southampton

Setting up for the Third Basing House Field Season

Today I’m working at Hampshire Cultural Trust with Dave Allen. I’m lucky because my visit times with the regular weekly volunteer day at the Archaeology Stores, managed by the Curator of Archaeology, David Allen.

To find out more about the work of David and the team, visit their excellent blog, which has a new post every Monday.

Hampshire Archaeology blog: https://hampshirearchaeology.wordpress.com/

Nicole Beale


I’ve driven down to the University of Southampton to help pack the van full of equipment. This is because we’re off to run the Basing House excavation field season on Monday. Very excited! Its chucking in down with rain so we’ve been trying to get all of the kit packed up quickly so that we can dry off.  The dig is run by the University of Southampton, the University of York and Hampshire Cultural Trust.

You can read more about this year’s field season on our blog: http://basinghouseproject.org/

Dom, Chris and the Green Shed

Nicole Beale

Day of Archaeology 2014: A life of lithics, balance and luck

Hey!

My name is Christian Hoggard and I am an AHRC funded PhD student at the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins (CAHO), within the University of Southampton. Last year I was swamped by Masters research to be able to produce a DoA post; it is an amazing project and I just hope I can write to the standard that they deserve!

Today is not a typical day. Today is a day working from home as I have just returned from the biennial Palaeolithic-related field trip with some of my colleagues from CAHO. Over the space of eight days we mini-bused over 1950km throughout northern and south-western France visiting sites including Pincevent in Seine-et-Marne, and many other infamous sites such as Le Moustier, La Micoque, Abri Pataud and others within the Vézère Valley. Photos and a blog will shortly follow!

The typical days, however, are not as exotic. I would get into the John Wymer Laboratory at around 9 am and balance my time (until 5ish) accordingly. At the moment, I am balancing between reading, chapter drafting and writing, and other CV-related aspects. We all know that a PhD does not offer you the dream job (or any job really!) these days and it is the extra-PhD activities (i.e. teaching, outreach, outside research) alongside the PhD which can persuade or sway the interviewers to give you the job you’ve always wanted (or the only one which got you an interview for). In undertaking such I often feel that I am neglecting your research (the stuff that I am actually paid to do!) and hindering its progress. I just hope I can get the correct balance between what is needed, what I wish to give, what actually is created and what I’ve done alongside! Time will tell.

In terms of my PhD I am currently finishing off one of my first two chapter drafts ready for interrogation by my supervisor. My research is focused on Neanderthal behaviour and specifically why different technological strategies or flintknapping techniques are used concurrently. Through morphometric, technological and (hopefully!) practical examination the relationship between elongated Levallois and Laminar strategies will be investigated. Are they both used because each has their own benefit? or is it just an alternate means to an end? So far I have looked at two sites in Britain (Baker’s Hole and Crayford) and two in Belgium (Mesvin and Rocourt); a revisit to these are essential and many more sites are needed!

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Lithic material in the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) – the site of Mesvin IV

The day will then finish at 5pm and I will try my best to treat it as a job; no PhD (with the exception of some emails) will be undertaken for the rest of my evening. I am trying to be a “work at work” kinda person, again that balance is essential.

So why did I include luck in my title? Well, I have been incredibly lucky to get where I am now. I am fortunate to get both my MA and PhD funded through the AHRC, I am fortunate to get a PhD position at Southampton (and also at Cambridge), and I am fortunate for the current situation. I got these opportunities not because I am more intelligent than other applicants, or because my research will cure cancer (which it won’t), but because the series of events just played out in my favour. I have seen many people, close friends of mine, who have far more amazing ideas, not get funding for PhD. This is not a game of intellect, but a game of chance, whether this includes luck or not. A level of intellect just helps this.

If luck does exist. I must acknowledge that luck runs out, and prepare like mad for its inevitability. The American journalist Hunter Thompson once said that “Luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it”. Again we are back to balance. I know that I will lose my balance, it’s inevitable. All people fall. All we can do is make sure that we don’t land too hard.

Now get up on the tightrope and enjoy the view.

C.

Inspiring Archaeology

Hello,

My name is Sharon M. Wolf. I am in charge of an intermediate school library with four hundred students. I am not an archaeologist. However, I have studied Pompeii for four years.

I have been doing presentations on Pompeii for three years now at schools, for the town, and the public library. I truly love sharing what I know about Pompeii with people. I’ve had a number of young students say they want to grow up and become archaeologists.

I also just took a fantastic course on Archaoelogy of Portus:exploring the lost harbor of Ancient Rome. This was by Southampton on the internet. It was for free and is an incredible course with so much information! I learned about many non invasive excavation techniques.

I just bought a Galileo to enhance my photos of Pompeii and other ruins. Galileo attaches to the iPhone and does a 360 view of where you are. This will make the students and adults feel as though they are right there.

Though I am not an archaeologist (yet) I am taking more courses. I truly feel that it is so important to get other people  interested in protecting our heritage. I have another presentation on Pompeii coming up at the end of the month. I hope to inspire even more people to become archaeologists or at least to help preserve our sites.

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Confessions of an Archaeologist

Hello!
My name is Laura Johansson and I am an archaeologist. I am originally from Pargas, Finland, but moved to the UK in 2010 to do my undergraduate in archaeology at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. My interest in archaeology stretch back to my early teenage years, and since my passion for archaeology has only grown. My real passion though is for maritime archaeology and I am currently studying for an MA in Maritime Archaeology in Southampton. University will start back up in September, but up until then I am employed as a full-time archaeologist for Southampton City Council Archaeology Unit and on annualised hours as a museum guide for The National Museum of the Royal Navy, which is based in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

I’ve chosen to write an account of one of my days at the Medieval Chantry Dig in Southampton, working for the SCC Archaeology Unit. We are currently clearing out any archaeology from an area where the Drew Smith Group is planning to build a new set of flats. As mentioned before, this site has previously been the location of a medieval chantry which was connected with St. Mary’s Church, located just across the road. In this case there is a substantial amount of documentation connected to our site, which has allowed us to understand what the different medieval features on the site may be. However, there are also several Saxon pits, containing a substantial amount of animal bones.

On this particular day I had just started digging a new feature. So far the theory is that the feature is a pit of unknown date which is being cut by a ditch which seems to be running across a large part of the site. This job is my first paid full-time position in commercial archaeology (yay me!) and it is refreshing to get to work in a different side of archaeology (previously I have mainly participated in digs organised by universities). Surprisingly (to me) it is quite different! I was told today that in contemporary British Commercial Archaeology we no longer use trowels for other things than cleaning the mud out of our boots. However, (if archaeology was a religion) I did feel like a sinner in church as I was shovelling out the layers of my pit!

Unfortunately I can’t really tell you anything interesting about my feature as I don’t know much myself. The dig started in the middle of April this year and we are now running on the last few weeks. Unfortunately time is against us and we are having speed up the process a bit (we are like digging machines!), but fortunately it looks like there is not too much left to do. Hopefully the weather will be with us these last few days as we otherwise will be sat in the office doing finds washing (which isn’t too bad either!).
It has always been my intention to pursue a degree in archaeology after university. My interests are quite wide, but my expertise lies mainly within British and Finnish archaeology. One of my greatest passions is to promote archaeology to the wider public, which is something I am hoping to continue to do in the future. Among other things I am planning to partly base my MA dissertation project on public outreach so we shall see how it goes! Wish me luck!
Laura
Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Drew Smith Group, Dr Andy Russel and Emma for their kind contributions to this piece.
Disclaimer: All photos were taken by the author, except the Google map images.

Plots, Papers and Reports, Oh My!

Wieke surveying at Monte san Nicole

 

I woke up this morning very excited about the Day of Archaeology, and looked over the first few posts while I ate my breakfast at home. It was a good moment to reflect on the last eleven months, since Day of Archaeology 2011. I’ve moved out of the shipping container (!) and now have a lovely flat near the park. I also now work full time, have been appointed a second post-doc position for the ‘other’ 20% of my time within my department (looking at Roman Minor Centres in the Pontine region). Technically, they have my fridays, but in practice we’re more flexible than that as they’ll need me for whole weeks at a time later in the year, so I’ll be working on Rural Life stuff today…

 

09:00 – and I’ve just arrived at work by bike- almost all of my colleagues bike or walk to work, even if they come from further afield, they’ll use the train. I check my email then get to grips with my to-do list (after tweeting it!). I’m happy because I’ve been able to cross a couple of things off it this week. I had to drop everything to get our CAA 2012 paper written up, after delivering it in Southampton in March (I’ve been on two lots of fieldwork and short holiday since- and haven’t had time to update my blog), and we’ve been working on the final push to get two pilot geophysical studies published. The latter isn’t quite finished, but it’s at the point of having been sent off to be read by someone other than me and Martijn- my project leader. We’re both at the point with it where we can’t really judge it objectively any more. I’m glad it’s almost done- it’s very difficult to write up research you didn’t conduct yourself, and I really hope that I’ve done justice to the work of the people involved before me!

To Do List

09.30 – … my elation turns into a sinking feeling as I ponder my to-do list. It looks OK in the picture, but the thing is, each of the things on the list has it’s own, usually longer list on another bit of paper somewhere. I’d been in the middle of writing a report tying up all of the loose ends from our 2011 fieldwork, when CAA and fieldwork intervened. It is a tricky job because we had to work out a lot of the data-handling as we went, so I don’t have a standard set of methods that I can update with the incidental details- everything needs to be carefully explained, every decision made in the field, every bit of statistics or image correction applied afterwards.

10:00 – Ten AM on Friday is coffee and cake time for the whole institute, but I decide that today I have too much going on to take part in the chatter and socialising, and start looking at some raw data files for the report…

10:15 – and my computer spectacularly crashes, fortunately the only thing it wipes out is the start of this post, which word can’t recover when I get everything rebooted… and my email is misbehaving so I decide coffee is a good idea after all.

 

10:30 – and I’m back at my desk. I’m working on a file from a site where gradiometer surveys last July showed the presence of several (probably Bronze Age) structures on a small plateau. This data is a series of surface MS (magnetic susceptibility) readings taken on the topsoil by the team in October, when I wasn’t there. They made a small but critical error in how they decided to place the readings on the grid set up for the geophysical surveys. It’s not a major problem, but it means I have to do about an hour’s careful editing work on the data before I can get it loaded into a program that lets me plot the results in a plan view, to let me look at spatial variations and compare them to other data. Luckily, the field team kept excellent notes about exactly how they gathered the data, so while it takes time, I can be sure that I have the right readings in the right place by lunchtime. I write it all up carefully in the report, and make a note to myself to update and improve the training notes and protocols I hand out to our student helpers.

 

My morning’s work- the offset between the plot and the lines of the grid is intentional due to the mistake made collecting the data.

 

Writing it all up…

12:30 – and I go to lunch in one of the amazing old buildings at the heart of the university with my team. Today,the canteen has mosterd soup (a local speciality) that everyone loves. We chat about the football, and the weather in a mixture of English and Dutch, and then head back over to the Institute for the rest of the day.

13:30 – I’ve loaded the data into the plotting program and I’m making corrections to it (such as removing very high or low values, to better visualise subtle changes) when I hear a lot of commotion outside. It’s the bus being loaded with all the equipment needed by the teaching excavations at Crustumerium next month. It makes me grin, knowing people will soon be off to Italy, but for now I need to concentrate so it’s in with the earphones and on with the music.

14:30 – I have to admit I’ve been sneaking onto the Day of Archaeology site and following the #dayofarchtag on twitter. The LAARC guys give me a five minute break by tracking down the contents of shelf 666 for me. Turns out, it holds a neat little bone gaming die from Roman London. I love small finds, I don’t get to work with them very often- though on this current project I’m learning a lot about protohistoric pottery. I’m fascinated by the little everyday things that make it into the archaeological record, probably more so than the big and shiny things that make the headlines.

16:00 – I’ve finished with the first survey for the report. It takes a while to get everything into the GIS to compare it to the other surveys of the area we made in July, and information about pottery lying on the surface in October. I record everything I have done to the data, as well as the exact conditions it was collected under, then describe the pattern of values. Finally I write a short paragraph offering an archaeological interpretation of the data, taking into account everything we currently know about the site and the landscape. It’s really important to record things in this level of detail for any future researcher that needs to understand how the final plots were made, and why I concluded specific things about the site. It’s painstaking, and probably no-one will ever need to use it, but I’ve had the horrendous experience of trying to work with badly described geophysical data before, so I’m determined not to leave some potential future researcher in the same mess! I start with the next site. On this one, we did some surveys because workmen found a protohistoric storage vessel in a trench for an irrigation pipe, but the surveys didn’t show up anything structural. I still have to write them up in the same detail though!

The gradiometer survey of the same area

The gradiometer survey of the same area

17:00Corien, another PhD student knocks on mine and Wieke’s door. Wieke is the PhD student I work with- the geophysics I do is part of a wider project encompassing her PhD research. We normally work until 18:00 but Corien reminds us that it is Friday, and drags us off for a post-work drink. Our project leader Martijn comes along too, and we’re joined by another PhD student from another part of the faculty. We chat about the path PhD students are expected to follow- all three of them are at different stages, and it’s quite different to the UK in some ways, so interesting to me. At six we part company and head off on our bikes…

I’m about to submit this to the team at HQ, and while I wait for it go live I’m off to read as many of the other posts as I can fit in! Happy Day of Archaeology everyone.

Communicating Archaeology

I was reminded by the blustery wet south-easterly tail wind on my cycle to work this morning that summer has yet to arrive to this part of the world. However, as an Archaeological Information Systems Manager for English Heritage based down in Fort Cumberland, Portsmouth, I’m mostly office based so the weather is only an issue when I venture out to get a cup of coffee.

It has finally become apparent to me that communication is one of my main focuses. I am always asked what period or location I specialise in, the truth is I don’t take this approach to archaeology. My passion is for archaeology and archaeologists, how we communicate with each other and how we communicate with the public (who’s support we depend to continue doing what we do).

So back to my day…

After arriving in my office and making a cup of coffee I turned my attention to finalising a paper I’ve been writing called ‘Can you hack (the) communication?’ I gave a presentation on this at CAA in Southampton (http://caaconference.org/) (it’s a computers and archaeology conference) back in March. This paper looks at how we as archaeologists capture digital information in the field and particular my perspective on the experience of implementing a digital recording system for archaeological excavation called Intrasis to our teams. We’ve used the system now on our last few projects.

Simple location plan with trenches to south of road and Silbury Hill to the north

This is a screenshot of a map of the excavations of the Roman Settlement across the road from Silbury Hill.

As main ringleader of social media at the fort, I started receiving my colleagues’ posts for Day of Archaeology by mid-morning. That I know of two others are participating, one from our zooarchaeologists and another from @nicola_hembrey, our finds archaeologists.

Through out the day, like most days I’m keeping an eye on my Twitter feed for good content and information @hscorley. I also am keeping an eye on the @EHArchaeology twitter account which I am primary curator. This account has been active for about 3 years now and I’m amazed how popular it has become.

Looking at Twitter today, it is of course, abuzz with Day of Archaeology content. Particular praise is due to London Archaeological Archive & Research Centre (LAARC)  for the LAARC Lottery. If only I had thought if it myself. You pick a number for a shelf, they then go and find what’s on that shelf and blog about it. I like this for several reasons, not only is it interactive and raises awareness about their archive but it also means no one has to think to hard about what to write about, it’s all there just waiting to written about.

As my day wraps up I’m going to prepare to face the elements again, the wind does not appear to have shifted and despite a bit of sunlight earlier it looks like it might rain.

Hugh Corley

@hscorley

End of the Academic Year at York

Today seems a very opportune moment to blog about my life as an archaeologist, as it’s the final day of the academic year at York, and everyone is revelling over the coming of summer.  I have something more to celebrate as well, as I’ve finally had time to sign the contract that turns my currently fixed-term position at York into an ‘open’ (permanent) lectureship.  Yay!

I have looked back at my contribution to the 2011 Day of Archaeology, and this has led me to reflect on the incredible changes that have presented themselves in my life since then.  Exactly a year and one day ago I graduated with my PhD in Archaeology from Southampton, and then left for fieldwork at Çatalhöyük.  I started my post at York in January, and at the same time as launching into the design and teaching of a series of new classes and modules, I closed off some research projects (e.g., our Wellcome Collection Brains exhibition – see photo below!) whilst embarking on others (e.g., the Urban Cultural Heritage and Creative Practice collaborative).

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Me, June 2012, basking in the glow of my little acknowledgement at the Wellcome Collection exhibition, Brains: The Mind as Matter

Amidst all this activity, though, there has been one clear constant, and that is the relentless pace of scholarly life.  At any given time an academic is torn between a seemingly infinite number of obligations, and it would be difficult to accurately characterise the amount of multi-tasking—and the ever-increasing number of emails and responsibilities—that come with the job.  It’s such diversity and challenge that makes this lifestyle energising and inspiring for me—but it is also indescribably demanding, and there is a consistent concern in the back of my mind that I may have missed or skipped over something critical to my work in all the frenzy.  Today alone I had 3 student meetings and a departmental meeting to attend; I am negotiating the start-up of two new projects, and am analysing data from an ongoing project at King’s College London; I am preparing documentation for our fourth season at Çatalhöyük this summer; I am arranging a qualitative methods workshop to run in a couple of weeks, as well as helping to facilitate some filming at the Archaeology Department here in York around the same time; I have a book chapter that demands completion, along with an unspeakable number of emails in my inbox that require attention.  Even as I write this list, I can think of at least a half-dozen other tasks that need consideration.

But whilst the scale of the workload could be paralysing—or, at a minimum, disillusioning—I have moments every day where I think how fortunate I am to be doing what I’m doing.  Most often, these moments present themselves in my interactions with students and in teaching, something which I never would have expected given that so many people seem to disparage the experience of being a teacher.  For me, however, the enthusiasm of the students at York, the chance to watch them develop and experiment with their ideas, and the opportunity to see them present their work and gain confidence in themselves and in their intellectual capacities, make my job extraordinary.  The relentless nature of academia could easily consume you, I think, but it’s in those conceptual and material engagements with others that the frenzy slips away and you’re left with a sense of real inspiration.  Indeed, for me, it’s not just inspiration, but hopefulness and excitement about what’s to come tomorrow.

Hengistbury Head Survey Project 2012

The Hengistbury Head Survey Project will begin it’s second season on Monday (2-20 July 2012) by members of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Southampton. The projects main aim is to assess the impact of cliff erosion on the multi-period archaeology of the headland through a detail topographic survey. Feel free to follow us  and check out our research aims below.

http://www.southampton.ac.uk/assets/imported/transforms/peripheral-block/UsefulDownloads_Download/EDB866C762D646E8A8E44A30FBE65A88/HengistburyHeadSurveyProject2012.pdf

 

 

Rescue – Still Campaigning for Archaeology

Rescue – The British Archaeological Trust have been working for British archaeology for the last 40 years. We continue to campaign, and represent archaeology at a wide level, as well as giving support to those protecting heritage up and down the country. The Day of Archaeology 2012 is a perfect opportunity to tell you more about what we do, a lot of it behind the scenes, as an independent organisation committed to the protection, conservation, recording and interpretation of archaeology.

RESCUE was founded in 1971 at a time when archaeology in Britain was facing a catastrophic situation.  None of the larger, well-funded representational bodies which we now take for granted (ALGAO, SCAUM, IFA, ARIA), were in existence and the Council for British Archaeology was little more than a federation of regional groups which met to discuss common interests.  Only in Winchester, Oxford and Southampton was there any ongoing archaeological presence.  Elsewhere rescue excavation was undertaken by a diverse mixture of academics, inspectors employed by the Ministry of Works, museum curators and local amateur/voluntary societies.  Although many of these individuals and groups did good work, often under extremely difficult circumstances, others were overwhelmed by the rapid pace of destruction.  Even today many local and regional museums have substantial bodies of unpublished material dating from this time.

The later 1960s and early 70s saw the establishment of Britain’s motorway network, the redevelopment of town centres and the creation of New Towns throughout the Midlands and south-east.  These initiatives involved enormous threats to sites and monuments, none of which were protected or even recognised by existing legislation which dated back to the late 19th century. In spite of the heroic efforts of individual archaeologists and local societies, it was clear that there were no institutions capable of mounting the type of sustained response to these threats that was required.  In addition the sums of money available from the Ministry of Works were wholly inadequate to the tasks of excavation and recording.  There was little recognition of the costs of post excavation work or publication.

Rescue was founded in order to draw attention to this situation and to organise a practical response to it.  Early members included many whose names have subsequently become well known both inside archaeology and outside; Philip Barker, Martin Biddle, Barri Jones, Robert Kiln, Philip Rahtz, Charles Thomas and many others were active in establishing the new organisation and making it into an active campaigning body capable of bringing pressure to bear on local authorities, developers and the government and making the crisis a matter of national concern.  Early supporters in Parliament were drawn from across the political parties with Tam Dalyell prominent amongst those backing Rescue’s activities.

In 1972 a junior branch, Young Rescue, was founded by Kate Pretty and local groups sprang up throughout the country.  At least one member, a certain Dr. Simon Thurley, still has his membership card and fond memories of the work of Young Rescue.

40 years later the threats haven’t gone away, they just take different forms. Rescue has been at the forefront of campaigning for improvements to legislation – including the recent National Planning Policy Framework, as well as highlighting threats to both terrestrial and maritime heritage, reaching many members through our publication Rescue News.

Most recently, we have been documenting the unprecedented level of cuts to museum and archaeology services up and down the country, and have been equipping local communities to Fight BackWe all strongly believe this is vital work, protecting heritage, 40 years on.

 

75 Years of the Institute of Archaeology, or, my day #1,383 in the IoA House…

Archaeology has meant many things to me – Archaeological musings in Bahrain circa 1986 (aged 4);

Bahrain 1986 Archaeology

So it begins…the author, aged 4, exploring the desert…

Archaeogical digs in Colchester; Archaeology BA from Southampton 2000; Archaeological reconstruction Scottish Crannog Centre crazy Iron Age Woman 2003;  UCL MSc Archaeology and Human Evolution 2005; Archaeological reflection St Kilda 2006; Archaeological Consultancy 2007: Archaeological Administrator 2008-present…as I enjoy day 1,383 in the Institute of Archaeology house I can reflect on my time here, which has flown by (thanks to my tremendous colleagues and the most splendid of students!!!) and my Admin Archaeological work…

A typical day:

8.27am arrive…drink coffee

9am commence work – emails / tours / forms / UCAS / meetings / external meetings / student meetings

11am more coffee under the auspicious gazes of Wheeler, Grimes, Childe and Kenyon in the Staff room…

 

Wheeler Method – the father of the IoA (on this our 75th Anniversary year!)

12pm sometimes desk cover for the reception – lots of waving at people (should a receptionist wave?)

1pm – ham, salad cream and rocket on rye – hearty lunch of archaeological champions

2pm – 5.30pm – forms / liaise / meetings / sort / web / social networking (for work!) etc and so forth.

As far as an admin job goes this particular one rocks – it’s the best of both Archaeological worlds – I still get the chance to dig / attend some lectures / talk to archaeological folk / do some archaeological outreach but I get an office, with a fan, a musical boombox and a computer – less problematic for my tired archaeological knees.  I also get to administer the applications of the new generation of Archaeologists.

This year has been our 75th Anniversary – the anniversary of Mortimer’s dream coming to fruition and his wife, Tessa Wheeler, securing the money for the IoA in Regents Park (St John’s Lodge) –  super photos from the 1950s onwards.

We have had the following events in the IoA this year:

6 Inaugural Lectures

5 75th Anniversary Debates

1 Alumni Party (IoA Director Prof Stephen Shennan’s speech)

…and 1 Massive World Experimental Archaeology Day in Gordon Square – Pics here!

Sat 9th June World of Archaeology!

Working at the IoA is a joy – every day is different…and for me it provides the perfect balance of admin and Archaeology – plus it is really close to the British Museum for all the best outings!

So…to plug the IoA once again – you can follow us on Facebook there are pics and news about the workings of an Archaeological Institution (thanks to the Guardian and the student survey – the UKs number one Archaeology Department! Thank you graduands!)

Charlotte Frearson – Undergraduate Programmes Administrator / Museums Placement Organiser / Fieldwork Administrator / Social Networker / Moodler…