job applications

Neanderthals in Limbo

So, you’ve got a PhD in archaeology, what next?  I’m a Neanderthal researcher at that strange point which a few lucky people manage to miss in their career path: post-PhD, but not yet officially a ‘Postdoc’, with a paid position on a research project. I submitted my PhD in 2009, and after a long and nervous wait, passed my viva in February 2010, transforming into a Doctor of Archaeology. So far, so good, right?

Things are not as straightforward as PhD = job.  The next stage in forging an academic career involves trying to do two conflicting things: publish a ton of papers from your PhD in “high-impact” journals and books, and at the same time, write kick-ass funding and job applications, the success of which depends to a large part on your publication record. Oh, and earn some money to live on too…

My posts today will be about the reality of this process: what kinds of things a normal aspiring Postdoc does to try and get a foot on the ladder in a research career in archaeology. I’ll start by talking about my research in Neanderthals, and how this has led to where I am now: working on several very exciting projects (including one which will soon be featured on the new Digging for Britain television series!). Then I’ll get onto the funding/publishing merry-go-round: what I am juggling today, 29th July 2011, in terms of applications, writing, and planning for future collaborations. So, not a lot of digging, but certainly a lot of hard work and hopefully an insight into what goes on behind the scenes of cutting-edge research into the funkiest hominin species of all time!

Recording Neanderthal artefacts at Jersey Museum in July

Shedding new light on the past

I’m finally getting down to writing my first post of the day! I am occupied with several tasks today which capture the essence of my past few weeks, basically doing museum and desk-based archaeology:

  1. Finishing up various loose ends for a 1-year research project at the University of Oxford I was working on until recently: “Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) System for Ancient Documentary Artefacts” (RTISAD);
  2. Submitting job applications (and trying not to get too depressed about the lack of jobs in my field of Egyptian Archaeology!);
  3. Taking advantage of the time I now have to address my publication backlog (important for the success of no. 2).

I’ll write a bit about about no. 1 now, and then must get back to drafting a chapter for a publication on the development of early Egyptian writing/art. RTISAD involves some super exciting developments in the digital imaging of cultural heritage. The RTISAD project is a collaborative endeavour funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council in 2010 via the Digital Equipment and Database Enhancement for Impact (DEDEFI) scheme. A press release about our project results can be found here and a more detailed explanation of RTI is found on our project partner’s (Cultural Heritage Imaging) website.  My task at Oxford was to test the RTI lighting dome on various inscribed material types. I had the fantastic opportunity of working with Ashmolean collections, imaging cuneiform inscribed clay tablets, early Egyptian and other objects (for a pic of the RTI dome and some results click here).

PTM of the Battlefield Palette

PTM detail of the Battlefield Palette, perhaps from Abydos, EgyptLate Predynastic period, c.3150 BCE, EA 20791, © The Trustees of the British Museum

I also spent a week at the British Museum where I imaged the so-called Battlefield Palette (or Lion Palette) and Hunters Palette, 1st Dynasty inscribed labels and more.

RTI has been brilliant for my research on early Egyptian graphical culture as technology process and material practice. For the chapter I now need to go work on I have been analysing surface marks on the palettes to understand how the production process such as evidence for tool types and the techniques the artisen(s) used to produce these incredible scenes. For now I will leave you with a close up of the Battlefield Palette (right) on wich I have found evidence for recarving.