consultant

The Big Picture: Archaeological Records after the Project is Done

Greetings! I’m Jolene Smith. I work for the Department of Historic Resources in Virginia, USA. I decided to post on Day of Archaeology because I am most certainly not what most people would consider a “typical” archaeologist. I manage digital and paper records and mapping for nearly 43,000 recorded archaeological sites in Virginia through our government agency, which is also the State Historic Preservation Office.

Sometimes I miss being out in the field, but certainly not today. It’s currently 100°F/38°C outside at lunch time, so I’m very happy in my air conditioned office cubicle.

Distribution of Sites in Virginia by County

Distribution of Recorded Archaeological Sites in Virginia (work-in-progress!)

My work so far today has been very heavy on GIS (Geographic Information Systems). I spent the morning creating a quick map showing the density of recorded sites in Virginia’s counties for a publication of the Archeological Society of Virginia (our state’s wonderful avocational archaeological organization). It’s still a major work-in-progress, but I’m happy I was able to easily generate this data. The ASV hopes to use this info as a guide for where to conduct future archaeological surveys. With a little more work, I’ll be able to clean up some errors, pretty it up, and label everything so the data will be easily understandable.

I spent much of the rest of the morning working on creating records for a large project conducted by a CRM (cultural resource management) consultant, making sure the GIS mapping is accurate and matches the information in our databases and in the printed site form records. Quality control is a big part of what I do. It’s fundamental to remember that archaeology is inherently destructive, so it’s critical to have good, clear records.

Here’s what I have on tap for the rest of the day: I’ll work with some more consultants to create records for new archaeological sites and add information to previously recorded sites. I’ll also be responding to a few emails from members of the public interested in recording small cemeteries in our inventory. Then, I’ll probably review a few archaeological projects that have been conducted at the future sites of mobile phone/telecommunications towers as part of Section 106 compliance to make sure that there won’t be impacts to important archaeological deposits. Quite a variety, isn’t it?

Love at first site …. a day in the life of me

Hello All,

I’m Kelly and I knew from the age of 7 that I wanted to be an archaeologist and after two degrees and several years in the field, I can say that I now have the privilege of working at L-P : Archaeology who are assisting in the running of this FAB project! At L- P  I get to do a little bit of everything which other units just don’t allow and if you continue reading you’ll get a little glimpse of how I mean everything.

10:30am: Well my day started off with a horrid shock when I found we’d run out of coffee, never a good thing in our office and so set about the very important task of ordering some more for myself and the other thirsty L-P bods.

Midday: After opening our post and doing a bit of express accounts admin and checking messages and emails etc. etc. I set about a day issuing quotations for new work, contacting county archaeologists about sites we have on and where to position trenches etc. and phoning some of our clients to give them updates on where projects stand. All of these tasks are associated with the business side of working in commercial archaeology, it’s imperative that we build relations with valued clients and this is really what is the bread and butter of the job.

13:30pm: My afternoon however has picked up and has consisted of research of Roman roads in Hampshire, Bronze age settlements in Surrey, 19th century stucco buildings in West London and then a period of georeferencing maps in ArcGIS for several map regression exercises. Furthermore I have been entering HER data provided by an un-named county HER department into GIS as unfortunately they still send us photocopies of their card system. In an ideal world it would be lovely if councils countrywide could all be on the same page about the dissemination of archaeological information. I think everyone would have a much higher opinion and a greater understanding of commercial archaeology in the UK if archaeology becomes more accessible to use and interact with. That’s just one reason why this Day of Archaeology is such a good idea. Let’s face it we have the best job in the world so we should let everyone know about it.

15:00 pm: Now I am arranging my travel across southern England for next week for several site survey visits, meetings with clients and trips to county archives.

In other exciting news we have just updated our copy of AutoCAD and I fully intend having a play around with that at the end of the day. I think I’ll CAD the office in 3D if our total station is charged up and if I get a spare half hour. I am not concerned in the slightest that this is my idea of having fun (or should I be… :-/ ).

So really, to some up, this is a typical day of me multi-tasking. Today its multi-tasking in the office, beverage supplier, accountant, secretary, consultant, marketer,  researcher, trench placer, GISer, historian, archaeologist and report writer. However, I am also a seasoned digger (or at least I was before the recession decimated field archaeology) and am also training myself up in building recording and this is something I really want to pursue.

Versatility is the key to this game and I know that I am incredibly lucky to do what I do with the great people at L – P! Now if you don’t mind I haven’t even had time for lunch so I’ll be off ….

Busy day!

It’s been a busy day so far. The meeting with AAI&S has now finished, and was very successful. Look out for a press release about the merger. We’ve also been making some exciting plans for next year’s Conference (which will be in Oxford 18 – 20 April).

I’ve organised an inspection panel for a organisation that’s applied to become Registered with us, and we’re continuing to write up the benchmarking reports for those of our current Registered Organisations who need to reregister this year (they do so every two years, to make sure they’re still operating as we expect them to). I’m also getting some last minute nomination forms in from people eager to be on the Buildings Archaeology Group’s committee, and rounded up what training courses our groups have done this year for Alex, who’s writing the Annual Report at the moment. I’m currently typing up the last edits on the text of The Archaeologist for our designer, as that will go to press next month. This issue is the conference round-up. A copy of the new ‘Londinium’ map has just arrived on my desk for review (in the following edition I suspect). It’s very good, Kirsten’s just showed me the iphone app. I like the one-finger excavation technique!

Earlier today we released an exciting statement about the new Scottish government planning advice note. We are particularly pleased with the stipulation that archaeological work required through the planning process should conform to the relevant IfA Standards and guidance, and the emphasis that work should be done by ‘a professionally competent organisation or consultant’, with IfA is identified as having a Register of professionally accredited organisations.

The phone’s been busier than it has been all week, which is unusual for a Friday. I might need some more coffee….

Kathryn

Predictive Modelling for Archaeological Heritage Management

Marlies Janssens (Vestigia BV, The Netherlands) is analysing Dutch soils today.

Vestigia BV, a Dutch company, operates in the field of commercial archaeology primarily as a consultant to policy makers, project developers, spatial planners on the role of cultural heritage, archaeology and history, in corporate, social and sustainable development. Colleague Marlies Janssens is conducting fieldwork today, with the aim to test the predictive model that was constructed based on desktop survey.

“Six in the morning: no office outfit for today. I’d better wear an old pair of jeans and firmly tied shoes. Because in my job at an archaeological consultancy company I’m not only working at the office. Several days a month I’m out in the field all through The Netherlands.  Today is one of those days. Together with one of my colleagues, in a car filled with geological and archaeological equipment like hand corers, sieves and sample bags, we’re heading for the cover sand region in the province of Brabant, The Netherlands. The local authorities here have asked us to develop an indicative map of archaeological values that can serve as a starting point for their local policy on archaeological heritage management. To develop this map we’ve already been analyzing existing maps (like soil maps, historical maps, geological maps), known archaeological sites and archaeological databases. However, analyzing a landscape from maps and databases will always leave us with questions which cannot be answered by desktop survey only.  “What do the soil layers look like?”, “Can we see former landscape surfaces which might have been inhabited during the past? And if so, are these surfaces and soils still intact? Or have they been disturbed by recent human activities?” To answer these questions we’ll have to conduct fieldwork.

And that’s what is scheduled for today. We’ll visit several sites as part of a larger project where several colleagues, each with his or her own expertise, will aim to answer these questions. Today we will mainly focus on the landscape an soil characteristics, since me and my colleague are both physical geographers and approach archeology from the landscape point of view.

The first stop is at a site which is indicated on the soil map as an ‘enkeerd’ or plaggen soil. This man-made type of soil is often associated with late-medieval farming, when people added a mixture of heath sods and cattle manure to fertilize their arable land. By doing this year after year, they created a thick humic agricultural topsoil. These soils have a high archaeological potential; archaeological remains can be found within this plaggen cover (for the late medieval period), or underneath the cover (for older the period prior to that). After we’ve asked the owner for permission to enter his field, we start coring and find a thick humic sand layer. First, we think that this might indeed be the enkeerd soil as described on the soil-map, but while getting deeper, we start doubting whether this is really the medieval soil we were expecting to find. The humic layer looks very homogeneous, and the transition from the black topsoil to the yellowish cover sand  underneath it looks very sharp. Imagine this farmer ploughing his land, blending the black topsoils with the yellowish cover sand year after year. That probably won’t result in a sharp  boundary between the two layers. Furthermore, an older soil, which is often found underneath these man-made soils, is completely missing.  Looking at the landscape and noticing that this field is extremely flat and somewhat lower than the surrounding areas, we have to conclude that this soil has probably been disturbed recently and is leveled with black sand. Former surfaces or soils are missing, so the archaeological potential might be lower than we would have thought before.

The next coring, we had better luck. About a few hundred meters away from the previous site, we’ve found a podzol soil, which is still intact. These soils have been formed in cover sands since the start of the Holocene, about 10.000 years ago. This means that the surface we are standing on now,  is the same surface as the one people could have lived on  since the Stone Age.  Later in the afternoon we were also lucky enough the find a nice undisturbed enkeerdsoil, with remains of an older podzol soils underneath, meaning high archaeological potential for the complete range of historical and even prehistorical periods.

At the end of the day, after visiting some more sites in this cover sand region and several brook valleys, we’re heading back home again, feeling a bit tired from working in this very sunny afternoon, but also satisfied.  Actually seeing the landscape and the (sub)soils  in the field definitely gave us a better idea of the this area, which will help drawing up the archaeological document. Moreover, this was again one of those days that make me realize how lucky I am to have a job in archaeology that offers the opportunity to go outside and work in these lovely Dutch landscapes.”