A day: Professional Service, the Dissertation, and Happy Hour

What this archaeologist will not be doing today: digging.

A day in my life, as a PhD Candidate in Anthropology at Michigan State University (but residing in the historical archaeology mecca of Williamsburg, Virginia), is often a a struggle between writing my dissertation and taking care of other archaeologically related business that seems to pop up throughout the day. For example, my morning today started with taking care of some professional service responsibilities. As a graduate student, I have been doing my part to make sure I can weasel my way into making an impact on how my discipline works professionally. Often, this is a difficult task for a grad student, but, I consider it important. This morning (after a bit of sleeping in because I was up late grading for my online introduction to archaeology course) I sat down to a number of emails and tasks relating to professional organizational business. I have managed to find a niche within my organization, the Society for Historical Archaeology: social media. Part of my responsibilities has been running the Facebook and Twitter pages for the upcoming conference in Baltimore. Additionally, I have been working closely with other members to develop an action plan to get the entire organization to use social media in a comprehensive and effective way. We are making solid progress.


My afternoon, however, will be much different. This afternoon, I write.  I swear. I will write and write and write. And not just any writing: dissertation writing. At 1 pm ET, I will sit in my chair, and work on my dissertation. This is probably the hardest part of being a graduate student, archaeology or otherwise, is writing every day. Today’s subject will be outlining a theory section, which makes it even more painful to think about. The subject of my dissertation are two slave quarters in Southern Maryland, one of which was occupied until the 1950s.The theory is a look at communities, agency, and social relations. It will be loads of fun…

The GreenLeafe: Local Archaeologist watering hole since....well, forever.

Fortunately, my day ends with every archaeologist’s favorite past time: Happy Hour (I am convinced that Day of Archaeology was scheduled on a Friday to ensure that there would be blog posts about beer). This evening is a special happy hour, in fact. Not only will I visit the local bar to share a beverage with my friends from the Colonial Williamsburg Digital History Center (the majority of whom are archaeologists, in fact), but this evening I will be saying goodbye to a fellow field tech from the James River Institute for Archaeology, a local CRM firm that I have been working part time for over the past few months (grad students need to pay the bills). He is heading off to graduate school, himself, and there is no better send-off then some beers with archaeologists at the GreenLeafe.

Happy Day of Archaeology everybody!

It’s viva day

Hello folks. This morning I have my PhD viva, so today is quite a significant day of archaeology for me.

A PhD is a postgraduate research degree that usually takes around three or four years to complete. In my case it has taken seven! (Mostly due to the fact that I have been working throughout that time.) The aim of a PhD is to produce a thesis of around 100,000 words in length that demonstrates the candidate’s ability to undertake independent critical research and makes an original contribution to knowledge in the field. The viva is the means by which PhD candidates and their work are examined. Today it’s my turn to go through this process. I have taken the morning off work (I am a researcher at the Arts Council) to come to the UCL Institute of Archaeology where I undertook my research.

I have been involved in archaeology since the mid 1990s and I came to London to do an undergraduate degree in archaeology in 1999. I haven’t stopped since! Over the years my research has moved from digging holes and examining artefacts to looking at the way in which archaeology connects with people’s everyday lives. My PhD research looked at government policy. Essentially, my thesis attempts to answer the question “why do we have laws that preserve some material remains of the past and not others?”.

The viva is at 10am and should last around an hour. There will be four people in the room: two examiners, my PhD supervisor and myself. I will have to defend the method, theory and findings in my research. The best kind of viva is a stimulating and challenging discussion between three researchers (the supervisor has to keep quiet!); the worst is an aggressive demolition of a new researcher by two senior academics with egos and reputations to protect. I expect that most vivas tend to resemble the former rather than the latter.

I will post again at lunchtime to let you know how I get on. Fingers crossed!