Archaeology – It’s not just about digging

I am a part-time post-graduate research student at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, and Vice Chair of the Egypt Exploration Society, a charitable organisation, which has been carrying out archaeological fieldwork and research in Egypt for the last 129 years

The Day of Archaeology 2011, happily, fell on the same date as a scheduled meeting of the EES’ Board of Trustees: an excellent reason to take a day away from my largely non-archaeological ‘day job’ and to reflect upon my productivity on the day. Consequently, the morning started with some prep work for a forthcoming lecture and article before I travelled in to the Bloomsbury offices of the EES.

The Trustees, numbering fifteen and drawn from the worlds of Egyptology, academia and business, meet six times a year in order to govern the work of the Society and to consider and ratify the recommendations of the Society’s various task groups.

Sadly, I am unable to discuss the detail or content of our considerations or, indeed the cut and thrust of our debate. I can report, however, that attendance was excellent, with Trustees travelling some distance to be there, with one joining us from Italy via Skype and that decisions were made in respect of fieldwork, research, finance, publications and future directions.

Although it was a fairly lengthy meeting, lasting from 13:30 to 17:30 with only a short break—tea but no biscuits—I was able to catch up, briefly, with a colleague, who was there to use our extensive library. I took the opportunity to make some arrangements in order to progress the Society’s ongoing Oral History Project, which records the detailed reminiscences of senior Egyptologists for use by future researchers.

Directly following the meeting, there were some much-needed drinks in ‘The Duke of York’, the Society’s closest watering-hole and, as might be expected, the talking continued. In fact, without the constraints of an agenda and a ticking clock, there was an even greater opportunity to discuss some interesting and exciting proposals for the future both as regards the Society and in the wider Egyptological milieu.

By 19:30, dinner in Soho awaited and I headed off into the evening sunlight, satisfied, although there was neither sand in my shoes nor dust under my nails, that I had made a small but real contribution to the academic progress and public understanding of the archaeology of Egypt: a day well spent.

Further details of the history, facilities, and ongoing work of the Egypt Exploration Society can be found at:

John J Johnston

Almost there…..

It’s nearly the end of the working day here at the IfA office. The afternoon has become a bit of a blur, helped by very sugary tiffin!

Kirsten’s been writing an article explaning how and why our disciplinary process works. I’ve read through some references in support of applications for membership (the next Validation committee meeting is on 13 September), and have been preparing for a Groups’ Forum meeting next month. This is where members of the committees of all our area and special interest groups get together to talk about how they are run, feedback things to the office, get advice from the office and swap ideas.

I’ve been thinking about how our new member care programme can work (which will be trialed on a small section of our membership), and planning my work schedule for the next two weeks. Sharon (our finance assistant) has been processing subscriptions and receipts for the week. You can read about what Pete’s been doing here.

Most of the work that IfA staff undertake is not the sort of work that people traditionally associate with archaeology and archaeologists. It is important work for the sector though, and highly varied as I hope today’s posts have demonstrated. As a professional institute our main work relates to setting standards and promoting their use, and personal and organisational sign-up to them. We also undertake a lot of advocacy work, and try to provide chanels for training, information on the sector, and opportunities for individuals to explore their particular areas of interest. Obviously, as a democratic membership organisation we’re also answerable to our membership – hence Alex’s work on the Annual report and AGM today.

A day in the life of an Irish Managing Director / Archaeologist

My name is Colm Moloney and I am the Managing Director of Headland Archaeology (Ireland) Ltd. We are one of the larger commercial archaeological companies operating in Ireland.


The office of Headland Archaeology (Ireland) Ltd on Little Island in County Cork

In my working life Fridays tend to be meeting heavy but in July that all changes as the holiday season hits. This Friday (Day of Archaeology) I have a fine balance of some interesting archaeology and quite a lot of commercial activity. Here it is warts n’ all!


I started my day off at 8am in the office in Little island, County Cork preparing a news article for Seanda, the annual archaeology magazine of the Irish National Roads Authority. This summarises a group of 6 corn drying kilns from an amazing Early Christian site in County Tipperary.


At 10am I met with the Business Support Manager to have a look at the mail and discuss the forthcoming week and programming of work. Great news – we won tenders for three fieldwork projects!


Lunch is postponed as the archive for a site I will be writing up over the next year arrives at the office and needs to be stored away carefully. One box contains a complete and intact prehistoric pot. The most amazing things go through this office!


A complete and intact Bronze Age pot delivered to the office today

Next it was straight into an end of month financial review with the accountant and other directors. This involves checking that we have hit our financial targets for the month and then going through our forecasting for finance for the next 12 months. Once the forecasting is complete we meet with the sales team to discuss targets and what work we need to get in to keep the business going steady. While this may seem mundane and boring it is by far the most important part of my job particularly in the midst of a recession.


After lunch is spent working on the Bronze Age chapter for a monograph that we are writing on the archaeology of the N7 Nenagh to Limerick Road scheme for the National Roads Authority. Today I was producing a distribution map of Bronze Age settlements between Limerick city and Nenagh in County Tipperary – I love this part of my job!


This afternoon I have a strategy meeting for our new business – Know Thy Place Ltd. We started this in response to the recession and it is really starting to gather momentum. We are now looking at pushing the service in the USA and todays meeting will focus on how best to achieve this.  I have to admit this is all very exciting and it is great to be doing something positive to fight the recession.


My final tasks of the day involve reviewing the illustrations for an article I have written for the Tipperary County Journal with our Graphics Manager and making a start on a blog post for Know Thy Place on a family of troglodytes who lived in my home town of Midleton, County Cork during the early medieval period.


That was my day, I hope you enjoyed it!