Cultural heritage

Being Better Gatekeepers of the Knowledge Bank

This summer was my first not in the field in over a decade (I know an apt time to write a Day of Archaeology post but it is the first time my brain wasn’t fried by the sun). While it has been challenging not to work in the field, sweating digging, troweling, and picking, it has afforded me time to engage in other things archaeology: finishing research, attending conferences, attending archaeology classes and thinking, lots and lots of time alone thinking.

However, the best thing that my time off from field work has given me is time to travel with my fiancée, a non-archaeologist but avid learner of everything. We have seen everything from National Parks and Ancestral Puebloan ruins to Parchi Nazionali and Roman fora. Just because I wasn’t excavating didn’t mean I was avoiding archaeology, just engaging with it in a different way.

Being trained as an archaeologist since undergrad, visiting such sites and understanding them is a well practiced skill for me. I have learned how to navigate the stones, pits and poorly written signage well. But as my fiancée has not spent years in school for archaeology, she found it incredibly frustrating (and made sure I knew it) to visit poorly signed sites both home and abroad. Faded state plans surrounded by blocks of text made no sense to her until I was able to decipher and focus the information. Sometimes even my own excitement got ahead of me and caused confusion, that was till she lovingly told me to slow down – after which I focused my slew of information to create a richer tour for her without beating her over the head with every foundation stone and pot sherd. And while she loves having her own personal archaeologist tour guide, not all people visiting our beloved sites will have one on hand (unless we start going on a lot more dates with non-archaeologists).

These experiences demonstrated to me that we archaeologists need to be better stewards of the knowledge that we uncover every summer. This is more important now more than ever with sites coming under attack from governments, militaries, and too much love. This is not to say that we should be more restrictive in who sees the knowledge or even dumb down any of the facts we share, but the flood of information needs to be better managed. Archaeological parks and sites need cohesive Cultural Interpretation Plans (CIPs) that will help guide creating focused signs and thematic units for parks. Every time a person leaves a site thinking that was just a bunch of rocks or worse yet, a person chooses not to enter a site because all they think they will see are a bunch of rocks, we lose. We lose the voices and support we need in the public to save these places, find new ones, and prevent looting. With increasing pressure to be relevant and useful, we need to show how irreplaceable the sites we cherish are. The time to move on from archaic old styles of sharing information is now. For if we wait longer, will there be any sites left to save?

Andrew Carroll

@MagisterCarroll

Animated Archaeology

With one year of survey, three years of excavation, and one study season completed in the past few years, this summer has seen the final year of study for the Palace and Landscape at Palaikastro (PALAP) team. From excavation to conservation, we have been hard at work reconstructing the history of our site here on the island of Crete.

Palaikastro

Over three millennia ago, Palaikastro was a thriving Minoan settlement situated on the east coast of the island. The town was rediscovered by archaeologists more than a century ago, but new campaigns have continued to reveal more of this fascinating site, and the five year PALAP excavation project has uncovered several multi-occupation buildings.

For the past two seasons, our study has focused on reconstructing the history of the site through the excavated material.

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season

In the lab, this has included the careful washing and conserving of objects, the photographing and drawing of selected material, and the organization and cataloguing of all conserved artifacts.

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season Palaikastro 2017 Study Season Palaikastro 2017 Study Season

Digital tools such as GIS, combined with the study of conserved artifacts and notes from the field, enable us to better understand these objects and contextualize their histories within Minoan life.

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season  Palaikastro 2017 Study Season 

Combining artifact analysis with excavation records, digital data allows us to reconstruct a comprehensive picture of ancient life at Palaikastro.

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season  Palaikastro 2017 Study Season  Palaikastro 2017 Study Season

Whether we’re digging in the field, finding pottery joins in the lab, or writing final reports, archaeology is both challenging and immensely rewarding. But no matter what, we always find time for some fun!

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season

Marvellous medieval tiles-public engagement at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales

There really is no such thing as a typical day in my role as curator of Medieval and Later Archaeology. Recent days have involved dealing with treasure items, answering public enquiries about our medieval collections and sorting out a massive post-medieval pottery assemblage from the Herefordshire/Monmouthshire border, a project I’ve recently worked on with a brilliant bunch of Cardiff University archaeology undergraduates.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the Day of Archaeology falls during the Festival of Archaeology, and if you work in museums then the FoA is always an important date in the calendar! This year we have held a variety of events, celebrating archaeology at AC-NMW, such as behind the scenes tours exploring the hidden depths of the museum, talks on the Saving Treasures project (https://museum.wales/portable-antiquities-scheme-in-wales-saving-treasures-telling-stories/) as well as a (plastic) skeleton-sorting exercise! Fortuitously, my event happened to fall on the Day of Archaeology.

I like a challenge, and being a fan of all things medieval I wanted to design an activity that would make medieval floor tiles as exciting to everyone else as they are to me.  But could it be done??

So, this is what I did. I took the design from a set of fourteenth-century tiles from Neath Abbey (the tiles depict a hunting scene-see below), asked our illustrator Tony Daly to trace the outline design and blow up the image to make a giant tile puzzle. These ’tiles’ were printed onto paper, cut up into small squares where participants were asked to colour them  however they liked.

Ably assisted by Joel Curzon, a Cardiff University undergraduate we drew in a crowd of budding medieval artists to help complete our puzzle. Whilst we didn’t quite manage to complete the entire set by the end of the event, we certainly had quality over quantity in terms of colour and patterns used. Here is the final result.

The colouring element was really great fun but the best thing for me was the wide-ranging interest shown in these small but beautiful objects, in particular the meanings behind the motifs used on different medieval tiles. One of my most enthusiastic participants, a six year old girl who completed a couple of the tile pieces, quizzed me on the hunting scene and  was amazed by how dogs were used in the past. She didn’t reckon her pet dog would have much luck against a deer. Perhaps I achieved my objective after all.

 

Cotswold Archaeology: A typical (start to the) day on the front…

As an archaeological site manager, I like to arrive on site in advance of the team, open the access, welfare cabins and tool stores and prepare the daily briefing. Gradually, my colleagues will start to arrive on site; the fresh-faced, enthusiastic trainees, keen to crack on and get out on to site as soon as possible, then the crew bus carrying all the necessary equipment, cameras, GPS units, laptops, milk (possibly the most crucial item on site!) and the all-important site archive. This is followed by intermittent arrivals of the older, more experienced individuals who time their appearance to the last minute and then the odd one or two blurry-eyed latecomers who may or may not have been out late last night…

The daily cat-herding ritual ensues and then, once we’re all together, I deliver the daily briefing which can contain elements of weather forecast, site conditions, any specific health and safety considerations, progress on site, delegation of tasks, new demands from clients, feedback, praise or criticism from project managers or curators, details of the latest site interpretations and any interesting recent discoveries. In an effort to keep the team engaged during this meeting, I (usually vainly) try and keep things as light-hearted as possible where I can!

My briefing over, there’s a bit of nervous shuffling as I decide on which of the lucky site supervisors gets to deliver the requisite toolbox talks; this week it’s ‘Sunburn’ as, although we’re currently standing in a mist of fine drizzle, it did get a little bit warmer towards the end of Monday afternoon, and the old favourite ‘Personal Hygiene’… cue the inevitable banter. Toolbox talks delivered by a relieved supervisor, I wrap up the assembly by asking if anyone has any questions or concerns, issue the rallying cry of ‘Okay, let’s archaeologise!’ and we’re off onto site, a small, ragtag group of bright yellow troopers.

At some point I hope to be able to leave the paperwork and turn my attention to the fantastic archaeology we’re turning up. Perhaps I’ll get a brief slot around 4 this afternoon…………..

Mark

Archives and a whole lot more!

As the Archives Officer for Cotswold Archaeology, one of the UKs largest commercial units, my job does involve working with our site archives, but today like most days is much more varied.

I’ve been in this role for just over a year. I started my career as a trainee archaeologist and worked in the field for 9 years, becoming a supervisor and then a site manager. I made the move into this position as it offered such a variety of tasks and required a background in fieldwork and report writing as well as archives experience. I manage our team of post-excavation supervisors and processing staff, so even though I sometimes miss being on site I still get to see the finds as they come back to the office. I’m usually working on such a variety of different projects that there is always something interesting going on.

Today I’ve got some arrangements to make with several museums over depositing some of our archives, most are just a box or two, but we are hoping to deposit a large infrastructure project of 170 boxes soon! There are also some smaller jobs that I can deal with quickly like issuing site codes to our field staff.

I’m the co-ordinator of our volunteer programme and overnight we’ve had a few enquiries from members of the public who want to know what sort of work we do and are interested in joining us. The people who volunteer their time with us do an amazing job and help us make sure that some of the finds from historic projects which would otherwise sit on our shelves actually make it to the local museums where they can be displayed. We’ve got a work experience student in with us next week so later on I’ll be talking to colleagues in some of our other departments and organising a series of talks and workshops so they can get a taster of as many different aspects of what we do here at Cotswold, as possible.

I’ve got some costings to review and need to place several orders for more supplies for the post-excavation team, not my favourite part of the job but a very important one.

I’ll also be working on some of our annual fieldwork summaries to be included in several regional journals and providing time and cost estimates to project managers for processing and archiving work.

Finally, I’ll be helping out on our stall at a Festival of Archaeology event in Bristol tomorrow (http://www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk/events/2780) so I’m running through my checklist and making sure there won’t be any last minute hiccups (well other than the rain that is!).

 

Ontario Heritage Work: A Day in the Life of ASI

ASI is the largest archaeological and cultural heritage consulting company in Ontario, Canada, with over 35 years experience in the production & dissemination of knowledge concerning our past. We offer an array of services, including research, planning, design and management of all types of cultural resources.

We put together a photo essay showing the wide variety of work we get up to on a daily basis, and what we love about doing heritage work in Ontario!

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From Housing to History & Archaeology

Posted on behalf of Jonathan Howells, Department Administrator for Department of History & Archaeology, Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales

I am no archaeologist. Before working for the museum my idea of an archaeologist was vague and mostly gathered from watching Lucas’ Indiana Jones films.

Therefore, this blog can only highlight my experience since joining the History and Archaeology department at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum of Wales as their administrator; covering Cardiff Museum and St Fagans National Museum of History.

How did I come to be at the museum? Well, I was sadly made redundant from my previous position working for the national representative voice for tenants in Wales. Finding a suitable position or any work for that matter was difficult (especially in the Valleys). Thankfully after signing up to an agency, they managed to find me the right kind of work and more importantly with the best kind of people – and the rest is history!

Like going into any new working environment, it was a bit daunting at first, but the people were very welcoming and wouldn’t mind sharing their knowledge and past stories over a cup of filtered coffee.

Apart from administration I’ve been involved in a few archaeology-related activities, for example; I assisted with the cross-departmental Discovery Day that was based on the theme Colour, which was filled full of family-friendly activities, visitors were able to learn about the objects that were exhibited (including the impressive Treasure 20 display) and to take tours of the Collections with the curators.

One of the hidden gems that I’ve found at National Museum Cardiff is Clwb Pontio, an hourly break-time session that encourages staff, those who are Welsh learners and fluent speakers, to come together and converse in Welsh. It mostly starts and ends up with a game of Welsh scrabble (just to let you know, I’m bad at scrabble in any language!). I mainly go to enjoy the company of colleagues and it gives me a chance to find out who they are and what it is they do.

I’ve treasured my experience at the museum. It has facilitated in the development of my work skills and rekindled my interest regarding the history of the land of my fathers and even kept me from “abandoning” my mother-tongue – Nefoedd Wen!

Not only is the museum “Making History” but it has added a vital layer to the forging of my future, creating a solid cast for my career by providing me with further prospects.

I can honestly say Diolch o’r gallon.

From Monumental War to the Monuments of War – Archaeology of the Great War in the Republic of Macedonia

Couple of weeks ago I went on a field trip to Mariovo region (Novaci municipality) for searching the remains of the First World War in the Republic of Macedonia. Field activities were based on surface prospecting of the Macedonian front remains during the Great War. The visit included the 1050 elevation, the upstream of the Black River (Crna River today or ancient Erigon), the villages Skochivir and Slivnica where the hospitals were settled during the WW1 and the field near the village of Bach which was used by the Air Forces. Immense photo and video documentation for some future research was made.

Oh, no, I am not a historian, nor will ever be engaged in modern history, since I am a prehistoric archaeologist and I love working with stone tools. But I am a director of HAEMUS, which is a very big center for scientific research and promotion of the culture based in Skopje and I manage many projects on different heritage topics, including this one about the WW1.

HAEMUS_field_trip_First_World_War_Macedonia

Regarding the Great War, I could surely say that Republic of Macedonia is definitely an open-air museum. “Eastern Front”, known under many names in historical records but mostly as “Macedonian front”, has great importance for the history of Macedonia and the Balkans. I’ve had to pass through hard battles in the last three years in order to promote the archaeology from the First World War in the Republic of Macedonia. As an organization we’ve ran few projects, public debates and we organized very big conference on topic ”First World War in the collective memory – Exchange of experiences in the Balkans”. Still it wasn’t enough. I was devastated to show to everybody that on the modern territory of the Republic of Macedonia took place some of the biggest battles that killed thousands of soldiers of many nationalities and religions, which today are buried on more conceptual organized necropolises/cemeteries. The architectonic remains in places where battles took place, includes parts of the destroyed complexes of bunkers, positions, machine gun nests and trenches that can be seen today. They comprise the physical remains of significant points in European and world history in order to explain the reasons that led to the creation of ‘Modern Europe’. On the entire front line length of about 450 km there are thousands and thousands of artifacts and monuments everywhere, waiting to be explored, excavated, identified, cleaned, preserved and displayed in the museum, to tell the piece of the unknown European history.

WW1_Macedonia_conference_2015_promo WW1_Macedonia_conference_2015_poster

Archaeology of the First World War in the Republic of Macedonia so far has been completely unknown for both, the public and experts. But we won’t give up so easily from this topic. We are trying to contribute to the creation of some domestic archives of materials, as well as the exchanging of international experiences. Building human capacities who would participate in the dialogue for peace and reconciliation in the Balkan countries through scientific research and understanding of the past of this period, is also one of the aims of our work. We would like to express our gratitude to the of Embassy of France in Skopje, the French Institute in Skopje, cooperation Normandie/Macédoine, many municipalities, the citizen associations and all those scientists who actively helped us with own research or as logistics. And we are very happy bringing on daylight a topic less known but very challenging for many colleagues.

Vasilka Dimitrovska
Director of HAEMUS
Center for scientific research
and promotion of culture

For more info check: ww1conference2015.com

* * *

This article was written as part of the action for ‘Day of Archaeologists’ (August 04, 2016). The goal is to raise public awareness of cultural heritage and the responsibility that archaeologists have about it.

‘Vesuvius, fare well until my return.’ A Non-Invasive Archaeological Research Project on the Shops of Roman Pompeii.

Via delle Scuole, Pompeii looking towards Mt Vesuvius. Copyright Sera Baker.

Via delle Scuole streetscape in Region 8, Pompeii looking towards Mt Vesuvius. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016.

Vesuvius and I have a little one-to-one chat each time I visit Pompeii in southern Italy. It’s the first thing and the last thing I do on every fieldwork and research visit. Without Vesuvius I couldn’t be the archaeologist and researcher that I am. 

As a Roman archaeologist specialising in socio-cultural and economic examinations of ancient Pompeii and the early Roman Empire I have visited the ancient city countless times in the past 15 years. I feel like I know the city like the back of my hand: entering at the Porta Marina gate, sharing greetings with the Pompeii superintendency staff and custodians who I haven’t seen in a number of months or years, climbing the steep Via Marina road leading into the city that widens into the city as you arrive at the forum. Turn left and it’s the backdrop to the Capitoline Triad temple remains: Mt Vesuvius, the volcano that catastrophically destroyed and preserved the Roman city, a small town that wasn’t of particular great importance in the Roman Empire. The violent eruption of AD 79 had a myriad of consequences, covering the city in several metres of ash and pumice after a 24 hour long bombardment and killing those who had not escaped the city and burying the contents of their homes, businesses, religious sites and theatres entirely.

Nearly two thousand years later the city was ‘rediscovered’ (although it had never properly been lost) under the Bourbon rulers of Naples in 1748. Ten years earlier the ancient city of Herculaneum had been found and the fever of antiquarianism was rising. Excavation revealed surprisingly familiar aspects of an ancient civilisation: statuary, belongings, homes, and so on. Despite early use of backfilling, a practice in which materials excavated, such as soil, are returned to the opened areas, Pompeii eventually became the open air museum that we understand it as today. But don’t be fooled. This isn’t a city frozen in time. Since Day 1 of its burial the site has been subject to a slow, natural decomposition in addition to destruction carried out by humans, both in antiquity and from 1748 onwards.

My research, mostly carried out as part of a PhD degree, focuses upon the lesser studied shops and workshops, also known as tabernae, which fronted many of the homes along major arteries in the city. These small structures are important because they tell us about what everyday life was like for non-elite Romans, slaves and freedmen (ex-slaves) in terms of where they worked, their trades and crafts, their eating and drinking habits, and, in a few cases, where they may have lived. An insight into Roman shops at Pompeii provides an understanding of population, society, culture, urban planning, trade, and commerce. It also tells us quite a lot about the impact of war and Roman colonisation, slavery, migration, patronage, art, neighbourhood development and industrialisation across the city.

 

A bakery retrofitted into a two storey house (8.4.27), left, and a shop for bread (8.4.26), right. Another shop (8.4.25), far right. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016.

A bakery retrofitted into a two storey house (8.4.27), left, and a shop for bread (8.4.26), right. Another shop (8.4.25), far right. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016.

In light of city’s size, I have chosen to work in a quarter known today as Region 8, just south of the forum and Via dell’Abbondanza, close to the two theatres of the Entertainment District, and bordered by the city wall and the Porta Marina and Porta Stabia gates. Most tourists to the city will walk by my shops without noticing their presence or their importance to the city, although they might notice the shops with counters looking like taverns. The majority of the 93 shops in this area are small structures under four rooms in total. Some are directly connected to the elite houses (popularly known as villas, but correctly identified as domus) that were owned by families of local political importance who also maintained commercial interests, which is in contrast to incorrect 19th & 20th century views that Roman elites avoided direct trade and monetary dealings.

One particular aspect of shops is a favourite of mine: the architecture. Quite a lot of my time is spent at my desk in England analysing field research carried out site and the architecture is often the most revealing because 18th & 19th century excavation records rarely include recordings of finds from the shops despite being rich sources of materials and decorated buildings in their own right. Archaeologists often refer to this type of analysis as non-invasive research’ because it doesn’t require further excavation and damage to ancient structures and landscapes. Pompeii is an excellent site to carry out this type of approach because the wealth of material and speed of early excavations means that much remains to be interpreted from exposed buildings and their contents. It is quite a lot like putting a massive puzzle back together when you don’t have an entire understanding of what that puzzle is meant to be.

To keep track of the extensive number of photographs, plans, archival records and my own analysis findings I developed a digital database (along with some generous assistance from Derek Littlewood, @eggboxderek). I love reading the walls for the information that they provide, with or without their finished decoration, revealing building phases and additions, and most importantly telling archaeologists about reconstruction following the seismic activity, including earthquakes, leading up to the fatal eruption in AD 79. Even details such as the simple thresholds set within shop doorways are thrilling: I can understand how and when these doorways and their doors operated, learn about Roman carpentry and locks and take part in scholarly debates around differences between mezzanines and upper floors and why their different terminology and definitions affect their use.

 

Database, Tabernae of Roman Pompeii. A working example. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016. No use without permission.

Database record for 8.4.27, The tabernae of Roman Pompeii: shops & workshops of Region VIII. A working example. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016. No use without permission.

And while my PhD research isn’t a group project, I depend on the regular exchanges of ideas and discussion of new developments at Pompeii with a number of other researchers. Some of the especially important individuals, projects, and publications, that have impacted my area of research in the recent past include Dr Joanne Berry, Drs Steven Ellis and Eric Poehler of the Pompeii Archaeological Research Project: Porta Stabia, Dr Sophie Hay (@pompei79), and many, many others.

Sera Baker is currently completing a PhD at The University of Nottingham, UK. She enjoys discussing Roman archaeology on her Twitter feed, @seraecbaker. To learn more about Pompeii take a look at the official archaeological website from the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Pompei, Ercolano e Stabia (English & Italian; for most complete information use the Italian site).

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.

Limina

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.

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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.