The Journey Continues – DayofArch2015

This is my Day of Archaeology 2015 post. Here are my past posts:

Thanks again to the organizers for putting this on. Hopefully CRM in the US will start to have a bigger presence as the years roll on. For now, though, it’s just a few of us.


Last year I had been part of the formation of a new company, Field Tech Designs, that was set up to create a tablet application for CRM and beyond. We went quite far with the developers on that, but, in November my backer and business partner backed out. I guess the cost and pace of app development was a bit too much. Who knows. Either way, I’ve moved on and I have a new collaboration with the Center for Digital Archaeology and they are making something that will be great when it comes out! More on that later.

I also mentioned the podcast in last year’s post. Well, as of December, 2014, I started the Archaeology Podcast Network with a fellow podcaster, Tristan Boyle of the Anarchaeologist Podcast. Together, we’ve built the APN into quite the little network with a total of seven shows right now and more on the way. We’re getting around 7000 downloads a month across the network and that number keeps rising. Creating podcasts for people to learn from and enjoy has really been the highlight of my archaeology career. I have a real passion for teaching and outreach and this is my creative outlet for that. Go check out the APN if you’re interested and don’t forget to leave some feedback on our iTunes page.

Finally, I mentioned that my book had just come out from Left Coast Press. The Field Archaeologist’s Survival Guide did better than I expected for the first year, given the price and the small size of this field. My first royalties check came just in June and I took my wife out for a nice McDonald’s dinner. Not super-sized, of course; I mean, it was no Harry Potter. All kidding aside, I knew I wouldn’t make back what I put into the book. Our field just isn’t big enough. That’s not why I wrote it or why I went with a publisher. I just wanted the info to be out there and I thought it was a book that could help some people. I’ve achieved that goal, I think.


This year has been the year of DIGTECH! After two years of networking, proposal losing, small jobs, and living off the knitting income of my wife, I’ve got $400k in work this year and as of the Day of Archaeology I’ve paid out over $60,000 in payroll! That’s a big deal for me. Not only have I had the satisfaction of winning a few contracts and getting to work on them, more importantly, I’ve been able to hire and support a few friends of mine and some new friends. That’s the biggest satisfaction for me. When I think about my friends receiving a paycheck that says, “DIGTECH” on it and using that money to support and feed their families, I feel very honored and humbled. Being an employer is an awesome responsibility. I heard someone say once that you’ll know you’re a business owner when you go to sleep at night worrying about payroll. That’s certainly the truth!

For this year’s event I’m in the middle, well really the beginning, of a 30,000 acre survey. I’ve got four employees with three more coming in October. I just finished a proposal that I think this year’s jobs will get me, too. I haven’t really had the past performance to win much in the last few years, but, these two jobs should change everything.

We’re recording fully digitally in the field, too. There are some issues with the system I’m using, but, we’re adjusting and moving on. In fact, I talked about some of this at the San Diego Archaeological Society’s monthly meeting on July 25th. It’s the first time I’ve been invited to speak somewhere about these issues and it was a huge honor.


I’m hoping that I’ll have something really interesting to write about in 2016. Just a few weeks ago I moved on a project I’ve been thinking about for several years now. I’ve got people here that want to help out with it, knowing that it won’t pay right now, but, will in the future, and they’re willing to put in the time. We’ll see. We’ve just started and I love the energy they have here in the beginning. I just hope that enthusiasm sticks around.

My Day

I guess I’ll briefly talk about my actual day for a minute. Since this is a small company, I’m usually out in the field with the crew. If we go to one part of the project area we leave at 0530. For the more distant part we leave at 0415. That’s to avoid much of the Mojave desert heat that we have to deal with. Leaving at 0415 gets us home by 1245. That’s not too bad. Of course, that means dinner at 2pm and bed at 8pm, but, it’s better than working in 105+ F. On the long drive days we spend 1:45 just getting to the project area. Then, we survey for two hours, take lunch around 0845, survey another two hours, and, go home. It feels like a really short day.

The survey on the long drives is working out, though. We have a certain number of acres we’re trying to hit every day and there isn’t much out there in that part of the project. So, we cover a lot of ground in that short four hours. Luckily, the dense parts of the project, for archaeology that is, are near town.

That’s it for this year. I hope to have an even better year next year and have a lot more to talk about.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!!

Continuing Changes in my CRMArch Career

Nevada, United States, July 26, 2013

by Chris Webster, M.S., RPA


Woke up and checked emails while having breakfast. Normally I do a workout too but today is just too busy. We’re recording episode 13 of the CRM Archaeology Podcast on Saturday and the topic is the Day of Archaeology. So, I have a lot of blogs to read.

On top of that, I’m finishing a draft of my first book, writing two proposals, and doing research for another project that I can’t talk about just yet. It’s going to be a busy day.

Before I really get into the day, though, I’d like to talk about my past “Days of Archaeology”. The first year this event happened was 2011. I was working for a company in the Great Basin and they had me monitoring on a seismic operation. So, that’s what my post was about. My wife was out there with me.

For 2012 I was working for a different company and had been made a Project Manager. My wife was no longer in CRM Archaeology and was pursuing other interests.

This year, I own my own CRM firm, I’m writing a book that will be published by Left Coast Press, and I’m hosting a fun and informative podcast. It’s amazing how life changes so quickly. Unfortunately, I think my income has experience an inverse relationship with my career path. I’ve been moving up in archaeology, but, since starting a company is a long and stressful process my finances have taken a serious hit. Don’t think that writing a book will make you rich, either. If I see any money from this writing it won’t be for another two years because of the payment schedule. So, back to my day!

0545 to 0800 Catching up on Blogs and News

I often spend time in the morning reading blogs and news articles. I post those to my Random Acts of Science Facebook page and they autopost to Twitter. Gotta keep the word informed about CRM goings on…

Today, though, I’m reading all the Day of Archaeology posts coming from the other side of the world. The U.S. hasn’t really started the day yet so there aren’t any posts. I’m reviewing posts that we’re going to talk about on the podcast.

0800 to 1145 Business Development and Proposal Writing

Most days I try to spend at least a few hours contacting potential clients and letting them know I exist. My business model is very different from most archaeology firms and I have to convince them that it’s a safe bet to go with me. That’s not an easy sell for some of these companies. I also run into the problem of not having any corporate experience. I have plenty of personal experience but my company is brand new. Some clients want to see past performance but I don’t know how to get past performance without performing. It’s all very circular.

1300 to 1630 Book Writing

As I mentioned above, I’m writing my first book. In case you ever thought about writing a book I’ll tell you how I came to this point. First, you have to have an idea. For me it was the idea that I wanted to tell people about things I wish I’d known when I started in archaeology. So, I started the Shovelbums Guide series of blog posts on my blog. It was well received over the two years I’ve been writing it so I decided that I’d compile all of the posts into an eBook.

When I was at the SAAs in Hawaii in April I showed the rough draft to the editors at Left Coast Press. I was really just wondering if there was anything like that out there. They said that there wasn’t and that I should send in a proposal. Their proposal guidelines are very straightforward and I did it easily. Within a few months I had a contract!

Now, I’m trying to finish up the draft of the book. It’s mostly done except for some little finishing touches. I also need to sort out the graphics. Since I’m doing this on my own dime I have to come up with everything on my own. I can’t really pay someone either since I won’t see any money from the book for two years. I think you have to write about two books a year to see consistent payments. Talk to Tom King. I think he does at least two books a year!

1900 to 2100

Finishing up my Day of Archaeology blog post and doing some reading. I haven’t read fiction in a long time. Archaeologists that want to stay at the top of their game are constantly reading. Sometimes it’s popular works on broad subjects and sometimes it’s papers and site reports. That part of the job is never done.

So, no fieldwork for my Day of Archaeology, but, a lot of CRM archaeology is done in the office. I’m trying to change that slightly with my business model but there will always be office time.

I hope I see a lot of CRM posts from the United States on the DayofArch this year. There was an increase between last year and the first year and I hope there are more this year. As far as I’m concerned, our job is only half done when the site report is turned in. They other half of our job is telling people about what we do. In many cases here in the west the projects are on public land. The public has a right to know what we found and what it means.

Happy Day of Archaeology and here’s to another great year of science!

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!

Heritage for Transformation

Last year on the Day of Archaeology I was just deciding to set up a new social enterprise using heritage resources to support community and organisational change. I didn’t have a name, I didn’t have a plan, and all the money came from my redundancy payment. Spoliers: this is neither a story of triumph or despair, I’m still building the company, I’ve done some good things but I have a long way to go. This post seems a good time to reflect on the year, think about how my work articulates with archaeology, and give a flavour of what this kind of work involves.

But first a little background…

I joined English Heritage in 2001 in the belief that it was a Public Heritage body. Having come to the realisation that my own interest was not enough to sustain a satisfying career, even if I could convince people to keep paying me, I thought that working at English Heritage would put me at the coal face of a socially engaged archaeology. Really.

Amazingly, this was indeed what motivated many of my colleagues, And while my own work had less public engagement than I might have liked, it was a core function of the organisation. But the review of Quangos in 2011 identified a ‘duplication’ between English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund and recommended that public engagement be left to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It seemed like a good time to leave, and the cuts following the CSR changed my role further and provided an opportunity to take voluntary redundancy. Seed corn for a new venture, so much luckier than most.

Where am I now?
Well, my venture has a name, Heritage for Transformation. It has a blog It has had both paying work, and voluntary engagement. And I have a huge stock of ideas for new projects, not quite matching the funds to do them.

I developed a heritage programme with Goldsmith Infant school in Portsmouth, to support their merger with Brambles Nursery. The programme is designed to help the process of change management by providing perspective and a place for reflection. I worked with the school to conduct archival research, building recording and oral history. I developed and ran a successful after school club for students building on this work and created display materials for school events. Working in concert with the reconstruction schedule associated with the merger I will be developing interpretive displays for the new entrance and events associated with key moments in the building programme.

I contributed to a Linaeus University project on attitudes to the Future in Heritage. This project is commissioned by the Swedish Atomic Energy Authority to establish how archaeology and heritage can contribute a long term perspective that will help them understand the long term thinking required to manage nuclear waste. I investigated and reported on what notions of the future are operating within English Heritage through documentary analysis and interviews with key staff.

Collaborating with Flow Associates ( ), I have led a project for the RAMM (Royal Albert Memorial Museum) in Exeter ( ), to scope and test the market for a new online research tool for encouraging research use of their collections derived from archaeological excavation. I’ve drawn on my understanding of excavation and post-excavation resources to help shape access to resources within the museum.

Now I’m developing an HLF bid to develop a smartphone App drawing on the WWI memorials of Portsmouth. In this project I am working with historian Tim Backhouse ( and local schools while co-ordinating contracts to reinvigorate the public engagement with the substantial body of memorials in Portsmouth.

For the first year of a venture I’d have to say its a success. But there have been and are challenges beyond the financial.

Firstly, there’s identity. When I worked for EH I never had to explain. Most people didn’t know what I did, but they knew who I did it for. I had voice. I had locus. Even deciding a name took the best part of 6 months. One year on and I’m proud of what I’m developing and I’m beginning to enjoy explaining.

Then there’s the business development. I’ve done enough management to be confident with the admin, but marketing, sales and development are all new skills. Luckily, I’ve had the support of who specialise in accidental (and even reluctant) entrepreneurs.

What does my Day of Archaeology look like?
Mostly writing, I have a report to finish and another to edit. A fair amount of thinking, about how I can turn ideas into projects, about how to work with more partners, and about how archaeology can support change. Finally, enjoying a huge range of posts from colleagues around the world. Lovely to be part of the Day of Archaeology, it really shows the breath of work that archaeology informs and how exciting even the everyday can be.

Heritage at the Fete

Heritage at the Fete

Another Day In The Life (Of An Archaeological Geophysicist)

When self-employed, a year just goes like that <clicks fingers>.

You may have read my Day of Archaeology blog post from last year.

I have since worked in a number of cemeteries searching for unmarked graves using geophysical methods. I spoke at the Cemeteries and Crematoria Association of Victoria conference in April (my first ever conference presentation) and am in the throws of writing my first paper about some work I did over the last year.

I have been undertaking geophysical surveys at the Creswick Cemetery (in Victoria, Australia) for the last year-and-a-bit, tracking down unmarked Chinese graves and an old homestead and associated features (rubbish pits, garden beds, etc.). In all this time, I have been able to test just about every geophysical method under the sun, and so am able to compare the effectiveness of certain methods at detecting certain types of archaeological features. I am hoping it will make a good read. Our data collection phase finished last week, so now it is (academic) reporting time. The client’s report has already been written and is publicly accessible for those interested.

Earlier this week, I had a computer issue and lost all of my tax data. Sadly, my taxes are due today. Hence, I spent the last four days doing nothing but my tax. Needless to say, this hasn’t been a very ‘archaeological’ week. Taxes were finished and submitted late last night, thankfully.

Today, though, I am driving back to Creswick, where three cemeteries nearby heard of my work and are interested in my surveying their empty land to look for any unmarked graves that may be present. Assessing each cemetery prior to providing them with a quotation will take me all of this weekend.

I have also branched out into geodetic surveying (i.e. creating maps of archaeological excavations and landscapes) using GIS, RTK GPS and robotic total stations. These technologies are certainly a far cry from the days of old, when we just used measuring tapes and a compass! I’ve also been using car- and tripod-mounted laser scanners to create full-colour three-dimensional models of archaeological sites, heritage structures and cemeteries (you’d be surprised by how many people want to look at what is written on headstones in a cemetery far, far away). I’m also looking into using airborne LiDAR for a major archaeological prospection project.

That’s about all for me for the year.

And, for those of you wondering, the big settlement project I was getting ready for last year ended up not getting any funding, so it didn’t happen. Anyone fancy donating some cash to the project?

Until next year… feel free to stalk me on my Facebook page , Twitter and my blog.

Live long and prosper.

Can you tell what is it yet?

A day in the life of an archaeological conservator – part 2

Its been slow, hard work but have managed to reveal more of the iron object.

Not quite halfway

Woo hoo looks like we might have an early Roman miltary sheild boss.  Want to crawl off home as now really tired, plan to sleep on the tube, but not bad for a days work on the air abrasive.

Day in the life of an archaeological planning officer

I am Neil Maylan and I work as the Archeological Planning Manager for the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust, based in Swansea, Wales. We provide advice to 13 local planning authorities in South East Wales and I hope to be able to provide a work diary for today.

I started my working day circa 7.30am. As part of my job I am responsible for the Trust’s IT network and e-mails, so my first job is to check the e-mails that have come in overnight, delete the vast number of spam messages that are sent to our open e-mail accounts and redirect any messages that have been wrongly addressed or sent to the open accounts and need to be answered by a specific member of staff.

I also check my own e-mails received over night, fortunately few today and read the weekly newsletter from the Institute for Archaeologists (IfA) Maritime Affairs Group, which always has some fascinating information on an area of archaeology I really don’t know enough about.