealand)


Here are some links:

People that I would like to thank: SWCA, Mary Anne Davis, Priscilla Wegars, Kali D.V. Oliver, Theodore Charles, Mary Petrich-Guy, Jim Bard, Robert Weaver, and Mark Warner

AACC Alcohol Bottles. I thought I would end this post with a photographic toast!



Lost in Trowelslation… and other terrible puns

On this, the day in which people all over the world tell you about the amazing and wonderful and envy-inspiring things they are doing, I wish I had a story to tell you that would blow your freaking socks off. I wish I could tell you that I was defiantly digging during a sandstorm in the ruins of Egypt. I wish I could tell you I was standing over a trench in a remote forest in Peru. Hell, I wish I could tell you I was standing in a cow paddock surrounded by curious bovine, digging hole after empty hole. Sadly however the reality is I find myself, on the Day of Archaeology, at the library. Yep, the library.

Day of Archaeology

My name is Sam, I have been working professionally as an archaeologist for a little over two years now. I’m based in Melbourne, Australia and while I’ve done a little bit of work overseas most of my career has been spent digging holes right here. This year I made the decision to go back to University and make my degree a little bit more impressive. I really want to emphasise the word little in that last sentence. So now I split my time between the office and on campus at the University of Melbourne. While I know this decision in the long term means that I will get to dig more holes in the future, it has severely cut down the amount of fieldwork I get to do which is super annoying. On the upside my car has never been cleaner, so there’s that.

It also means that while the rain pours down outside I am cosy and warm, reading some big old dusty books and sneakily eating the bag of pretzels I have stashed in my bag so the librarians don’t catch me. There is however, no place like an archaeological site. The neatly dug trenches, the steel capped boots and the anticipation of finding something. I can’t wait to get back there next week!

Day of Archaeology 2

A Precious Day Off in Kakadu National Park

A quite belated Day of Archaeology post since I’m in the field at the moment and am quite restricted for time, which is basically what this post will be about.

I’m an honours student in archaeology at the University of Queensland and for the past month I have been volunteering on archaeological excavations across Arnhem Land in the north of Australia. When I’m not being a student and volunteering on digs I’m also the Membership Secretary for the Australian Archaeological Association (AAA).

Currently I’m working with a fabulous multi-disciplinary team on the re-excavation of Malakunanja II, which is in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, Australia. This is a key site in Australian archaeology due to its early age and potential to improve what we currently know about the early occupation of Australia. Due to agreements made with the Traditional Owners of this area I cannot post details on what we’re doing at the site, so it is quite fortuitous for me that the 29th falls on a day off for us and the first one I’ve had since arriving in the Northern Territory.

On this Day of Archaeology I am busy catching up on my work for the AAA, which is run exclusively by a small number of volunteers who keep the Association running and continually improving. Even though I have internet access of an evening finding the time to attend my AAA responsibilities (as well as my own research!) after a full day of excavation (7am-6pm in the field) is near impossible. So this precious day off is being filled with yet more work.

As the Membership Secretary for AAA my main responsibility is to manage our membership base, e.g. making sure memberships are processed correctly, updating member details, providing access to the member only pages of the website.  I’ve spent most of the 29th working on AAA’s new website and sending out individual login details to our members. This has essentially meant sitting at my computer all day and sending practically the same email to AAA’s 800+ current members.

My main reason for devoting my day off to such a tedious job is not just out of a sense of responsibility, but also out of genuine affection for the Association and the work that it does in the Australian archaeological community. Whilst the responsibility of being an executive member of AAA can be overwhelming and time consuming, it is extremely rewarding and has provided me with an incredible number of unique opportunities. So I should probably consider myself lucky to have it taking up my first day off in a month.

Ultimately time is precious to archaeologists in more ways than one. I think this is a valuable lesson to learn as a student, and balancing competing responsibilities and demands on my time is something that I will likely spend the rest of my career working on.

We’re returning to excavation tomorrow with the privilege of starting work at 7am! You’ll be able to follow some of our progress by following me on twitter, @archaeo_jacq.

Jacq 🙂

Some of the beautiful scenery I’ve been lucky enough to experience whilst doing fieldwork in Arnhem Land for the past month.

Archaeology and Mining (and Reptiles!) in Western Australia

I have been working as an archaeologist at an archaeological consultancy firm, since late last year and today is a rare day for me – a day in lieu! As this hasn’t been very exciting, I will document the day for which I earned this time off..

Since joining my work place, most of my work has been based in our Melbourne head office. We take on a variety of clients, and one of our biggest projects is based in the Pilbara desert, Western Australia, where a number of iron ore mines have been, or are currently being, constructed. The Pilbara desert is also home to some of our richest and previously undisturbed Indigenous heritage, and there are several practices that mining companies must observe prior to developing the land in accordance with Western Australian Indigenous heritage legislation. This is where we come in.

For most of the year, my work has included managing the data that has been sent back from the field in the Pilbara and writing reports (there are lots to be written!), most of which are applications for Ministerial consent to disturb archaeological sites. Following the completion of one such report and the receipt of Ministerial consent to conduct excavations at a number of sites, I was sent with one of our teams out to the desert to take part in these excavations. This was my first time out to the Pilbara, and I was quite nervous! Western Australia is home to some of our deadliest snakes, and the first thing I saw when I arrived at our accommodation was a sign outside my door reading ‘beware of snakes’. It struck me then just how far from the office I was..

The day on which this photo was taken was characteristic of my two week ‘swing’ (or fieldwork stage) out on the mining site. We generally rose at 5.15am, leaving us time to eat breakfast and pack our lunches before meeting the rest of the team at 6am. We usually arrived on site by 6.20am, working through until 4pm. This photo was taken towards the end of the swing, and on this day we were working in a lovely, large and shady site and were conducting excavations. We found a range of cultural material at the site, making it a particularly interesting working day, and the three archaeologists present took it in turns at excavating, sieving and site recording. Also on site were field representatives of the mining company and the Traditional Owners, who we work very closely with in all areas of our archaeological site investigations.

Working in the Pilbara also meant working closely with wildlife! A number of snakes were spotted on this day (thankfully, not by me), and we received a visit from this curious gecko during our lunch break.. After a cuddle and a photo opportunity, he was  returned to his rock in the sun where he watched us work for the rest of the day, apparently finding our ‘day of archaeology’ as interesting as we did. After packing up our equipment, we then headed back to camp for showers, dinner, and a mid-strength beer or two.

And now that we’re safely home in Melbourne, here comes the really fun part – writing up the excavation report!