Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Journey Continues – DayofArch2015

This is my Day of Archaeology 2015 post. Here are my past posts:

Thanks again to the organizers for putting this on. Hopefully CRM in the US will start to have a bigger presence as the years roll on. For now, though, it’s just a few of us.


Last year I had been part of the formation of a new company, Field Tech Designs, that was set up to create a tablet application for CRM and beyond. We went quite far with the developers on that, but, in November my backer and business partner backed out. I guess the cost and pace of app development was a bit too much. Who knows. Either way, I’ve moved on and I have a new collaboration with the Center for Digital Archaeology and they are making something that will be great when it comes out! More on that later.

I also mentioned the podcast in last year’s post. Well, as of December, 2014, I started the Archaeology Podcast Network with a fellow podcaster, Tristan Boyle of the Anarchaeologist Podcast. Together, we’ve built the APN into quite the little network with a total of seven shows right now and more on the way. We’re getting around 7000 downloads a month across the network and that number keeps rising. Creating podcasts for people to learn from and enjoy has really been the highlight of my archaeology career. I have a real passion for teaching and outreach and this is my creative outlet for that. Go check out the APN if you’re interested and don’t forget to leave some feedback on our iTunes page.

Finally, I mentioned that my book had just come out from Left Coast Press. The Field Archaeologist’s Survival Guide did better than I expected for the first year, given the price and the small size of this field. My first royalties check came just in June and I took my wife out for a nice McDonald’s dinner. Not super-sized, of course; I mean, it was no Harry Potter. All kidding aside, I knew I wouldn’t make back what I put into the book. Our field just isn’t big enough. That’s not why I wrote it or why I went with a publisher. I just wanted the info to be out there and I thought it was a book that could help some people. I’ve achieved that goal, I think.


This year has been the year of DIGTECH! After two years of networking, proposal losing, small jobs, and living off the knitting income of my wife, I’ve got $400k in work this year and as of the Day of Archaeology I’ve paid out over $60,000 in payroll! That’s a big deal for me. Not only have I had the satisfaction of winning a few contracts and getting to work on them, more importantly, I’ve been able to hire and support a few friends of mine and some new friends. That’s the biggest satisfaction for me. When I think about my friends receiving a paycheck that says, “DIGTECH” on it and using that money to support and feed their families, I feel very honored and humbled. Being an employer is an awesome responsibility. I heard someone say once that you’ll know you’re a business owner when you go to sleep at night worrying about payroll. That’s certainly the truth!

For this year’s event I’m in the middle, well really the beginning, of a 30,000 acre survey. I’ve got four employees with three more coming in October. I just finished a proposal that I think this year’s jobs will get me, too. I haven’t really had the past performance to win much in the last few years, but, these two jobs should change everything.

We’re recording fully digitally in the field, too. There are some issues with the system I’m using, but, we’re adjusting and moving on. In fact, I talked about some of this at the San Diego Archaeological Society’s monthly meeting on July 25th. It’s the first time I’ve been invited to speak somewhere about these issues and it was a huge honor.


I’m hoping that I’ll have something really interesting to write about in 2016. Just a few weeks ago I moved on a project I’ve been thinking about for several years now. I’ve got people here that want to help out with it, knowing that it won’t pay right now, but, will in the future, and they’re willing to put in the time. We’ll see. We’ve just started and I love the energy they have here in the beginning. I just hope that enthusiasm sticks around.

My Day

I guess I’ll briefly talk about my actual day for a minute. Since this is a small company, I’m usually out in the field with the crew. If we go to one part of the project area we leave at 0530. For the more distant part we leave at 0415. That’s to avoid much of the Mojave desert heat that we have to deal with. Leaving at 0415 gets us home by 1245. That’s not too bad. Of course, that means dinner at 2pm and bed at 8pm, but, it’s better than working in 105+ F. On the long drive days we spend 1:45 just getting to the project area. Then, we survey for two hours, take lunch around 0845, survey another two hours, and, go home. It feels like a really short day.

The survey on the long drives is working out, though. We have a certain number of acres we’re trying to hit every day and there isn’t much out there in that part of the project. So, we cover a lot of ground in that short four hours. Luckily, the dense parts of the project, for archaeology that is, are near town.

That’s it for this year. I hope to have an even better year next year and have a lot more to talk about.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!!

Pots and stats! Moments in a day of a post-doctoral researcher

This is my first blog post for the ‘Day of Archaeology’.

I am going to write about some aspects of the research project which I have been working on for most of the last two years, at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, London, UK.

The focus of my research is the later Egyptian Prehistory, also known as the ‘Predynastic’, a period which covers approximately a millennium (the IV millennium BC) and during which the most fundamental features that characterise the ancient Egyptian civilisation developed: sophisticated funerary rituals, monumental architecture, craft specialisation, the first forms of administrative practices and economic centralisation.

Some areas which I have been trying to investigate through my ongoing research are:

  • chronological and functional variability of settlements;
  • how the process of state formation influenced the life of the inhabitants of the Nile Valley (i.e. how it is reflected in the material culture of settlements, rather than how this process affected the mortuary realm);
  • dynamics of interaction between different cultural spheres extant in Egypt at this early stage.

The archaeological data which I have been using in my research especially concerns pottery and has been collected by me over the course of several study seasons I spent in Egypt in the past and in recent years.

Hk, Egypt / 2013 season: sorting pottery…

Some pottery collections held at the Petrie Museum and the British Museum in London, as well as unpublished archival records and published reports, pertaining to pottery which is not available for visual inspection and analysis, have provided further valuable data.

Potsherd analysis forms archive

Potsherd analysis forms archive

Re-use of data produced by other researchers and the integration with data collected by myself, though necessary for having a base of data as large as possible, has been quite challenging at many points, because of the different terminological conventions and multiplicity of systems employed for the classification and recording of the Predynastic ceramic material. Thus, initially part of my work has consisted in tracking correspondences (or lack thereof) amongst terms and codes used in different systems for indicating ceramic wares or shapes. Here one of my first attempts towards ‘translating’ (also visually) the code of a specific ceramic category from one classification system to another one.

Database setting_ceramic codes correspondences_form

Database setting: ceramic codes correspondence form

This integrated corpus of data has been the basis for conducting a series of quantitative and statistical analyses, aiming at identifying potentially significant patterns. In the ceramic assemblage of certain sites, several technological and morphological developments can be traced, for example appearance of new fabrics and the decline of others (see picture below); adoption of new ceramic shapes, etc. These developments seem to have a chronological meaning and, in some cases, reflect wider changes taking place within the society and economy in the course of the Late Predynastic, the period of state formation, in Egypt.

Ceramic fabric variation across a stratigraphic sondage_Nekhen, Egypt

Ceramic fabric variation across a stratigraphic sondage (Nekhen, Egypt)

I learnt the analytical methods I have applied and how to use the software to perform such analyses as part of a specific training program I followed. The research project has been supported by a funding scheme (Marie Curie Actions) which specifically fosters advanced training and career development of researchers.

I feel so privileged for this exciting experience of research and training! Equally, I am grateful for the support I have received from my teachers, mentors and colleagues in the past and in more recent years!

Many happy returns … for this Day of Archaeology!


You can find out more about the project on this webpage.

Preparations for Archaeology Month in the City of Brotherly Love Philadelphia, PA

By Ryan Rasing

STAR “Students Tackling Advanced Research” Scholars Program

Digital Media Department, Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design

Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

I am a freshman studying Game Art and Production at the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, Drexel University. This summer I am participating in the STAR (Students Tackling Advanced Research) Scholars Program. Working under Associate Professor Dr. Glen Muschio. Today I am storyboarding two Public Service Announcements (PSAs). One PSA is for a Philadelphia archaeology event open to the public, the other is to announce Pennsylvania’s Archaeology Month, set for October this year. The PSA’s will be shown on a giant LED screen on the 27th floor of the PECO (Philadelphia Electric Company) Building in Center City, Philadelphia.

Philadelphia PSA Draft Screenshot

One of the PSAs will show Philadelphia’s skyline rising above layers of stratigraphy. Selected 3D artifacts will begin to move across the screen superimposed over the skyline/stratigraphy background. As the artifacts exit the frame, text follows announcing, “Explore Philadelphia’s Buried Past 10/10”.  The PSA will run 30 seconds in length and will be shown on the PECO Crown Lights for 3 days in October.

The second PSA will also feature 3D models of archaeological artifacts from the Independence National Historical Park’s collection. Last week I assisted Digital Media grad student Jonnathan Mercado in scanning and photographing artifacts selected by INHP Chief Historian and archaeologist Jed Levin.

Inspecting artifacts at the Independence National Historical Park
Inspecting artifacts at the Independence National Historical Park (From Left: Jonnathan Mercado, Ryan Rasing, Jed Levin)
Working on the PSA
Working on the PSA



#DayofArch at Historic Hanna’s Town

This year I spent the Day of Archaeology working in at Historic Hanna’s Town, a 18th Century town in western Pennsylvania. Hanna’s Town was the first seat of Westmoreland county, as well as the site of the first English court west of the Allegheny Mountains.  Hanna’s Town was founded around 1773, and in 1782 raiding party of Seneca warriors and British regulars burned much of the town, resulting in its decline and eventual abandonment.   I am working here as a part of Advanced Archaeological Field Methods, a graduate-level course offered by Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  The Westmoreland County Historical Society is planning to build a new collections and education building on the site, and as part of this course, my assignment has been to design and execute a field research strategy to determine whether archaeological resources are located within this area, and then mitigate any impact that the construction of this building may have on these resources.  Today we dug test pits, most of which were negative.  Yesterday we found a coal miner’s check (see photo below), as well as nails, and pieces of glass and ceramic.  These artifacts are not associated with Hanna’s Town, but instead with the farmstead that occupied the site from the early 1800’s until 1969.  We plan to use the data we obtain from our test pits in conjunction with ground penetrating radar to determine where potential features are located and guide the next phase of our project.


A coal miner’s check

A #DayofArchaeology unlike any other

Since 1989 I’ve participated in field work almost every summer in the eastern Mediterranean, but this summer is different. My day of archaeology 2015 was unlike any other day I’ve experienced in archaeology. Instead of walking transects and digging shovels tests with the Galilee Prehistory Project . I spent the day in Chicago, out of the sun, applying chemotherapy cream to my face – 20+ years of working outside take a toll even if you are vigilant about wearing a hat, sunscreen, and other protective clothing. Ask anyone, I am famous (infamous) for badgering people about hats (and drinking water) – everyone wears a hat in and out of the field or I nag, a lot. In February I had a cancerous tumor removed from my nose (involved a large needle, months of hello kitty bandages, and beko wearing.

Excised timor site - missing from the image, they large needle . . .

Excised timor site – missing from the image, they large needle . . .

In follow up appointments the dermatologist decided that I was a likely candidate for future tumors and recommended a chemo field therapy for my face. After negotiating a later start date for the chemo treatment.

Big old bandage after tumor surgery.

Big old bandage after tumor surgery.

I went to Jordan for an abbreviated field season and 2 weeks in Jerusalem Following the Pots then I flew home.

Attractive hello kitty bandage was my friend for months, post tumor surgery.

Attractive hello kitty bandage was my friend for months, post tumor surgery.

For last 10 days every evening I put the chemo cream on my face – the precancerous areas are now starting to erupt as the chemo kills the mutant cells. It stings, some of the eruptions are painful, and I am experiencing some of the common side effects from the chemo, generally not much fun.

Killing those pre-cancerous cells! Chemo eruptions after 10 days of treatment.

Killing those pre-cancerous cells! Chemo eruptions after 10 days of treatment.

I have a great support network here and afar checking in and keeping tabs. I know that many of my archaeological pals are thinking “will that be me?” – good I hope it encourages people to be more proactive about sun protection. If you can see your shadow you should be wearing a broad spectrum (zinc/titanium based) sunscreen and you should be wearing a hat. Fours more days of treatment this round, 2 weeks off and another 2 weeks on and then a follow-up with the dermatologists, my summer in the field. This is not a sympathy generating post, I consider this post for the day of archaeology 2015 a public service announcement: wear a hat, wear sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and get a beko (I just know they will become the new archaeological fashion fad, all of the cool kids are wearing them).

Don't leave home without your fashionable Beko.

Don’t leave home without your fashionable Beko.

A Day at the Brodsworth Project 2015

A short introduction

The Brodsworth Project is a landscape archaeology project that focuses on the parish of Brodsworth and the seven parishes which surround it. The extensive land in this area has not been widely developed, nor has it been damaged by the quarrying or coal mining activities which have been widespread in South Yorkshire. The project began in 2001 when Colin Merrony of the University of Sheffield identified it as one of the few locations in South Yorkshire untouched by heavy industry. The University of Hull began working with the project in 2004, and alongside Sheffield developed the project more widely into an annual fieldschool, training undergraduates and engaging the local community. Elmet Archaeological Services Ltd, having formed during one such fieldschool in 2009 began hosting Elmet@Brodsworth in 2011. This extended the fieldschool to a six week period with the first two weeks providing access and training to community participants.

A range of archaeological work has been carried out in the area showing a potentially continuous human/landscape interaction from the prehistoric period, right through to the present day. This makes it both an ideal research area and site for a teaching fieldschool.

Brod 12 Bilham Grange

The main aims of the project are to investigate the settlement patterns of the area, including the transition between the prehistoric and Romano-British periods, as well looking into the origins of the Medieval villages in the area. The project also studies the development of the landscapes surrounding Brodsworth, Cusworth, Hickleton, Hooton Pagnall and High Melton which had a significant effect on the landscape and its inhabitants. The project utilises a range of archaeological techniques, including excavation, geophysics and other survey methods, fieldwalking and post-excavation processing. In addition to university students from Hull, Sheffield and Cardiff universities, local school children, communities, archaeological societies and many other groups have been involved in the Brodsworth Project.

Elmet’s role from 2011 has been to provide archaeological training to as many people as possible, including students on the part time University of Hull BA programme, and groups such as the Oaks group and WEA Digability groups.


At Elmet we work closely with communities to help them explore archaeology through project work and engagement activities, exploring a wide range of archaeological sites, time periods and themes. We provide both social and academic training and education for everyone within the community through the use of educational and recreational archaeological and historical studies. We believe in the ability of archaeology, history and heritage to act as major catalysts in social cohesion and as a vehicle to impart skills and experiences which are worthwhile in the modern world.

We have worked at various sites within the Brodsworth Project study area in past years, including prehistoric enclosures and burials at Bilham and Marr and a prisoner of war camp in the grounds of Hickleton Hall. This year we were working very close to the site of Brodworth Hall itself.

The 2015 season

This year we are looking at a field to the south of Brodsworth Hall, identified as potentially containing prehistoric field systems. Earlier in the week we marked out a grid of 20m x 20m squares covering 1.6 hectares and carried out a resistivity survey across the site. The results of this survey identified areas of interest, which then became the basis for a targeted test pitting strategy using 1m x 1m test pits. This resistivity survey will be continued throughout the fieldschool.

Brod 15 Geophys

The whole of the study area is demarcated into identifiable areas, each area having a code to distinguish them. Our location had previously had 3 test pits nearby, therefore we began our numbering at Test pit 4 which was placed to investigate an area of high resistance in grid square A2. Test pit 5 was located on area of very high resistance on the boundary between A3 and A4. Test pit 6 were located to examine linear features running through the boundary between A4 and A5 and finally test pit 7 was sited at a larger area of high resistance. Work on the test pits has been carried out throughout the week, and they were at varying stages of both excavation and recording by the time we reached the Day of Archaeology.

Our Day of Archaeology

The day started with people dividing into teams to work on each test pit.

Test pit 4 had begun to uncover a layer of intermixed limestone the previous day, which now needed removing to uncover what we suspected would be the natural limestone bedrock as seen in other test pits on the site. Russ and Jo volunteered to jump in and have a go!

Brod 15 Russ Test Pit 4   Brod 15 Jo Test Pit 4

Test pit 5 was ready to be drawn, having been photographed the day before. As the test pits were 1m x 1m it was a perfect chance to teach everyone how to draw a wraparound section. After being shown how to put the drawing together, as well as drawing techniques and conventions needed, Harvey and Wayne quickly started taking measurements and translating them into a detailed section drawing. These drawings form an essential part of our record of the site.

Harvey contexts Test Pit 6   Harvey Wayne and Phil drawing Test Pit 5

Test pit 6 needed cleaning back using trowels and brushes on the limestone natural before it could be photographed and drawn. Martin and Helen volunteered, and the test pit was ready for photographing before break. We quickly discovered that everyone on site was too short to get a good plan shot of the test pit, but luckily, Bronwen didn’t mind getting a piggy back so we could get a good photo! This was a great help as the aerial photo ladders were back at base.

Bronwen and MArtin photograph Test Pit 6

Bronwen was also busy in test pit 7, cleaning back another clay and limestone context with the help of Jake (who Bronwen likes to call Ryan 2). This was so that once it had been cleared, we could determine what to do next in the test pit. To the joy of both our volunteers on test pit 7, it all needed mattocking out!

Jake Test Pit 7   Bronwen Test Pit 7

Lunchtime brought the much loved tradition of fish and chip Friday, and there was much rejoicing!

fish and chips

Fuelled on copious amounts of chips and tea, in the afternoon everyone learnt how to use an auto set, or dumpy level. We use this to record the height of features and section lines relative to Ordnance Datum levels in order to give our drawings more accurate location and scale information, creating a 3D aspect to an otherwise 2D recording technique.


After photographing in the morning, test pit 6 was ready for drawing. Martin and Helen got started on the second wrap around section of the day, setting it up and starting to record points.

Martin and Helen draw Test Pit 6

Over in test pit 5, Harvey and Wayne were finishing up their drawing of the sections, and were now able to add in a level point for their string line, completing the record. Once this section drawing is complete, we will be able to draw a plan section using the offset method to record the base of the test pit, as well as more level points, resulting in a more complete record of the excavation and results found in the test pit.

Harvey and Wayne draw Test Pit 5

Back at test pit 4, the limestone and clay context had been cleaned back, enabling us to decide what to do next. From the way that this context appears in multiple test pits across site, the red clay which runs closely in between the limestone, as well as how the size of the limestone pieces increases the closer they get to the centre of the paleo channel that runs through the site, we think it could possibly be the remnants of glacial till, which would be swept along and left behind by the movement of a glacier.

Russ cleaning Test Pit 4

At the end of the day we narrowly missed the rain which swept across South Yorkshire shortly after we put our fences back up and carted all of our equipment back to base. We hope that everyone had as good a day of archaeology as we did, especially Bronwyn below with her happy archaeology face!

If you would like to read more about the Brodsworth Project 2015, you can read updates on our blog here, and take a look at the University of Sheffield and University of Hull project pages.


End of the day

Folders of secrets: the SITAR Project.


We work at the SITAR, the innovative project of the Archaeological Superintendndence of Rome (today called Soprintendenza Speciale per il Colosseo, il Museo Nazionale Romano e l’Area Archeologica di Roma), born in 2007 and that aim at the complete digitization and systematization in a GIS environment of all the archaeological documentation related to the surveys and excavations carried out in Rome from the end of XIX century to present. The work to do is hard and it’s too much for one person, for this reason we are a team of ten archaeologists. What expect us is an huge work, sometimes dusty for sure! We explore forgotten angles of famous palaces of Rome and their subterraneans to collect old and precious documents. 

At first we have to go physically in the archives to collect paper documentation. What you don’t expect is that the archives could be such as astonishing places as the one at the Terme di Diocleziano, or really full of stuff as the one of Palazzo Massimo, but in any case the satisfaction to open folders and find in them archaeological documents from the end of the XIX century is really great, we feel like the explorers of the past. Not all the archives are “user friendly”, and not every documentation is complete or in agreement with actual archaeological common standards, but we believe in this work and we consider this like a real archaeological excavation. After all we are archaeologists and put in order things from the past is part of our mission.


The second step consists in an office data entry work to digitize and systematize the archaeological dataset: acquire by scanner, georeference and digitize plans, extract the data related to the surveys and to the archaeological evidences, and so on. Today the Archaeology is also all of this, not only excavation or pure research, as a lot of post of Day of Archaeologist says. Archaeology is also putting in order data, thinking and planning new ways to achieve the “migration of the century”, from data archived in a physical or old way (just think about floppy!) towards actual digital shapes and, most of all, make the data accessible for everyone not only for specialists. In fact, just from its birth, one of the most important goal of the SITAR is to make this impressive dataset public and searchable. All our work flow into the web platform of the project where it is possible to explore the archaeology of Rome, through a map of the city populated with the representation of the heritage, well known or unknown, discovered by the archaeologists who have worked in the Eternal City. And just to improve the public interest and participation, we are planning new ways for the dissemination and accessibility of the project so…enjoy and follow us!



A day of archaeological finds

Having followed Day of Archaeology since it started I thought it finally time I participated and shared some of the fun from the finds room. Yes the finds room can be fun, with the advantage of being dry (a big benefit today!) and having a plentiful supply of cake. As the Archaeological Archives and Finds officer for the Surrey County Archaeological Unit (SCAU) I love the variety my role now encompasses, today’s activities being a good example.

The day started with a shout out from Sara Cox on radio 2 – I was hoping she would mention our volunteers excavating the World War 1 camp at Witley but that didn’t quite go to plan! Most of the morning then involved liaising with external specialists over the post-excavation programme for a large medieval cemetery that we recently excavated, followed by me yet again covering the office desks in pottery – this time selecting examples for illustration for a publication report. I then delved into the specialist world of clay tobacco pipe manufacturers in Surrey. Who would have thought so much could be written about clay tobacco pipes! Love it. Another day in the library lined up for next week.

clay pipe

Clay pipe



Archaeological Archives are currently in a state of crisis with many museums full and contracting units faced with the prospect of having to hold onto material indefinitely. The situation has received much attention within the profession over recent years, although little progress has been made to resolve the problem thus far. The situation is also true for Surrey, with most museums no longer able to accept any archives. Rather alarmingly the news broke this week from Guildford that the Surrey Archaeology Society has been given notice to leave Guildford Museum following over a 100 years of collaboration. It is still unclear what the future holds for the substantial archives held by the Surrey Archaeology Society, and indeed the future of the museum. We are working closely with colleagues in Surrey to improve our own and local museums storage space and we may have secured a new store to start alleviating some of the pressure to house archives currently curated by contracting units, ourselves included. Hence this afternoon was spent measuring up the prospective store and obtaining quotes for racking. An innovative new use for redundant prison cells, although possibly with less cake.

Archaeology and Infrastructure: My life on the front lines of CRM

On our lovely Day of Archaeology for 2015, I was, surprisingly, actually doing archaeology. As an archaeological field technician in the United States, work is unpredictably spotty and seasonal, to be modest. Requiring the minimal degree for any archaeological employment in the U.S. (Bachelors), field technicians (aka. field techs) have a particular love and dedication for archaeology that rivals few other occupations. We enjoy our work enough to throw predictability out the window, and often caution to the wind in our pursuit for work that moves us constantly, and can start or stop within hours’ notice. We move around our region constantly, and sometimes beyond. Work is generally on-call, and the hunt for work is perpetual.

However, as mentioned earlier, on Friday the 24th of July, I was on-site monitoring for a city utilities improvement project in a small city in the Pacific Northwest. I and nearly all archaeological field technicians aren’t drowning in paperwork as most archaeologists do this time of year—they send us out to do the grunt work of various types. This includes monitoring—supervising construction or utility projects in or near known archaeological sites. Sometimes an area is just “high probability”, meaning that based on the topography, what is known about the history of the area, it is highly likely there is something there—we just haven’t found it yet. This was my day. The expert on site, I was keeping an eye out for any artifacts or other evidence that might churn up while they were digging the trench to install new pipes. Artifacts that appear can be of varying types and aren’t always as obvious as one might think, especially when looking for prehistoric sites. This also happened to be a day when the work being done did not actually turn anything up as we had expected. I documented soil changes, took measurements and documented excavated areas (this information is kept for future reference), and wrote a report for the firm I was currently in hire with. Cultural Resource Management (CRM), the field of archaeology I and most archaeologists in the United States work in, is often joked about as the science of negative data. The work we do is where the rubber hits the road; active protection of archaeology in the ground through investigation, analysis, and identification. Minimizing or avoiding damage to sites is the main goal of Cultural Resource Management, and that protection and investigation is the driving force. If we find no archaeology where a proposed pipeline, wind turbine, or electrical tower will be going in, the better it is for everyone involved. Knowing where sites are and assisting large projects, often infrastructure related, we are there to find the “road of least impact”. When something is found, things get a lot more complicated. Considering all the interests involved and figuring out the best action can be difficult, depending on how the relationships between those interests are. That of course is the job of those higher up.

Archaeological Technician is one of the most common jobs in archaeology (approximately 80% of all archaeologists in the U.S. work in CRM), even though we don’t actually know how many field technicians work in the United States. It is a difficult number to come up with, especially considering the transient nature of the work. Most technicians hold other part time work as well, or do small jobs on the side to help make ends meet, or they may only hold the position for a single season. As technicians we also work for a number of companies; rarely does one company have enough work to keep all their technicians busy year round. Many technicians work for a handful of CRM firms around their region, and with each project having different needs the size of crews can vary from one to thirty or so. All this also means that burnout is common, so the turnover can be high. It takes serious determination and a good deal of luck is involved in moving careers forward. It takes a lot more than just a passing interest in archaeology to hold your own in the world of arch techs.

A day of excavation in Alberta’s Parkland.


My Day of Archaeology 2015 is a continuation of the project I reported on for DOA 2014.  Last year we were surveying and shovel testing for a linear development. This year we are excavating the sites we found.  We are on day 5 of our third 21 day shift.  My site is separated from the main site which entails a march up the sand-dunes along our “goat-trail”. The round trip between the sites is 15 minutes, and a large part of my day will be spent ferrying tools between them.



The site looks lovely in the early morning light with mist in the river valley below, one of the few benefits of our 6am start.


Our site has the benefit of tents, which are leftovers from the two winters we have worked on these sites. They get a bit green-house hot in the sun, but are a godsend for rainy days and storing equipment in.  I’m a big fan of the shanty-town look of them.


We are working in sand-dunes, with 2.6m of archaeological deposits, so substantial timber shoring is a must. Unfortunately, this often means working in confined spaces or in precarious positions.




The first part of my day after opening up the site involves some shoring up and moving the tools required between the sites, here, a camera set, a reciprocating saw, and the photographic scales.  Five round trips for the day!


Later, I do a soil compaction survey using the tool pictured. This is to record any compaction of archaeological deposits following a period during the winter when the site was covered by rig-matting to allow machinery to travel over it.


Hearth feature

DSC_0024DOAI take a lot of the pictures for the excavation, such as the hearth feature.


Profile pictures


Artefact pictures

The  day is always brightened by a visit from the baby chipmunk family. There are four of them somewhere in this picture, but they move fast and I’m not a wildlife photographer!



After lunch, since I don’t currently have an excavation unit of my own, I help my colleague Alex by mapping & tagging lithic finds.  She is into our very rich Besant period lithic workshop deposit, and it is slow work. Our record for a 5cm level is approximately 450 lithics, which gives you an idea of the density.  I’m quite happy to be down here as the temperature has climbed during the day into the low 30’s C and it is marginally cooler down in the excavation area.  While I’m doing this we are visited by archaeologists from the Royal Alberta Museum; just one of many tours we have given this week.


Our day ends at 4pm with tent close-up and moving all the finds and records down the hill, a final debrief with the site bosses and other crew chief, and a short trip back to the hotel.  All in all, a fairly typical day and pretty representative of our work for the last year and a half.  I hope you enjoyed joining us!