A Day in the Life of Gaye Nayton, Heritage Archaeologist

Hello from Perth, Western Australia where I want to introduce you to a day in my life. As an archaeologist I am a bit of a hybrid beast. I work as a consultant archaeologist/heritage consultant and run my own consultancy. I also carry out academic research, having a PhD from the University of Western Australia and authoring the first book on WA historical archaeology. I also work as a public archaeologist running public outreach programs and I am authoring a book on WA historical archaeology aimed at the general public. You can check out my varied archaeological personalities at my web page at www.gayenaytonarchaeology.com.

When people think of archaeology and archaeologists they think of digging but the truth is most archaeologists spend 90% of their time in the office or lab. I thought for the Day of Archaeology I would take hourly photographs throughout my day to show how my day panned out. I could have been on a site but statistics are against it and this day like many others is going to be spent mainly in the office working on reports. My sister Jackie is helping out my Day of Archaeology project by hanging around and snapping photos every hour.

8.30 am Reading e-mails and doing computer admin in jim jams.

Photograph by Gaye Nayton

My consultancy is run from a small home office which has the advantage that I get up and jump on the computer to check e-mails without having to wade through rush hour traffic. The internet is my lifeline. Perth is the most isolated city in the world and Western Australia is a huge state taking up a third of the continent. We measure distance here in the number of hours it takes to drive, even getting across the city is measured in driving time. Long distance contacts like the telephone and e-mail are vital for running the consultancy and e-mails and internet discussion lists keep me current with what is going on in the discipline, which is also vital for business as well as research.

The consultancy takes on staff on a project by project basis so although for some projects I might have half a dozen archaeologists working for me, often I am working alone. Which means that when it comes to doing all that that non archaeological admin stuff which comes with running a business I am the one that has to find time for it.   I spend a LOT of time at the computer.

9.30 report writing – deadline tomorrow

Photograph by Jackie Harry

I spend a great deal of time preparing reports, not all of them archaeological. This particular report is a street survey with heritage advice on buildings which may be affected by a proposed development.

10.30 drawing maps for report

Photograph by Jackie Harry

With reports also goes drawing survey maps, sections and artefacts. Many can be drawn on the computer but a light table comes in every handy when you need to make a good copy of your draft. Disadvantage of home office can be size. My current office is too small and work spills out onto the dining room table and sometimes even outside.


11.30 Tea Break: Light relief dancing with mad dog

Photograph by Jackie Harry

All work and no play make a dull day. Advantage of home office where you are the boss, you can turn the music up, jig about and laugh at the red collie dog going mad trying to dance with you. She sings too and the retriever joins in just so he isn’t left out of the fun.

12.30 printing report for binding

Photograph by Gaye Nayton

Back to work that report is due tomorrow.


1.30 lunch in garden

Photograph by Jackie Harry

Even a workaholic has to eat


2.30 inspecting concrete pad for new purpose built office and archaeology lab

Photograph by Jackie Harry

I have a home office so when I downsized the house I downsized the office as well. Now it’s too small and work and archaeologists keep spilling out into the dining room or the back patio. So I am moving again but this time I am building a purpose built office and archaeology lab in the back garden. I will still have the conveniences and perils of a home office but in a space large enough for the office, artefact storage and artefact analysis. The concrete pad went down yesterday. Exciting!


3.30 Updating web site

Photograph by Jackie Harry

I have a new web page at www.gayenaytonarchaeology.com I am trying to update it with the essence of 19 years of consultancy work (as clients give permission), with 23 years of academic research and 22 years of public archaeology. It’s a bit of a task. Because I am passionate about public archaeology I have included links for educators, guidelines for heritage managers and a kit of instructions for running archaeological fun day activities.


4.30 Photographing artefacts for my book

Photograph by Jackie Harry

This is my portable artefact photographic studio. Lucky it is portable because at the moment it moves back and forth between the dining room table and my workshop storage. It will be permanently set up in the new lab. I am photographing an artefact to include in the book I am currently authoring with the working title The Archaeology of US: Archaeological Stories from Australia’s Northwest Frontier. The book is intended for a public not academic audience and the tea pot in the picture is one of the artefacts I use to construct a short fictional scenario based on real people and real artefacts to illustrate an archaeological point.


5.30 Report writing second report

Photograph by Jackie Harry

One report ends and it’s onto the next deadline. This report is archaeological, a monitoring project recording stratigraphy and artefacts revealed by removing and replacing a stretch of river wall.

6.30 Dinner with sis

Photograph by Gaye Nayton

A quick bite of dinner to say thank you to sis for helping out with the Day of Archaeology Project.