The Young Archaeologists Club’s 600 volunteers lead archaeology activities for more than 7,000 kids every year. We’ve just had a typically busy weekend with activities all over the UK, here’s a snap shot of what we got up to:
The 2013 Day of Archaeology falls within the 2013 Festival of Archaeology, run across the United Kingdom by the Council for British Archaeology. This year we have had even more events run by even more organisers, and we have reached out to even more people, particularly via the extensive media campaign which runs alongside the Festival. In fact on the Day of Archaeology our day starts very early with a slot on the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme as part of a theme running all week. In my interview, broadcast earlier in the week, in my role as the Director of the CBA I was able to promote the key role that farmers have as stewards of the historic environment on their land.
Having just got back from spending two long days in south Wales at the launch of the Cadw Community Archaeology Framework at Castell Coch, and at a meeting of the Welsh Culture Minister’s Historic Environment Group, it would have been useful to spend a day in the CBA office in York, but I was scheduled to head down to meetings in London. Covering the whole UK, as the CBA endeavours to do, means a lot of travel and increasingly means dealing with diverging heritage systems and legislation in each part of the UK.
On the Day of Archaeology itself, I first had a lunchtime meeting in London with Kate Pugh, the Chief Executive of The Heritage Alliance, to discuss the future business of the National Heritage Protection Plan Advisory Board, which I chair. The coming year will be particularly important for the Plan as the initial five year Plan runs to 2015 and we’ll need to start consultations about a new iteration of the Plan for the period after that, with the added complication of the proposals to restructure English Heritage kicking in around the same time. Hopefully the Plan is becoming increasingly embedded within the sector with an increasing number of organisations developing action plans to map their activities on to the Plan’s measures.
After lunch, both Kate and I headed over to the offices of English Heritage in Waterhouse Square, for an informal consultation session on the plans for the future of EH. This was a very helpful session, prior to the launch of the formal consultation in September, and we were briefed by senior colleagues from EH on the proposals and given an opportunity to ask questions and share our initial thoughts which will guide the shape of the consultation and the new structures which will emerge.
On the train home it was a chance to catch up with all the emails that pour in every hour of every day (it seems!) and plan for the weekend ahead, attending a committee meeting of CBA North in Newcastle on the Saturday morning, and then heading over to Hadrian’s Wall and a visit to Escomb Saxon Church on the way back to York.
Archaeology for All – the vision of the Council for British Archaeology – is a fully inclusive, diverse, 24 hour a day operation!
Hi everyone, my name is Somayyeh and I am a Council for British Archaeology (CBA), Community Archaeology Trainee based with Archaeology Scotland. I graduated from the University of Manchester in July 2012 and not long after there were a number of CBA youth focused bursaries on offer. I applied to three and was asked for an interview with Archaeology Scotland, I must have done something right as I am currently nine months into my placement! I got into archaeology as a mature student after working in the financial services industry. I always loved history as a youngster which was passed onto me by my great grandmother. I did a bit of research into history degrees and noticed archaeology as another possibility, I am quite a practical person so felt this would be an even better way of combining my love of history with a fun subject! I fell in love with archaeology and came to understand that our history and heritage should be shared, protected and conserved for future generations. I have learnt so much in such a short space of time about the benefits of community archaeology and would like to stay in this area after my bursary ends.
On this day of archaeology I am driving from Musselburgh to Ardnamurchan so that I can lead a day of outreach for the Ardnamurchan Transition’s Project on Sunday. Whilst my actual day of archaeology isn’t overly interesting, the reason I am going is! I will be running a number of activities that will appeal to a wide audience but none more so than the younger generation. There will be finds handling, ancient technology with grinding of flour and a wood bow drill, there will be the opportunity for children to make their very own clay Thor amulet to take home and a geocache (treasure) hunt which will help the younger generation to see what kinds of objects might be left behind from a Viking occupation. The treasure hunt will also be a chance to explain the possible history of Vikings on the Ardnamurchan peninsula.
If you are interested in the work I have done so far, feel free to check out my blog at http://archaeo-life.blogspot.co.uk/
Every day in the Council for British Archaeology is different. Every day throws up new challenges, whilst offering new opportunities.
As Director of the CBA a brief diary of today runs as follows:
- start the day by buying the Yorkshire Post on my way to work as I am featured today as part of the promotion for the 2012 Festival of British Archaeology. Quickly skim the article and experience relief that it comes across positively, though there are some relatively minor errors. The Festival is the CBA’s major flagship annual event with nearly 800 separate activities taking place this year across the UK. The PR agency is doing a good job to promote the Festival and there will be more media interviews to come in the next few weeks.
- first meeting of the day with colleagues to discuss the next stage of development with various information services that the CBA runs, including the Training Online Resource Centre. We are hoping to integrate our various information services more closely in the coming years to provide better value-added services for users to enable them to access information about archaeology more easily.
- after a quick trip to the opticians for an eye test, it is back to office to meet with a prospective volunteer who wants to help the CBA and gain confidence and experience to help them back into the workplace. It is good to talk to anyone who is passionate about archaeology and we are able to explore a number of options which may suit. I’ll follow that up later in the day with colleagues to see what we can offer. Volunteers play a key role in the work of the CBA and there are a number of ways in which people can engage with our work.
- time to catch up with the morning’s emails from a diverse range of internal and external colleagues. Key issues include following up on a meeting the previous day in London to discuss setting up a major new public participation project to identify and record physical remains in the UK which relate to World War 1, and also work on a new digital platform to promote the work of the CBA which we are hoping to launch in time for the Festival in July.
- working lunch with a colleague from English Heritage who is in York for a meeting at the University, with skills and training as the main topics for discussion. The Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers is hosting a meeting on the topic in York next month and there is going to be a focus on training in the 2013 Heritage Counts in England, with a new round of the Profiling the Profession just starting up to gather data on everyone working in archaeology at the current time. Inevitably these are crucial issues at the present time with the ongoing reduction in public funding for archaeology and the consequent drop in jobs and loss of skills.
- back from lunch and straight into a meeting with a colleague who will be leaving the CBA within a month to plan the best use of her remaining time and the transition to new staffing arrangements. The CBA has had a lot of staffing changes in the last six months, some due to redundancy and many due to colleagues moving on to pastures new. The latest departures provide further opportunities for restructuring to ensure that we have the skills and experience that we need to take our plans forward. Membership is a key issue for the CBA at the present time as by growing the membership we can broaden our public education role, strengthen our advocacy and achieve a more secure financial base. I hope that everyone reading this will consider joining the CBA if they are not already signed up!
- brief chat about how we can celebrate the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the Young Archaeologists’ Club (which started as Young Rescue in 1972). It would be nice to do something but staff resources are stretched.
- time to plan for the weekend and yet more proof that archaeologists never stop as I’m off down south on a ‘secret mission’ linked with my role as Chair of the British Archaeological Awards. Our major awards ceremony is coming up and will include a number of surprises but all will be revealed at the British Museum on 9 July!
- back to the emails (which also never stop!) and my never-ending battle to end the week with a clean in-tray (no chance this week!)
- more planning for the CBA weekend event in mid September to follow upon a visit earlier in the week to some of the sites which we are including. I’m going to try to visit the only site we didn’t see on my way down south tomorrow. It should be a fantastic weekend in September as we take two full coach-loads of archaeology enthusiasts to visit Buxton, the prehistoric landscape of Stanton Moor, the amazing industrial archaeology of Masson Mill, the medieval castle at Bolsover and the palaeolithic archaeology of Creswell Crags.
- last task of the day is to catch up with other staff colleagues about the outcome of various discussions that took place during the day. The pace of work these days never seems to allow enough time to talk to everyone. I’m tempted to encourage people to go to the pub to celebrate a successful Day of Archaeology but I need to be home to take my son to scout camp!
- later I resume engagement with the week’s emails and finally sum up the day in this blog post.
Another varied day in the CBA promoting ‘archaeology for all’.
‘With every colour in a tartan plaid spread on the sky…’
Kevin Grant CBA Bursary Scheme Community Archaeology Trainee
Out on the edge of the old world, on the blue-green ribbon of machair and mountains which makes up the Innse Gall, the barking of a seal punctuates the regular lapping of the Minch in the rugged, rocky, haven of Loch Aineort. Or at least, I imagine it will.
In 2 weeks, I head out to my favourite archaeological landscape: Loch Aineort, on the east side of the Island of South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Blogging won’t be easy, given that a phone call can be a challenge there – that’s why I’m writing this pre-emptive blog, which will be posted on my behalf, while I’m cold, damp, and midgey-bitten in my favourite archaeological landscape.
Loch Aineort was once the main port for the Uists back in the 18th century, when the MacDonalds of Clanranald wielded their power from here across the seas. The ruins of an inn lie choked in scrub at the head of the Loch, a place where a dry roof and a warm fire would have been heaven for travellers coming ashore from many of the small stone-built and rock-cut moorings nearby. Blackhouses, the low, round ended byre-dwellings of the 18th and 19th centuries, dot the landscape, nestled down against the wind. A glance at an aerial photograph of the area reveals cultivation remains everywhere: scars left by the Cas Chrom, the foot plough, cover the tiny tidal island of Riosgaigh where 10 crofters had a share of potato-land in 1805.
The Loch has bore witness to great events: it was probably from here that Clanranald departed with his men for the Jacobite rebellion and Culloden. One of his men chose Loch Aineort as the setting for what was to become one of the most significant and beautiful poems ever written in the Gaelic language. His description of sunrise illustrates why it is my favourite place: it is the perfect example of a true archaeological landscape: a place where the land, people, and culture are intricately entwined.
‘Chrian a’ faoisgneadh gu h-òrbhuidgh
Às a mogal…
Chinn dach dath bhiodh ann am breacan,
Air an Iarmailt’
‘As the Sun Bust Yellow-Golden
Out of her husk…
With every Colour in a Tartan Plaid
Spread on the Sky’
–Alastair MacMhaistir Alasdair, The Galley of Clanranald c1751 (Trans. R. Black).
To view information held about this site at RCAHMS, visit the site on Canmore
Morning in York. A new day. A day doing archaeology. Not that many would recognise it as archaeology. I’ll be going through a pile of references on engaging young people in archaeology to help complete a report for the CBA. Do most archaeologists spend most of their time digging? No! We spend most of our time reading.
Just read on the BBC News website that some pot sherds from Xianrendong in China have been dated to 20,000 BP. The oldest pottery yet discovered. That puts British Neolithic pots into perspective.
Also just received a nice photo of an Acheulian hand-axe from Prof. Bae in Korea to help illustrate an article I’ve written for the Young Archaeologist magazine. The hand-axes at the Jeongok-ri site are made of quartzite. It’s very hard and tough to knap – I tried when I was out there last month. I have my poor attempt at a my very own hand-axe on my desk as a paperweight.
RCAHMS also hosts placements from the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) and at the moment Amy Gillespie is working as a Community Archaeologist. Below is her contribution to Day of Archaeology as she explains her placement, work she’s currently undertaking particularly with the Scotland’s Rural Past team at RCAHMS as well as her plans for the future.
RCAHMS Amy Gillespie, CBA Community Archaeology Placement
As I’ve described in the video clip I’m here at RCAHMS for one year as a trainee community archaeologist. I recently completed an MSc in Scottish Studies and I was working part time at the University of Edinburgh as an e-learning resource developer when this opportunity came up. There are quite a few ‘on the job’ training opportunities out there at the moment and I think they are a great way for newly qualified people like me to gain lots of skills and experience.
Today I’m working on Gairloch estate maps, using our online database to catalogue and link each map to relevant sites on Canmore. Once this is completed the maps will be available to the public online. The maps came to be digitised following an SRP training session in Gairloch and so I’m sure the SRP groups in the area will be keen to see them.
One of the great things about my placement is the variety of projects and activities I can get involved in: I have been working with the SRP team validating records sent in by volunteers before uploading them to Canmore; I’ve been to conferences, including one on the Isle of Man where we held a training session in survey and recording techniques; I’m spending time at East Lothian Council and Archaeology Scotland in the run up to East Lothian Heritage Fortnight and Scottish Archaeology Month; I’m in the process of starting up the Edinburgh branch of Young Archaeologists’ Club; and I’m preparing for a two week survey trip to Rum! Phew.
Analysis of the Crickley archive:
This post outlines my approach to the Crickley archive in examining the Roman and early Medieval activity on the hilltop, discussing some of the problems encountered during this work, as well as some of the exciting findings!
Welcome to the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) Day of Archaeology blog. Before we start looking at some of the nitty-gritty of our busy day it might be useful to give a little bit of background on what we do, especially for those of you who maybe don‘t know anything about us at all.
It’s not all trowels, beards and woolly jumpers: In lots of the other Day of Archaeology blogs you will be reading about archaeologists out in the field excavating, surveying, recording and so on. You’ll also read about the careful cleaning and analysis of artefacts that have been recovered the pots, metal work, skeletons and so on. This is often exciting and stimulating work, but it raises an important question, why is it being done? There are lots of good answers to this question that range from the very philosophical to the very practical. However, almost all the answers rely on the fact that the information that archaeologists create, the data they gather, will be around for everybody to reuse in the future. This can be said to apply to many disciplines, but it is especially important for archaeology because the process of excavating a site is of course the process of destroying it too! What remains after the site is excavated are the memories of the experience, the impressions of those affected by the site and the ideas about the past that those involved in the work – and those watching it happen – have created through direct contact and through consideration of the material that has been recovered. After the project is over the main connection back to the site apart from memories and the physical remains considered important enough to keep in a museum are the records that are generated throughout the archaeological process (sometimes called primary data) and the ideas about people in the past that these records have helped to inform (often called interpretation).
So it is important for archaeologists and all those with an interest in the past that these records are kept safe for the long term, especially because they can’t be recreated. At first glance this might seem like a straightforward problem, but it is a surprisingly complex one and has become more so in the last 25 years. This is because almost all archaeological information is created in digital form and now covers a huge range of data generation and recording techniques, databases, text documents, images, videos, sound recording, aerial photographs, satellite images, laser scanning, digital mapping, sonar data, three-dimensional models etc. etc. It is often very surprising to discover that even with all this new technology, and sometimes because of it, the data created is really quite fragile and requires a lot of looking after. This is where the ADS comes in. The ADS are a digital archive with two main objectives: 1) to provide a safe place for those interested in keeping the results of their archaeological work available to others in the long term; 2) exploring new ways of making all these exciting results available, findable and usable to anyone and everyone over the internet.
So that’s the headlines, what does it mean in practice? Apart from these main objectives there are lots of other activities we undertake to support them, such as giving advice and creating guides to good practice, but you’ll read more about these activities in the sections below. Different people do different things at the ADS so the sections below will detail a number of activities on or around the 29th July.
Stuart Jeffrey – Deputy Director (Access)
A busy day for me, right now I’m concentrating on various European projects that the ADS are involved with, it’s important to remember that the national boundaries we work within today are a relatively new invention and people in the past wouldn’t recognise them, so to help people study human activity in the past it’s crucial to work with colleagues in other countries. Information on all the ADS research projects can be found under the ‘OUR RESEARCH’ pages on the main ADS website.
First things first though, a good big cup of coffee is in order to get me ready for the day! I also like to check activity on twitter and see if we have any big collections coming up for release. My colleague Jen Mitcham and I normally have a check to see if her ADS facebook page has more new followers or if the ADS_Update twitter account which I run has more, twitter is winning so far, but it can be a close run thing.
It almost goes without saying that after the coffee and a short gloat over twitter’s success most of the morning will be spent on the computer dealing with emails, lots of emails. The ADS are involved in quite a number of projects with partners all over Europe and also in the USA, keeping in touch with these colleagues is a very important part of my job. Today I have been writing a progress report for the CARARE project which is about getting ADS 3D data into a big Europe wide heritage search mechanism called Europeana.
Coffee break time! – then onto arranging exhibition space for a photographic exhibition on the diversity of archaeological practice as part of a project called the Archaeology of Contemporary Europe (ACE). A couple of weeks ago I was escorting the photographer round the sites of York including stone masons at the famous York Minster, the Jorvik center and the Hungate excavations by YAT.
After sandwiches for lunch and a quick walk round town, York is lovely in the summertime, my afternoon is split into two tasks. Firstly I’m looking at progress on the development of some new features on the ADS website, if you are a regular user you will know it has been recently updated with a new design and also lots of new features. We are working hard on trying to integrate the Imagebank (a free to use collection of archaeological images for teaching and learning) into our main search – ArchSearch. This means that when someone searches on, for example, Stonehenge, they get a series of good pictures to use in their results set as well as monument inventory records and archives relating to the site. Progress on this is good thanks to the hard work of the development team and others. Secondly I have meetings with the ADS development team in the afternoon to discuss our plans for services –this means that as well as the various ways of discovering data held by the ADS via our website we are working to publish data as ‘services’ that can be consumed by other search mechanisms. This is quite a technical discussion, but it’s also quite exciting because we can see lots of potential for making our holdings more easily discoverable to wider and wider audiences, and in my job that’s what makes me really happy.
So after a long day I’ve got no dirt under my fingernails, and discovered no new sites, but I feel that it’s been a good and satisfying day working on ways to both keep archaeological data safe and to get it out to people who need it to continue their work or simply have an interest in our shared past.
Jenny Mitcham (Curatorial Officer)
I work for the Archaeology Data Service as a digital archivist. I have an archaeology degree and did a couple of years digging in the UK before I decided that an office job was more my style. I am engaged in the very useful task of preserving the digital data that archaeologists create in the field (and the office).
At the ADS we know that in order to keep files safe and accessible long into the future, we need to migrate or refresh them to create newer versions to replace the old obsolete files (which will soon not be readable by modern software). To this end, I am currently working on one of the first large collections that was entrusted to us back in the very early days of the ADS. The resource I’m looking at is an archive of Council for British Archaeology (CBA) Research Reports. A run of reports dating back to 1955 which were no longer in print so were scanned and given to us in digital form to make more widely available on-line. The collection consists of some 100 reports and covers many different topics and themes within British Archaeology. This has remained one of our most popular and well-used resources ever since we started making it available on-line in 2000.
The year 2000 was a long time ago in computer terms. The internet was quite different to how it is now and many people relied on very slow dial up speeds. The decision was made at the time that people would not be able to download the CBA Research Reports in one go and would prefer to access them in small chunks of 3 or 4 pages per pdf file. This was all well and good at the time but things have moved on since then and the majority of our users now have access to faster broadband speeds and would actually prefer to download the whole report as a single file.
The other issue with these original CBA Research Reports is that the files are quite an early version of the PDF standard (1.2) and though they are not yet obsolete, some of them are throwing up error messages and they would all benefit from being refreshed.
The exciting job in store for me today is to turn all of these CBA Research Report chunks into full and complete pdf files (one file per report), to refresh them into a more up-to-date file format (the archival version of pdf) and also to update the web interface which people use to access these reports.
OK, so I know this isn’t the most exciting of posts (or exciting of days for me!) but it just highlights some of the essential and ongoing work that we have to carry out in order to make archaeological data available to anyone who wishes to access it, both now and into the future.
Kieron Niven (Curatorial Officer)
As with other members of the ADS curatorial team, my day can be quite varied ranging from archiving datasets and creating web pages right through to dealing with helpdesk queries coming in through our website or providing guidance and support to potential data depositors. Although I’m currently posted to helpdesk (we rotate this on a weekly basis and it’s been satisfyingly quiet this week!) my main activity today has revolved around the finishing up of major chapters of our new Guides to Good Practice. This has mostly been focussed on completing outstanding sections in the guide for marine survey data (looking at data from bathymetry, single and multibeam sonar, etc.) but I’ve also had a brief ‘catch up’ skype call with the guides project partners in the U.S. at Digital Antiquity /Arizona State University. As a minor break to my predominantly ‘guides focussed’ day I’ve also done some tweaking to the introduction and overview pages of a large laser scan project archive that we will be imminently releasing. The archive has come to us as part of the LEAPII project (a collaboration with Internet Archaeology to showcase projects featuring linked digital publications and archives) and contains laser scans of a number of objects from Amarna (Egypt). The really interesting thing – for me, at least – is that we have data for each object at a number of different points in the laser scan lifecycle e.g. individual point clouds from the scans, registered scans, meshes and – my favourite – 3D PDF files. This variety, I hope, will make it a really useful dataset for those interested in the process of laser scanning.