Final Days: Silchester ‘Town Life’ project 2014


Silchester TownLifers!

Silchester TownLifers!

This is the 18th and final season of the Silchester ‘Town Life’ project, and we thought we would share one of our final days with you! This project began in 1997 and has run seasonally every summer since. In 18 seasons we have introduced more than 5000 people to the delights of field archaeology, and have trained over 1500 University of Reading students in archaeological field techniques. Our students have spent nearly 2 million hours on this project…and their collective efforts will bring this excavation to a close on Saturday 16th August 2014. I am Amanda Clarke, Director of the Silchester Field School and Assistant Director of the Town Life project…..this is my life!

Amanda doing tour

Amanda On Tour

This season we have up to 150 people on site every day, including 40 staff members – all very necessary for keeping the show on the road. An excavation this size is a mix of people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities……an archaeological melting pot. They are all characters in their own way, and each has a story to tell. (more…)

A day with Macedonian Archaeology – Exhibition of working archaeological photographs – “Archaeology in Progress” (PHOTO and VIDEO)

“Archaeology in Progress” is one of the Association Archaeologica projects, where through a new and creative way we try to promote and present archaeology. We wanted to bring archaeology closer to the people by providing a window into the daily lives of archaeologists. We decides to make an exhibition of working archaeological photographs and to let everybody see what is happening behind closed doors at the archaeological digs. Exhibition of this kind was a novelty in our country, the photographs were showing the preparations and the actual work at one archaeological dig. The motives were exclusively archaeological and showed the most interesting moments that occur at the archaeological excavations. The main goal was to promote the archaeology and to present the best photographs taken in the last couple of years on the archaeological sites in our country. The exhibition presented pictures from professional photographers who have participated at archaeological digs, and from amateur photographers who are usually the archaeologist taking the role of a photographer. Participation was open to all the people who have worked on archaeological sites, archaeologists and archaeology students from the country and abroad and all the admirers of archaeology and photography. Everybody who have worked on a research or at some archaeological site and had an interesting archaeological photo could participate in the announced competition. The exhibition aroused great interest among the experts and the general public. A great number of photographs came on the competition organized on the social networks, the best 30 were selected by a professional jury, and by giving  votes on the Facebook page of our association – Archaeologica. The best three photos were awarded with symbolic prizes.

The first awarded photograph titled “Circle of Life” – archaeological site “Kokolov Rid” near Vinica, Maceodnia

The second place : “Geometry of space” – arcaheological site Moravske Toplice, Murska Sobota, Slovenia


The third place : “Diligency” – Archaeological site Skupi, Macedonia

Through these archaeological photographs we wanted to present the real situation of archeology in Macedonia, to give incentive for the development of the culture, to increase the offer of cultural events in our country and if we are able to, to create a traditional exhibition that will be held every year. This year association Archaeologica is organizing a second exhibition of working archaeological photographs  – “Archaeology in Progress – Volume 2”, that will be held in September. Again a Competition will be announced to collect photographs made ​​during the archaeological excavations of various sites in the country and abroad. The competition will be public and will take place on the social networks  – on the Facebook page of Archaeologica.  All the photographs that we will receive will be published in an album where you can vote simply by pressing the Like button. A jury and the votes from the people will choose the best 50 photographs This exhibition will be a collection of the best archaeological photos and a celebration of the Macedonian archaeological culture. The video is the catalogue from the previous Archaeology in Progress exhibition. Elena Karanfilovska

Adventures in Digital Archaeology & Open Access Antiquarianism

Ashley M. Richter in front of one of the UCSD Calit2 visualization walls and my layered realities conceptual graphic for digital archaeological technology development and use.

Ashley M. Richter in front of one of the UCSD Calit2 visualization walls and my layered realities conceptual graphic for digital archaeological technology development and use.

It’s funny how quickly time passes while studying time.

Two years ago, this weekend was spent with a laser scanner at the beach.

I’d finagled a mini-grant from the National Science Foundation for a project I like to call Sandcastles for Science, but whose full un-pronouncable name identified it as a project to test out laser scanning capabilities for handling the imaging resolutions of stratigraphic sediment on archaeological sites (see– even that was a mouthful).

As a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego, the beach was the nearest easy access place to play in the dirt and provided a perfect venue to open up the experiment to local kids and un-suspecting beach-goers who accidentally volunteered themselves for mini-science bootcamp. Willing audiences who would build me data castles, while my research assistant and I exposed them to archaeology, beach physics, the history of castles, laser scanning, sea-shell collecting, and all the other educational topics we could cram into our construction schpeals and posterboards. I like archaeological education outreach, so sue me. It gets written into almost every one of my projects somehow.

Sandcastles for Science was ultimately prep-work for a two month field season in Jordan, laser scanning sites in Faynan (and yes, even scanning Petra for one glorious day), as well as for a lovely bit of software development on visualizing temporal sequences in point clouds with one of my fabulous computer science colleagues.

The Leica Scanstation looming over its sandcastle victim at the beach.

The Leica Scanstation looming over its sandcastle victim at the beach.

Last year, this weekend was spent in a frenzy of data digging and labwork

My team needed to pull together presentations for Italian officials to approve the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture, and Archaeology’s upcoming field season at Palazzo Vecchio and the Baptistery of St. John in Florence, and a bevy of lovely sites in southern Italy with a team from the University of Calabria.

So it was a weekend slogging through back-data of point clouds from the Hall of the 500 in Palazzo Vecchio, emphasizing the layered multi-spectral imaging into the model, and how it definitely showed the cracks conservators needed to track to create preservation solutions, and how it maybe had a hidden Da Vinci lurking behind one of its walls. It was a weekend of lists for the upcoming season, of site logistics, and Italian language lessons (team lessons with an instructor +  DuoLingo = a surprising amount of success once we hit Italy for the two month madcap field season that was my fall of 2013).

And if you’d like to check out more pics and details of my wonderful and ridiculous work for a once-promising academic something, scope out my scrapbook blog Adventures in Digital Archaeology.

The CISA3 diagnostics team at Palazzo Vecchio after successful conservation imaging.

The CISA3 diagnostics team at Palazzo Vecchio after successful conservation imaging.

The Faro Focus and I about to image the exterior of the Baptistery. Note that I literally only seem capable of this one jaunty pose with a laser scanner. I desperately need to start doing something different in field propaganda photos.

The Faro Focus and I about to image the exterior of the Baptistery. Note that I literally only seem capable of this one jaunty pose with a laser scanner. I desperately need to start doing something different in field propaganda photos.

But this year, this year was spent online- in a flurry of creative archaeological energy

This summer, I find myself graduated and out on my own, free to pursue my own projects, safely away from the boundary lines of academia and the rather unhealthy environment I had found myself in for a big chunk of this year.

Pulling ourselves back together, my favorite research colleague Vid and I cooked up a delightful dish that brings together all the digital archaeology flavors we’d been prepping before, but as part of a much grander and more colorful feast.

And so this weekend was spent running down the final lists of photographs, video media, and writing that needed to coalesce together into the FIRST archaeological technology driven Kickstarter.

Mushing together the laser scanning, point clouds, 3D models, and 3D printing,our project, Open Access Antiquarianism, proposes the construction of art exhibit built from re-purposed cultural heritage data using the digital visualization pipelines my colleague and I have been building to handle archaeological data.

A blend of 3D printed archaeological artifacts, furniture upholstered in fabric printed with archaeological LiDAR (literal armchair archaeology), interactive point cloud visualizations and other such extravagant re-workings of scientific data from open archives, the Cabinet of Curiosities Open Access Antiquarianism proposes offers an excellent opportunity to continue streamlining the point cloud and 3D modelling methodologies we’d been playing with for so long, while reaching a much much larger audience.

Because the larger global community needs to be engaged in the increasingly complicated discussions regarding ethical implementations of digitization and open access of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. The public (and archaeologists themselves) need to understand the desperate desperate need for interdisciplinary and collaborative work and move away from the academic politics and needless power-plays that constantly bog such wonderful creative enterprises down. Archaeologists need to work more closely with technologists and engineers to develop useful and adaptable systems that preserve the past for the future (and often simultaneously end up building the surveying systems needed for the space-age future we all envision).

And the public needs to be aware of the wealth of data that is available to them in the increasingly larger and more wonderful online archives of museums and government institutions all over the world. The past has the potential to become increasingly and excitingly ubiquitous and something that plays a much stronger role in one’s everyday conception of time and space. It’s getting all wibbly wobbly timey wimey and the doctors of archaeology ought to be actively on the hunt for more and more Companions. Studying the past is no longer something that need be done by experts alone. In fact, we are drowning under such an avalanche of data, that it is imperative that more crowd-sourced archaeological ventures be launched to bear the brunt of analyzing everything that is already stacked up in the university basements of the world, let alone the incoming finds. Archaeologists can stay experts, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to talk to the public and engage them more actively in what we’re up to. Enthusiasm should count more than correct use of erudite jargon. Even to those hipster archaeologists out there.

In some small artistic way, the Open Access Antiquarianism project would like to address all of these things, while expanding the research and technological collaborative possibilities to continue refining the much needed digital pipeline that takes things from the field through processing, archiving, studying, and out to engagement.

My collaborative and interdisciplinary digital archaeology and outreach isn’t the traditional archaeology. But its my archaeology. And more than that, its an archaeological practice of hope. Hope that archaeology will fully embrace the increasingly digitized and interdisciplinary future. Hope that archaeology will not fall prey to over-specialization and tenure. Hope that archaeologists will continue to try to document and in some small way understand the past, so that we can help make vital statistically based decisions for the future. Archaeology has such potential to aid technology development and global ecological policy, if only us archaeologists would reach out and grasp it instead of assuming it will fall into our laps.

If you’re intrigued/dismayed/excited/furious/amused or any one of the wonderful and ridiculous emotions human beings are capable of, please check out Open Access Antiquarianism on kickstarter and on Facebook.  We’d love your support, and if you love our concepts about tech development, archaeology, and art as a research and outreach driver, perhaps your collaboration as well. Get in touch!

To the erudite young men and women a-sitting on a-tell: may your trowels be ever muddy and your point clouds free of shadows.

Acres and acres of happy wishes to all the archaeologists of the world,

Ashley M. Richter

One of the Open Access Antiquarianism Medaillions we've designed as part of the Kickstarter reward campaign.

One of the Open Access Antiquarianism Medaillions we’ve designed as part of the Kickstarter reward campaign.

Archaeology in Translation: Speaking the Language of Social Media

Social media have made some tremendous (and rapid) changes to the ways in which the people of the world communicate with one another. I was in college when Facebook launched in 2004, and had to wait around to join until a “network” was created for students at my university. Today, this ubiquitous social media channel boasts more than a billion users worldwide, from all walks of life—and for many of them, it serves as a means of not only communicating with friends, family, and co-workers, but also of discovering brands, companies, organizations, and institutions, keeping with up with their work and initiatives, and even finding out how to get involved.

Admiring an object on display at the Penn Museum.

Admiring an object on display at the Penn Museum.

I work at the Penn Museum (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) in Philadelphia, which can be, for me, a mind-blowing experience on a fairly regular basis. Our collections are vast, representing every populated continent in the world and including close to a million objects, some of which date back thousands of years. This is the kind of place where a curious visitor could, and often does, spend a full day in exploration mode through our galleries. And with the inside perspective that my job offers, I’m able to understand and experience all sorts of goings-on here that can often either go under the radar, or over the heads, of much of the general public. Sure, our website offers plenty of great information about our collections, exhibitions, events, research, and more—but of the huge portion of the public that would be interested in the Penn Museum, not all of them are looking directly at our website.

But many of them are looking at social media and content-sharing sites. Of the most visited websites worldwide, Facebook comes in strong at #2; YouTube is on its heels at #3; Twitter isn’t far behind at #7, followed by Pinterest at #26, Instagram at #31, and plenty more social media channels beyond those. And many of the people using these sites are younger than what you might consider to be a typical museum-going audience. So it follows logically that, to be seen and engaged with by a larger number of people, especially people with whom we’ve had less success engaging in the past, we want the Penn Museum to have a presence in the places where people are already looking.

From the Penn Museum's Instagram feed, the "Ram Caught in a Thicket" from the Royal Cemetery of Ur, dating to ca. 2650-2550 BCE.

From the Penn Museum’s Instagram feed, the “Ram Caught in a Thicket” from the Royal Cemetery of Ur, dating to ca. 2650-2550 BCE.

So that’s what much of my job here amounts to—taking what’s going on here at the Museum (and with our curators, keepers, and researchers, wherever they may be), and translating it into the visual and textual languages which are employed by these increasingly popular networks. And as time goes on, the landscape is constantly changing to offer more new ways to present our content. For example, Twitter is a great way to update our audience about important happenings at the Museum (and for them to share that info with their friends). Instagram lets us capitalize on the seemingly endless array of stunning visual perspectives that one might encounter during a visit to our galleries. YouTube lets us share our lecture videos, making them available to the entire world instead of just the people lucky enough to live within traveling distance of the Museum. And Facebook‘s clear commenting function lets me have a little fun with trivia about objects from our collections every now and then.

I would not have known about the Day of Archaeology if I had not heard about it through social channels. But because someone took the time to present this to me in a familiar context, in a place where I was already looking, I was able to discover it and embrace it. I think this sort of adaptation, this translation, should play a major role in the future of archaeology—a field that can sometimes inherently appear “too old” to be worthy of the interest of today’s general public. By meeting new people on their own terms, through media with which they are already comfortable, we open a window of discovery that many of them might never have known existed.


We Are Not What They Think We Are

Communicating the Archaeological Profession Online

For two years, almost all of my mornings have been starting with the alarm clock sound, a good cup of coffee, the Windows’ starting jingle and the trill of Facebook and Twitter notifications.

The strange thing is that I’m not affected by a social media addiction.

What is even more strange, it is that I’m unemployed.

Ever since I graduated in Archaeology – long ago, actually – I’ve always found it extremely difficult to explain to my friends and family what I could do as a job.
Not theoretically – more or less everyone had understood that. But practically.

In those moments, I realized that no one really knew what an archaeologist does.
Why? Because no one had ever explained it to them.
The answer was so simple that I was almost disoriented.

So I spent several hours on the Internet to look for someone or something in Italy which was writing about Archaeology and Communication, archaeological dissemination or talking about the archaeological profession.

At the end of the day, the results could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

photo credit: crises_crs via photopin cc

photo credit: crises_crs via photopin cc

After this, things have happened pretty quickly: I applied for a Master in Communication and New Media, they accepted my request for a scholarship, I started a blog and I decided that I would try to transform archaeological communication into my profession.

So – for two years – I’ve been getting up every morning with a mission: raise awareness and communicate.
Fortunately, along the way to achieve these goals, I have met many people who believe in the same principles: they believe we can change the piece of world in which we decided to operate and they want to do it using the communication tools that digital age made available to us.

All of my days mainly revolve around the goal of raising awareness in the use of social networks and online communication for the dissemination of cultural content. Not only by the institutions and museums, but also by professionals and private companies.

If our public does not consider the work of archaeologists to be relevant, it is because we have failed to communicate the value we bring to history, to society and to the global knowledge with our work.

Through researches and studies (online and offline), I try to spread and share the best case histories and best practices scattered around the world. The collaboration with #svegliamuseo helps me a lot in that: through the community and interviews, we bring out the national and international excellence in the use of social media and online tools.

The second focal point of my days are communication techniques. Writing on the web it’s not just waking up a morning and suddenly write effective and appropriate content: it is necessary to study, to try, to make mistakes and to try again.

So I am gaining as much knowledge as possible through the study of every single topic that deals with communication: from marketing to advertising, from politics to information, from PR to business writing. I do a selective study and share principles and techniques exportable in the field of Archaeology Studies via social media.

For example, the technique I fell in love with is the digital storytelling. I think there is no better tool for museums to change perspective and perception, to change the role they have in society and to change the value they have for people.

And I think that archaeologists should follow the same path.

We have to be present where our audiences are now, we have to tell to audiences what archaeologists do, why they do it and with what results for them: only in this way our work will become and be perceived by people not only as culturally relevant but also as socially relevant.

At this point of my days I am seized with an incredible headache for having spent too many hours reading on a screen, but I am usually satisfied with the results. And after all there is no headache that a good cup of tea cannot calm down.

Wrapping Up the Day of Archaeology 2013

The Day of Archaeology team pays tribute to all of our contributors for 2013. We’ve seen some wonderful posts and some great responses on social media and via the comments form.

The day in numbers

  1. Registered users: 1,067
  2. Number of posts: 329 published (we have 13 in draft if the authors would like to finish them?). In 2012 we had 343 and in 2011 we had 429. So in total: 1,122 are published.
  3. Number of images: 3,291 have been submitted, in 2013 1,148 images were uploaded to the site.
  4. There were over 5,500 tweets sent using the hashtag of #dayofarch
  5. Facebook: reach grew by 263.6% on the previous week. (It will no doubt follow the long tail model until next year.) Average reach for posted links was 37 and for status updates 52.
    A statistical breakdown from facebook for demographics

    A statistical breakdown from Facebook for demographics

    Use of gender-specific pronouns within the text of day of archaeology posts – by Ben Marwick

  6. Our fan base by country is weighted towards the UK, USA and Spain.
  7. People from 85 countries visited the site, with the majority from the UK, USA, Canada and Spain.
  8. The most viewed posts on the ‘Day’ were by Charles Mount (326 views) and by Amanda Clarke (233 views)

Making the day better?

There are some issues , that  we need to resolve as a collective and as a contributing mass to make this project a success on a grander scale:

  1. How do we engage (this word has been debated at length in the last two years, for example at the CASPAR events at UCL) with a wider public audience and break the silo?
  2. How do we bring in funding to pay for publicity materials such as posters, stickers and mail shots? At the moment, the only costs are for running the server (covered under PAS running costs) and registering the domain name.
  3. Do we need to recruit new team members to make this project easier to run?
  4. How do we get established, big name academics and archaeologists to participate? We haven’t managed to garner contributions from people of the standing of Hodder or Renfrew, and we don’t seem to have had anything from the big name TV archaeologists even though we’ve badgered them on social media, for instance. Why have they not joined in? What is the barrier stopping these people from participating?
  5. How do we get archaeologists from developing and even many developed countries to participate? We lack a volume of entries from say sub-Saharan Africa or Japan or China or South America. The map below shows where people have come from to view the site (blue shades getting heavier means the site was viewed in greater quantities there).
    Location   Google Analytics
  6. How do we retain people annually? Contributions have gone down from the first year of the project even though we now have over 1000 individuals registered. Why is this?
  7. How do we get people with an interest, but no professional or amateur involvement in ‘archaeology’ as a discipline but maybe as a passion to contribute?
  8. How do we reach out to media channels and get our project into their output?
  9. How do we get institutional buy-in on the scale made by Museum of London or RCHAMS?
  10. Can we make this a reproducible model for other disciplines? We built on the Day of Digital Humanities for instance.
  11. What do we need to do better? Did you hear about the project at the last minute, or did you have problems registering or contributing your post? If you don’t tell us, we can’t improve.

Research potential

Some academic work has already been done on these data that have been generated via the project website. Since the 26th, Ben Marwick of the University of Washington has done some in-depth modelling using the R programming language and previously, Shawn Graham from CarletonUniversity did some topic modelling and has blogged extensively about what he did with the website content. The content added here, provides a wonderful career insight for aspiring archaeologists world-wide and can only get more useful year-on-year.

Visualisation of author groups screenshot from work by Ben Marwick.

Visualisation of author groups screenshot from work by Ben Marwick.

Now, we as a collective have to write up three years of the project as an academic article and the raw content of these posts will be posted as CSV to github shortly.

See you next year?

The Day of Archaeology team 2013: Andrew, Daniel, Jaime, Lorna, Matt, Monty and Tom.

Neanderthal Funerary Practices: Too savage to mourn?

My name is Sarah, and I’m a PhD student at the University of Southampton. I would love to be able to tell you I’m scrambling around in the dirt playing with some real archaeology, but right now I’m sat at my desk reading about how other people played around in the dirt and feeling a little envious. I’m actually reading excavation reports and articles about Neanderthal remains from across the world, from the famous La Chapelle-aux-Saints in France to Kebara in Israel.

Cast of a Neanderthal skull on display Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa. Taken by Sarah Schwarz (@archaeosarah)

Cast of a Neanderthal skull on display Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa. Taken by Sarah Schwarz (@archaeosarah)

My PhD project focuses on Neanderthal funerary practices – which, in short, is anything and everything that Neanderthals could have done with their dead. (This is normally the point where the entire dinner table goes quiet and I’m left trying to decipher whether the faces staring back at me are confused, intrigued, or terrified). I’m looking for evidence of any and all types of funerary practices, such as burial/inhumation; funerary caching, curation, defleshing and disarticulation. This involves me going through every record I can possibly find of every scrap of Neanderthal remains across the world and examining each individual for characteristic signs of each type of funerary practice – for example, a pit feature for a burial or cut marks for defleshing.

But why is that important? The treatment and honour of the dead through funerary practices and rituals is a key part of our society, and although a culturally sensitive issue it’s something every society does in some way. It is a key emotional display of our humanity, and the cognitive ability to understand the concept of death and being aware of one’s own mortality is quite a realisation. The ability to be able to understand that death will come to us all one day, and to understand that intervention in the lives of others can at least stave off the inevitable for a little longer is an obvious conclusion for us – but it is clear in the Neanderthal world too. For example, the ‘Old Man’ of Shanidar (Shanidar 1, Iraq) was an elderly individual with several traumatic injuries and deformities, which could have required the assistance of others to survive, shows that Neanderthals had this understanding. And understanding how this evolved in Neanderthals helps us understand how the same characteristics, emotions, and rituals evolved in modern humans.

What struck me was how easily the concept of a Neanderthal burying a relative or friend could be so easily dismissed, and how the idea that Neanderthals were a bit brutish and slow still seems to be the popular stereotype for this species. The idea that Neanderthals were a bit daft and weren’t capable of the same things as modern humans also frustrates me – just because we haven’t dug up a Neanderthal who died in middle of updating his Facebook status on his iPad, it doesn’t mean they were stupid. On the contrary, Neanderthals appear to have been routinely honouring their deceased loved ones well before Homo sapiens ever decided to join them in Europe.

Neand Facebook

A hint that things might not be looking up for Ned…


Although I’m still in the early stages of my PhD, so far the pattern emerging appears to be that the early Neanderthals began by defleshing and disarticulating individuals (I am deliberately avoiding the use of the term ‘cannibalism’ because I cannot conclusively prove they were routinely consuming the remains), and from around 115,000 years BP the later Neanderthals begin burying them. And it doesn’t matter if they’re male or female, old or young, everyone is treated in the same way across the Neanderthal world. What a lovely thought.

I still have a lot of work to do on my research, so hopefully by next year’s Day of Archaeology I will have more to tell you. But in the mean time I’m sure my cheery topic will continue to destroy dinner party conversations for some time to come, and maybe, I will be on my way to mastering the art of discussing taboo subjects without scaring the general population.

Sarah Schwarz

PhD Student, CAHO, University of Southampton

Follow me on Twitter: @archaeosarah

Or read more about my research on my blog: http://archaeosarah.wordpress.com/

Community ‘Environmental’ Archaeologists!

The community archaeologists on the Archeox: Archaeology of East Oxford Project have been involved in every aspect of their project including the following:

  • Desk based research
  • Geophysical survey
  • Test Pitting
  • Excavation
  • Recording
  • Inking drawings
  • Finds washing
  • Finds sorting
  • Wet sieving their soil samples
  • Processing their residues and flots
  • Identifying their animal bones and any modifications
  • Report writing
  • Place names research

…. and that’s just some of what they have been up too!

On Saturday the 30th our volunteers took part in an Environmental Archaeology Workshop with the Archeox project and Oxford Archaeology. We processed soil samples from our excavations at Bartlemas Chapel in east Oxford, most of which were from grave fills.
Volunteers sorted their residues by size using microscopes and hand lenses. They collected artefacts and recorded their proportions on recording forms as well as what material was discarded for each fraction (sample size). The artefacts were bagged together with their forms ready for the next stage of analysis.

Our volunteers said they really enjoyed the session and found it really interesting to see the material that can be collected through this process (including some charred seed’s, teeth, bone fragments and tiny mammal bones). They also said that participating in post excavation helped them to understand why soil samples are taken and why careful labelling and accurate recording is so important on site! They said that being involved in these post excavation processes helped feed back into the way they worked on site.
The Archeox project is extremely proud to announce it has been shortlisted for Best Community Archaeology Project at the British Archaeology Awards 2012!
You can follow the work of our volunteers at our website: www.archeox.net, on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArchaeologyOfEastOxford and on Twitter too: http://twitter.com/#!/archeoxnet

Not a Typical Friday: Not a Typical Archaeologist

I have to admit, first off, that I’m not an archaeologist; not qualified as such and never dug in my life… (my experience is in historic building research and analysis; but that’s a different kind of archaeology I suppose!) My job title doesn’t suggest anything either – ‘Project Officer’ – I added the ‘brackets Historic Environment’ bit so people would (sort of) know what I do…

I am currently maternity covering for an osteoarchaeologist who has done a sterling job over the last couple of years organising local history and archaeology projects for the Tamar Valley AONB, getting people involved in looking at and understanding their local landscape.

Friday was not a typical day. Got to work at 8.30 and grabbed a lift with our new manager, Corinna, to Liskeard to a HELM training event on the NPPF (one of my aims of this blog is to get as many abbreviations and acronyms in as possible..!). I’m not really one for planning, policy and all that, but it was actually rather good. When I worked at EH I was constantly up to date with policy; now after 6 months in this job I’ve started to feel a little out of the loop, and it was good to get back on track with the terminology, paragraph numbers, and discussions about uPVC windows. AONB policy only came a up a couple of times but it’s good to be informed about the wider picture.

Back to the office for 2pm. What to do now on a Friday afternoon? Replied to some emails (nothing that exciting) and finished some guidance notes for my hedge surveyors. We are running a big project at the moment searching for significant hedges in the Tamar Valley. Most of our volunteers are involved as they have skills in species identification, and my job is to get them thinking about the history of hedges, and their contribution to the character of the landscape. The history section of the survey sheet has been puzzled over by some, and left blank a few times too! I’ve reassessed it and realised that some of the questions are a bit intense (we don’t have the resources to make every hedge survey ever done in West Devon and East Cornwall available to our volunteers, for example). I could spend hours pouring over old maps and interrogating the HERs, and being amazed by the patterns hedges make in the landscape, but I’m likewise impressed by the skills of the volunteers to identify up to 120 different species of plant in a 30m stretch of hedge!

My colleague (and some say half of the SB/SB double act) Simon came back from a site visit at 4pm; his daughter Jennie has been with us all week on work experience. Lucky her – beats working in a shop! Had a brief chat about what I’m up to this week as he is on Jury Service, and then decided to call it a day and get back home for happy hour in my local (it is Friday after all!).

Jennie took lots of photos of the Tamar Valley and posted them on our Facebook page. Why not take a look?  Where you can also find out more about the things the AONB team do …!

Samantha Barnes

Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Project Officer (Historic Environment)