Student

Enabling Scottish Archaeological Research – the final ScARF post

“And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.” Genesis 2:2

2017 is the seventh and final Day of Archaeology but I’m pretty sure no one taking part will be resting! I do though, think that the team behind #dayofarch deserve a little bit  lot of praise for the god/superhuman like effort they have put in over the years organising this) Since the first posts in 2011, ScARF has taken part in every ‘Day’ except from 2013 and 2014 when ScARF (www.scottishheritagehub.com) had no staff – a pretty good record (you can see the old posts in the links below).

In many ways, the work I am doing today is not that different from the posts I’ve written in the past.

The graphic design I was trying out in the first of the 2012 posts is still a part of my job – today I am creating posters to show research topics in need of love. I’ll probably spend about half an hour in the morning on that as a brain warm up before the ‘real’ work. Here you can see some of the word clouds I’ll use as a basis for the designs.

After coffee, it will be some close reading. The copyediting I wrote a post on in 2012 is more part of my job than ever and there are a few hours of my time today blocked out for working on editing the Regional Archaeological Research Framework for Argyll (RARFA) (http://www.scottishheritagehub.com/regionalresearch) . We are on the second draft of the manuscript – at the moment the formatting is all in place, punctuation, terminology, spelling and grammar have all been checked and sent back to the authors for review. I am just waiting for some final adjustments to images and changes to bibliographies to be sent in and then the ‘final’ version 2 can be checked.

At the same time, I am still (as in 2012) marking up the HTML for the text but for the first time I have some help in the form of a glamourous assistant in Anna, our Museums Officer!

Today I also have a meeting about sponsoring student places at an upcoming conference (stay tuned to the ScARF website to find out more! http://www.scottishheritagehub.com/content/student-network ) and I hope that this will result in students and early career folk who might otherwise struggle to afford to go to be able to attend the event. This kind of work on our ‘student network’ isn’t something that was part of the original ScARF plan but I spend an increasing amount of time on as I think it is important to get as many fresh brains (if that isn’t too zombie a thing to say) involved as possible in current research, Scotland needs more, younger, experts for the days of archaeology ahead!

After my meeting, it will be the glamourous administration job of booking accommodation and travel, including for an upcoming conference that I am presenting at (come along to the Highland Archaeology Festival http://www.highlandarchaeologyfestival.org/index.asp?pageid=651964  !) and doing some financial planning for the next month of the project.

Coffee is essential in the ScARF office

Coffee is essential in the ScARF office

After that, back to marking up HTML for RARFA. I do a lot of other things in my job, even if these posts make it seem like I do a lot of the same thing, the days of archaeology have been Fridays, and Fridays are usually my head-down-coffee-on-tap-techy-days! This week for example, I think about 60% of my time has been spent on various regional archaeological research frameworks – costing them, planning them, research into topics, looking for willing victims volunteers to write pieces for them, trying to get support for them and setting up meeting for the future. I’ve also been working on sorting out and simplifying the 2012 research recommendations so that they be answered by a wider range of people than they were perhaps intended for.

Since I started working on ScARF in 2011, my day to day work has been augmented with more and more administration due to having a managerial role that I didn’t have at the start. I’ve also taken breaks from Archaeology and had jobs in other fields (not the muddy kind, other ‘disciplines’) . One thing that has been constant since the first #dayofarch post though, is the fun I have reading about other peoples work in archaeology. Yes, when you read something exciting, you can feel jealous and sad that you are at that moment doing yet another round of monthly paperwork rather than being the one with the excitement. On the other hand, reading about the exciting research people are doing can really make you (or should that be, ‘should make you’?) see where the work you are doing yourself can fit in. I don’t get to do much any original research with my day job, or research what I’m really passionate about in archaeology, but one thing I can do through my day job is to increase the access that others have to current research. Well, that’s what I hope ScARF does and even if the #dayofarch is ending, I hope that people reading this post continue to use ScARF in the future.

Anna MacQuarrie is also writing a post for today, from a ScARF Museums point of view, so do please look out for that!

 

Past ScARF posts for Day of Archaeology

ScARF is a research project at the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and we are thankful to Historic Environment Scotland and Museums Galleries Scotland for our current funding. 

Meghan French: The Student Perspective

As a student of Archaeology currently at Bournemouth University, I thought I had a fair idea of what being an archaeologist involved – or I thought. Even from two years of education in this field from lecture halls to fieldwork experience this had not truly prepared me for the world of working. When people think of archaeologists they generally think along the lines of Time Team or digging dinosaurs (grh!). They don’t tend to think of all the behind scenes and day to day life of an archaeologist which I am still learning about. Since starting my placement year at Oxford Archaeology East two weeks ago I have only just dipped my toe into what it means to be an archaeologist.

Neolithic Settlement, Bulgaria, 2013

If people do have an idea of what an archaeologist does its usually based around digging and I’m not going to lie that is a fun but tiring (and in this country likely wet!) part of the job. Whilst based here, I have had a good mixture of field and office-based work revolving around a small excavation in Fulbourn. From week one, I was involved in the excavation side; digging, section drawing, context sheets and photography, but from week two I got my first proper glimpse into the report writing side which previously had been nothing more than ‘a report will be written’ as if it’s as simple as that!

I have been involved in; inputting the field data (from context sheets) into a database for further analysis, creating queries that have been exported into useful tables. The last couple of days, I have been using site plans and the queries created to write an early draft about the features found on site (explaining what we found and how it relates to the rest of the site!)

Office work at Oxford Archaeology East, 2017

There many other sides of this job which I have yet to explore such as finds, environmental, geomatics, outreach, graphics and archives. There really is something here for everyone in the world of Archaeology. From exciting research digs and interesting lectures to commercial digs and extensive post-excavation work.

Durotriges Project, Bournemouth University, 2016

Meghan French is a placement student from Bournemouth University currently based at Oxford Archaeology East’s office in Cambridge. For more information about Oxford Archaeology‘s volunteering and training opportunities, visit our website here: https://oxfordarchaeology.com/community-training/volunteeringhttps://oxfordarchaeology.com/

Fighting for survival: PhD student experience at the University of Manchester

This final Day of Archaeology finds me busy and distracted. I am roughly at the half way point in my part-time PhD at the University of Manchester, but as the department falls quiet with academic staff dispersing across the globe to introduce undergraduate and post-graduate students to archaeology as diverse as Convict era Tasmania, Neolithic Herefordshire and the multi-period site of Ardnamurchan, Scotland, senior managers at the University are busy trying to decimate the department by getting rid of 50% of the already small staff of 8.

The M2020 ‘vision’ includes making 171 members of staff redundant, including a spectacular attack on the department of archaeology, which is due to suffer a disproportionate cut to staff numbers. If we are left with just 4 members of staff, the department is likely to merge with Classics, and unlikely to be able to continue running the single honours BA degree. The MA course has already been scrapped from 2018. With 15 PhD students currently enrolled, 4 members of staff are unlikely to be able to offer appropriate supervision, let alone provide the breadth of expertise expected, or needed.

The staff at Manchester have been vocal in their opposition not only of the plans, but also the way in which they have been implemented. In correspondence the M2020 project team have insisted that the changes will ‘improve the student experience’ yet it is difficult to see how slashing staff numbers will achieve this. The Archaeology department has an unparalleled reputation for positive student experience and at the moment is the only subject in the University to have 100% student satisfaction. It is also the only Archaeology department in the UK to achieve this figure. In recent years, our staff have won four University wide awards for teaching excellence, in the fields of Social Responsibility, Mental Health Champion, Best E-Learning Experience, and Best Communicator. From the perspective of the PhD students the proposed cuts will do nothing but irreversible harm to the department. 

So on this day of archaeology I urge you to please sign our petition against the planned redundancies and have a look at the letters of support for University of Manchester staff and in opposition to the proposed staff cuts at https://resistrestructuringmcr.wordpress.com/

In other news, my day has also involved the more normal activities of a PhD student. I’ve been reorganising my methodology chapter, written a bit of book review and been trawling through some 1891 Census records. I am looking for the people who lived close to the Chelsea Embankment shortly after its construction. I’m interested in the differences in the socio-economic make up of the community in the pre- and post-embankment periods, trying to work out how the Embankment construction and associated removal of working class housing and waterfront businesses affected them. I’ve been creating maps, based on historical maps and documents, to visualise where people lived and worked, looking for the places they may have moved around, between and within. The map below plots out residential buildings-coloured according to Booths Maps of London Poverty, blue = poor, red=well to do/comfortable, yellow=independently wealthy. In addition the multi-coloured blocks on Royal Hospital Road, formerly Queens Road, indicate a variety of businesses and shops, whilst the coloured areas on the foreshore relate to archaeological remains I surveyed last year.

 

2017 OS map with 1891 residential buildings, businesses, parks identified. 19th century archaeological remains on the foreshore as surveyed by H. Steyne 2016.

Whilst I’m unable to make any conclusions yet, I’m encouraged by the diversity in the population close to the river front, and to the co-location of archaeological remains with former businesses on the waterfront. The impact of losing these sources of employment must have been enormous for this community.

So, whilst on the one hand I despair and worry about the future survival of my department, I am steadily plodding through data for my own research. All the while wondering whether I’ll still be a Manchester University student this time next year. Let’s hope so.

Please sign our petition. Thank you.

You can find more about me here and my research here

 

A Day of Excavation

(by Meaghan)
Friday July 29th 2016
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4 am – Up packed and ready to jump in the car to drive the 300+ kilometers to the site. A historical dig in the city. This will be my first ever dig experience so I’m more than a little nervous. Its dark when we pull out of the driveway and partner suggests I go back to sleep while he drives. I try closing my eyes, but don’t sleep. We stop at a roadhouse on the way for a quite coffee and an egg and bacon sandwich. I feel a little more relaxed after that.
8:15 am– We didn’t get lost or stuck in traffic so I arrive at the site earlier than requested. It’s a rare empty space between city buildings. Walking in I find myself behind a tall fence looking at a graded dirt lot which a number of people in florescent work jackets are already shoveling loads of earth into wheelbarrows and cleaning sieves. Outside the fence you can hear all the typical noises a city makes, but the site itself is like a quiet oasis.There are three shipping containers at the back of the lot, I ask which direction to the office to sign in and two women cleaning sieves point towards them. The woman in the office gives me a warm smile when I enter, signs me in and gets me to wait in one of the shipping containers which has been converted into a lunch room with a refrigerator, microwave and urn for hot water. It is far more civilized than I’d envisioned. I find out that the third container is the bathroom and the other the conservation lab where another group of students will be working to clean, assess and catalog any artifacts uncovered.
9 am– Formal site induction with the site supervisor and several other students on work experience. I find out that I am the only one in the group who will be staying the whole day, but I will most likely work with one or more of these people next two weeks, so I try to remember their names.
10 am – I’m sent to the field area to find the supervising archaeologist where I’m handed a trowel and a shovel and instructed to start scrapping back a small area. The earth is harder than I thought it to look at. In the process I uncover a rounded deposit of really sticky clay which I am told may indicate the location of a post hole. The archaeologist supervising tells me to mark around it and move onto another area and see what else we can find.
10:50 am – we break for morning tea. Its cold and has threatened rain all morning so we all huddle in the lunch room. Everyone is super friendly, which is a relief. Some of them have already been working on this  project  for weeks before the dig began, others only started on Monday. Some wander to a nearby cafe and come back with coffee. I must remember to bring some change for coffee when I return next week. It smells really good.
11:20 am– I spend an hour and a half with one of the archaeologists scraping back earth to reveal yet more areas of clay while another group work at uncovering stone foundations. The supervisor deems the area they have named “Site A” clear enough for us all to start scraping back in a long line. We start at the outer edge of the site and trowel back, removing debris and the loose earth left by the excavators. There are about ten of us working in a long line, each troweling an area approximately a meter and a half wide. Senior, junior archaeologists and work experience students work side by side, all at the same task.  The archaeologist I’m working next to shows me how to work the trowel and alternate hands so I don’t get cramps. She tells me which size trowels work best for what areas and another tells me where to get decent quality ones online. I find some broken crockery pieces and bottles, and a lot more clay.
1:45 pm– It drizzles rain and the supervisor calls lunch. Most of us head for the lunch room, a few head back to the cafe. In the lunch room the archaeologists chat about other places they have worked and their favorite and least favorite projects. I try and file away some of this information for future reference.
2:30 pm- The rain has stopped and we are all back to troweling. Everyone is in good spirits and chatting away about archaeology, places they have worked and  the kinds of characters they have met on digs in the past. Troweling is almost hypnotic, but by 3:30 my knees are getting stiff and my arms starting to ache. The ground is damper now, which is making it somewhat easier. Someone finds a broken piece of a smoking pipe. There are pieces of ceramic pots and more slivers of broken china and glass.
3:45 pm- We’ve all but finished troweling back Site A and it rains. Properly this time. We wait it out in the lunch room.
4:15 pm – The rain stops. Site A is full of puddles and slippery clay now. The site supervisor makes the call to abandon Site A for today and start hoeing back Site B, which sits much higher and has still to be dug out. We spend thirty minutes or so with everyone hoeing and shoveling out wheelbarrow loads of earth and debris before it begins raining again. By this time we are all very muddy.
4:50 pm – The site supervisor calls it a day. We all put away tools and sign out in the office where myself and the other work experience students are handed our days stipend, a small payment to assist with the cost of transport to the site and lunch etc. There is very limited parking around the site so those who live or are staying locally must use public transport, which I decide I will do next week to save five days of long drives.
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5:10 pm- My partner meets me in a nearby car park where I awkwardly  change out of my muddy boots and clothes in the back of our car before the long drive home. It takes us over an hour just to get out of the city and onto the road home, but I don’t mind. It gives me a chance to tell him all about my first day.Somewhere around the 100 km mark I fall asleep mid-sentence and don’t wake until we pull into the driveway

A Student’s Day of Archaeology

Some of my Day of Archaeology Projects

Fig. 1 – Some of my Day of Archaeology Projects (Photo by Daniel Leahy)

I am currently a second year undergraduate student at the University of New England (UNE) in New South Wales, Australia.  I’m studying a Bachelor of Arts (BA) majoring in Archaeology and History.

I had planned to visit a local site on the Day of Archaeology, however poor weather on the day (and for much of the week before) prevented this from happening.  Instead, much of my Day of Archaeology revolved around my studies.  This included catching up on recorded lectures for some of my classes; completing an online quiz about historical archaeology; and making more notes for an upcoming history essay comparing memorials of the First and Second World Wars and the Vietnam War.  Studying via distance (i.e., online) meant all of this was done in the comfort of my own home.

Recently I have been involved in a project called the ‘Digital Air Force’ for the website, AviationHeritage.org, whose goal is to digitally document Australia’s aviation heritage using modern technology.  Part of this includes 3D scanning artefacts related to aviation heritage.  So on the Day of Archaeology I started work on creating a digital 3D model of a small piece of metal from a Second World War aircraft crash site (see bottom of Figure 1).  In a nutshell, this process – known as ‘photogrammetry’ – requires a lot of photos of an object to be taken from all angles.  These photos are then loaded into a computer program which determines the angle and distance at which each photo was taken, builds a model of the object, then stitches the images together to form the textures of the object.  This is a process I learnt about at an archaeology conference last year and have been experimenting with in my own time.  The first part of this model was created overnight and resulted in what is known as a ‘dense point cloud’ of the scanned object (see Figure 2, below).  At the moment this still needs quite a lot of work done to remove the surrounding items which were captured, clean up parts of the artefact itself, and join ‘chunks’ to form a complete model but it is hoped this will be completed over the weekend.

Dense Point Cloud (WIP) of WWII Aircraft Wreckage

Fig. 2 – Dense Point Cloud of WWII Aircraft Wreckage (Image by Daniel Leahy)

Personally I became interested in archaeology (and palaeontology) at a very young age.  I was however dissuaded from pursuing a career in either of those fields because of a perceived lack of money that would be made.  Instead, I followed my uncle into the I.T. industry, completing a Bachelor of Information Technology degree then working with a variety of systems for about ten years.  It was at this time that I felt I had to change careers and decided to formally study archaeology, which today I feel is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

 

(P.S.  July 29th was also my birthday, hence the greeting card from an archaeologist friend which can be seen in Figure 1).

Hard Work Pays Off!

This is my third year of doing this. In the previous years I had wrote about the desire to go back to school and then when I actually went back. On June 26, 2015, I graduated from my community college, Foothill College, with double honors, two Anthropology certificates, and my AA in Anthropology. This was a huge accomplishment for me because I am a mother of five and my (soon-to-be-ex-) husband recently left my children and I out of the blue… and homeless (my parents have been kind enough to allow us to stay with them until I can find a place of my own, which I’m hoping will be soon). To say things have been easy is a huge understatement. I will begin work on my BA in January 2016. The original plan was to begin in August 2015, but some things have come up that are preventing me to do that, so January it is.

I may not have any exciting stories to tell yet but I am sure as I move on to my BA and things get going –maybe even some volunteer work thrown in there- I’ll eventually have stories to tell. But for now, I leave you with this: FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!!!! Don’t let anything stand in your way. Hard work DOES pay off! And if you are a parent… don’t be discouraged in thinking that you can’t be a parent and a student, it IS possible and doable!

The Work of the Ceramics, Glass and Metals Section, British Museum Department of Conservation and Scientific Research

The work of the Ceramics, Glass & Metals Section, British Museum Department of Conservation and Scientific Research. Lauren Buttle, student volunteer in the Pictorial Art section, has come on an informal visit to the workshop. Denise Ling shows her a terracotta figure (GR1863,0728.275) being reconstructed for a loan.

The work of the Ceramics, Glass & Metals Section, British Museum Department of Conservation and Scientific Research. Lauren Buttle, student volunteer in the Pictorial Art Section, has come on an informal visit to the workshop. Denise Ling shows her a terracotta figure (GR1863,0728.275) being reconstructed for a loan.


A Day in the Life of… a PhD Student!

Hi folks!

There are all kinds of contributors to the day of arch and I feel extremely proud to be one of them.  This is just an introduction to me and setting the scene for what I will actually be doing tomorrow.  My name is Rachael Reader and I am currently writing up my PhD thesis, hopefully handing in within the next three months.  My interest in archaeology began when I was eight (no, really!) when I was introduced to Time Team.  It seems a little cliched, but it is the God honest truth! My parents were more than happy to fuel my interest and let me dig up the back garden of my house in a little town, just outside of Barnsley (my best find to date is a 1980s ten pence piece…).  My parents found out where digs were happening and took me along to them, including one in York where I learnt the real truth about archaeology.  I had an illuminating conversation with someone working in the museum gardens who told me that archaeology was poorly paid, nothing like Time Team and definitely nothing like Indiana Jones (which meant little to me as even to this day, as I have still not seen the films!).  I asked the archaeologist why they still did it and they replied simply “because I love it”.  The enthusiasm he had, even when describing the negatives, sealed it for me and off I went to university to pursue my career.  I studied Ancient History and Archaeology at Birmingham University before doing my Masters at Cardiff, where I developed my current research interests in the later prehistoric period and particularly, the landscape approach to archaeology.

Whilst writing my Masters thesis I was pondering over what to do next.  I had spent several weeks here and there, excavating with the University but also community digs, including SHARP at Sedgeford in Norfolk.  I loved digging but had yet to know how commercial archaeology worked, so I began putting my CV together and waiting for jobs to come up at units.  However my supervisor directed me to an advert for a PhD position, at Bradford University and it involved two of my favourite things: Iron Age stuff and landscape! I could not resist and I eagerly put together my application, was offered an interview and ultimately the position, which I was thrilled to accept.  I began my current position in October 2008 and I feel a little sad that I am beginning to wind down and *gulp* hand in.

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