A professional archaeologist with 27 years plus experience working in the Arab Emirates, Iraq, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Jordan and of course the UK. In 1999 I set up the successful website www.bajr.org which provides invaluable information about archaeology, archaeological jobs, rights, resources software and lists… oh I like lists….. I also like my two cats – Badger and Lulu (or Babs and Boobs) and all 4 hens. I live in East Lothian in a converted school with my lovely wife Maggie, who runs Past Horizons world archaeology website and toolstore… if you want a WHS trowel – she's the woman you should contact – www.pasthorizons.com/shop I love nothing more than recording the impossible, drawing the incredible and travelling to places where people shoot first…. ! I run BAJR, Connolly Heritage Consultancy and am about to start a new venture in Archaeological Training

A day in the life of Badgers


Today starts as normal, with a cuppa breakfast and a check of emails and BAJR facebook .  Ensure discussions are going well, talk with the other admins on the facebook group, and then try to work out what has to happen today. I prefer to accept achievements rather than goals, as I have learned that goals are never met, which leads to disappointment.

So…  today…    achievements can include,

  • Complete the next edit of an Archive Report (this could involve reading things.. !).
  • Ensure all the images for a large report have licence rights ( and prod the one group who have not replied yet)
  • Create the template for Skyscape Survey website along with content
  • Write a short report on a hillfort survey
  • Learn to edit video with Corel X10
  • Chat with Curator about HS2 and a BAJR related matter
  • Send out the “BAJR Guide to joining CIfA” for more comment
  • Sort the finds into a single box for an excavation that took place from 2011-2017
  • Talk to a colleague about potential link between an overseas excavation and their university.
  • Read and comment on a new BAJR Guide to Lithics. (quite long)
  • Have a walk!
  • Prepare for community excavation in September.
  • Write the Romans section for the new 11+ Heritage Explorer Passport ( I am tempted to ditch the whole section…  but we will see!)

Lets see how I do.   (there is a prize if I succeed in at least 2)

The thing is, that it’s not about ticks and gold stars, archaeology is about being flexible, learning skills, managing time and enjoying yourself, pushing your limits, but still having a life outside!   My hands are still grubby from the digs last week, but now, archaeology to me is more deskbound OR flying my beloved Drone, the Flying BAJR ?


Curses, I have now been distracted by the amazing Matt Ritchie and his Postcards –    and am now attempting to make a cardboard cutout stratigraphic trench!



Long Days and happy ones

Sometimes you start to understand the meaning of life, the universe and everything.   You realise that it is standing in a field, in the sun, with happy people, discussing everything from how to eat a banana politely to 4th century AD incursions and Pictish identity.    For yes, the stresses and strains of commercial archaeology and the imperative to mitigate are lost when you are actually doing archaeology with people who want to do archaeology on land that contains archaeology and you are finding archaeology.

The day was a hot one (for Scotland) and the whole place was sprayed almost constantly in order to see what on earth was going on.   The ditches are massive and the lines of palisades are so easy to recognise, and now iron age pottery and flint flakes are starting to appear, what more can you want.   Well in a nutshell  – very little.

Training is coming along and the planning, section drawing, survey, photography and excavation skills are definitely enjoyable when done at a pace that suits everyone   and everyone wants to learn/

The idea of enjoying archaeology and adding to the overall record is a lovely feeling for me and although my nose now looks like Rudolph –  I am as happy as can be.

The one interesting aspect of the day was indeed the training, where people took it at their own speed, but using the new Skills Passport, we had a structured framework to fit into.

Anyway, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here is the day in images    Welcome to Rampart Scotland and Sheriffside 2014

Sheriffside 2014. Image: Rampart Scotland

Sheriffside 2014. Image: Rampart Scotland

Sheriffside 2014. Image: Rampart Scotland

Sheriffside 2014. Image: Rampart Scotland

Sheriffside 2014. Image: Rampart Scotland

Sheriffside 2014. Image: Rampart Scotland

Sheriffside 2014. Image: Rampart Scotland

Sheriffside 2014. Image: Rampart Scotland

Sheriffside 2014. Image: Rampart Scotland

Sheriffside 2014. Image: Rampart Scotland





Morning from BAJR

Sheriffside Fieldschool with Rampart Scotland

Sheriffside Fieldschool with Rampart Scotland

One of the great things about this time of year is that other things can fill my day (see above) – It had to start however by considering the implications of the new (where have we heard that before) working party of pay and conditions in British Archaeology.  This time it seems to be an “Industry led” initiative. Another day in the wacky world of the British Archaeological Jobs Resource begins…


Currently I am slurping down my second brew in order to fortify myself for a day spent with 20 lovely people from around the world, currently in glorious sunshine – We are on the site of a large enclosure (about 200m across) with massive ditches – up to 7 metres across.  But the site is now ploughed out and only found through aerial photography taken in the 1980s.  Rampart Scotland has now been studying these sites for 5 years and this is our first large open area excavation. The basis of the project straddles training and a full research programme. Currently, the team have been trowelling, hoeing and damping down the site and several features are showing in the hard clay soil. When I get back this evening I will be sure to update you on our progress.

I also keep an eye on the job adverts that come in on BAJR – British Archaeological Jobs Resource there are a couple that need a careful discussion to support the company to a better worded version.  Past Horizons needs its stories as well, but Maggie has to deal with all of that just now…  perhaps we will even get out own story into Past Horizons!  A quick discussion with Maggie provides an answer to that!  She will highlight ten of her favourite stories from the Day of Archaeology in a special article in the next couple of days! However, I had to make 2 planning frames for her to keep up with orders from the tool company part  🙁   so it was down to the shed and start completing these essential site tools.

I hear the clink of another tea.   but have no time as it is time to drive to site (lovely late starts!)   Can’t wait to read the other entries from around the globe, and will be back with you tonight.

Thanks as ever to DoA    – for highlighting the real world of archaeology


What a day.

Well I am about ready to call it a day,  and what a day it has been.

For me, it has been a fairly standard day – in as much as I seem to try and do too much at once.   The list is not looking too bad,  and I am sure I can catch up tomorrow.   Time to rewrite the list and add some other items.   I need to apply for a grant to help finance a hillfort survey that acts as a community training scheme.  But that’s fun and that is another day.


I loved so many of the posts and they are still coming in!  So to the team behind this fabulous Day of Archaeology – thank you.  To all those who have shared their lives for one day.   thank you.  and to you  dear reader…  thank you.     Now I may just relax with another glass of vino and a read through some of the latest posts.    …  hmmm  to Bolivia I think!

Keep up with BAJR or Past  Horizons – as we strive to stay exciting – 365 days a year.

Is that the time?

Blimey…  is it really 7pm!  Shows that time flies when you are having fun.

I managed to get back on track and get going on the heatmap of bullet holes on a church in Haddington.  ( see the middle section below.  )  the white area is repair afterwards…  hence no damage.   This was part of an art project with the Peter Potter gallery called CSI Haddington.  the Siege took place in the 1540s, and was known as the rough wooing of Scotland by Hentry VIII.  nice…  just pop along and shoot the place up a bit!

St Mary's Haddington Heatmap of bullet strikes

St Mary’s Haddington Heatmap of bullet strikes

To read about this remarkable and often forgotten episode – read here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Haddington   don’t worry – it is all true!

The bullet mapping project allowed us to locate where fire was coming from and where it was directed.  suddenly the fun is tempered with the realisation that this is real…  this is war.   and not long ago I was in another place…  in Syria, to be precise I was visiting the Krac des Chevalier.  In 1548 there was a terrible destruction, where property and people were destroyed for a war that was unwinnable by either side and with only misery as an outcome.   now in 2013 in Syria I watch this video and feel compelled to share this.   shocking – destruction – people and places.    I had walked this wall, had eaten and chatted with a cafe owner…  now?

Archaeologists sometimes have to have a stance.

Well…  what do you say?    you soon become glad you are where you are and not there…  a day for us?



point that trench!

But I do have to consider the next part of the day, and I have some evaluation trenches to carry out on Monday – here is a handy hint.   geolocate your trenches and then use points to mark their ends.   upload this to GPS with the points numbered 1 – 1a  2 – 2a   and you are able to move to the right location to pop in your canes before the big yellow trowel begins it’s work.   –  For non UK archs…  this is a large backhoe with a 1.2 m wide smooth bladed ditching bucket used to evaluate the potential for archaeology.   hard work I can tell you.   clean the base, leave to weather…  watch for the slightest sign of archaeology.   better not rain!

Into the past with the Amisfield Pineapple house - A training dream

Into the past with the Amisfield Pineapple house – A training dream

In between some nice archaeology preparation and art, I manage to fit in the creation of the Amisfield Walled Garden members Database – I have been meaning to do this for a week.  but this was the perfect opportunity to actually do it…  so thanks people!  I am a Director on the Trust and it is an amazing 8 acre walled garden built in teh 1780s, with my own personal archaeology goldmine.   A vinery pinery…    a site that I have been using as training and public fun for three years now .    This is archaeology that anyone can dig.

A Bit of writing.

All this draing and databasing makes me a bit ready to do the thing I despise….  write.

And so I finish a small page article about Skills Passport – it will happen!  I promise.

The Archaeological Skills Passport is a record of practical training that you will receive during at least in the early stages of your career. As an archaeologist many of the skills that you will develop will comes via practical experience gained on fieldwork projects or through work in archives, museums and laboratories.

The Archaeological Skills Passport has been designed to document development as an archaeologist as each new skill has been gained and to view gaps in the skill set that can be addressed by seeking training in that area.

I then crack on with an article that I write once a month for the local paper.  Part 12.  the Normans are coming.  When I do these articles, I learn so much about my own histories that it is a joy to do this.  For example today I learned the origins of the troubles in Scotland from the 11th century onwards.

In 1072, William I of England rode north and forced Malcolm III  to sign the Treaty of Abernethy. In return for swearing allegiance to William, Malcolm was to be given estates in Cumbria. The peace secured by the treaty was an uneasy one and in 1093 Malcolm once again invaded northern England. An arranged meeting with the new King of England, William Rufus, to settle a dispute over the Cumbrian territories failed to materialise. Malcolm left for Scotland angry and humiliated.

He returned to England shortly after with an army and laid waste to Northumberland. On his way back to Scotland he was attacked by the Earl of Northumbria. At the Battle of Alnwick, Malcolm was killed.  The way is open for the Normans!     These guys were Vikigns that did not just steal your sheep and gold.  they took your whole kingdom by one way or another…

While this is happening my printer chunders out the 2012 report for Whitecastle.  –  to learn more about these sites…  and even read about them  :  http://www.rampartscotland.co.uk/

A bit on me time

I get to quickly write another article on the Mesolithic hut build based on the Mount Sandel site in Ireland – Maggie edits and asks questions about my jilted missing bits style of writing…  just as well she can’t see this!

I have a chat with a friend up north about a survey course I will run in October and then have a great laugh with a friend in a large company.  ah, sometimes commercial archaeology just makes you laugh, and the consultants make you cry !

I promise to see about asking about some work opportunities …  it is a pleasant 30mns that leaves my face aching with laughter!

Now…  where was I

The cuppa tea is now a glass of wine..  and I have some digital work to do.   –  the Version 3 google map has to replace my current contractor map.   And it is going to be good.   no really!  this time…  I will not be distracted.


Well this is going well.

Things start going awry when I complete the joint session proposal for the IfA 2014 conference – Murray Doug and myself are proposing a look at non traditional funding and access to archaeology opportunities.  Creating skills banks within the community rather than “letting them come on our site”  we are working together in a drop in – casual way.   Well that goes in and could be great…  as there are lots of ideas and people out here to share concepts with.   But right after that I see an email come in from Archaeology Scotland that contains the  Rural Archaeology Bulletin.

Get reading

It may not be the most exciting read..  ( well it is to me ) but this edition looks at a disappointing compromise in CAP reform (common agricultural policy). An initial summary can be viewed here.

The issues of the Historic Scotland/RCAHMS merger come into focus.   Fiona Hyslop has recently stated that ‘This government does not look at our cultural life and our heritage as if they are merely products that can be bought and sold………I want Scotland to be a country where everybody cares about, shares and champions our culture and our heritage’ so lets hope this sentiment is held to!   I then read about this BIG Dig for the start of Scottish Archaeology Month in September with a community dig looking for a previously recorded (but now lost)  Roman Fort in the Comiston/Fairmilehead area of Edinburgh on the weekend of 30th/31st August.  Well this made me think – I have to put this on Facebook.

Raised beach and cliff at Auldhame - East Lothian ...

Raised beach and cliff at Auldhame – East Lothian … but once… the land stretched out to cover the North Sea

BIG mistake!  

While on facebook I note that there is a story on Western Australia’s submerged landscape – I am intersted in this given the massive submerged landscape just outside my door ( ish)  with DoggerLand – and the recent work and survey of it.   showing how archaeology and paleo-enviromental work does have relevance to today’s climate challenges.   Well what could I do?   I had to read the Quaternary article and then write it up for Past Horizons as an article – should be edited and ready tomorrow.   While I was at it, I decided to check what was happening in the world, and while gathering news bulletins, I found a fascinating piece on Icelandic archaeology calling for the Tourism Organisations to start promoting the archaeology – to take the strain off the natural wonders.    Now…   where was I?

3D modelling of St Mary's Church prior to adding heatmap texture

3D modelling of St Mary’s Church prior to adding heatmap texture

An urgent order

Suddenly Maggie calls out…  and just as I begin to work on a heatmap of bulletholes in St Marys Church Haddington (more of that later!)  I have to drop everything and make 5 A3 drawingboards  for an order…  gah….   1 hour and another cuppa later…  and I am back at the desk and quickly bring a lost contractor back into the fold of the BAJR Contractors –   a pleasant phone call and all is well.  they are on the map and the number of BAJR Registered companies rises to 637   –  yipes!   I am promising to get the mapping system changed by the end of the day as well…   I want it back to the searchable joy it was before.  so I better get on with that.  but I better finish the heatmap…  but I also better check out this new Archaeological Insurance scheme.   could be a winner for some and a real benefit.   Hmmm…     we’ll see.

Now….  where was I?


Good Morning Archaeology

Well here it is..  the celebration of archaeology around the world.  I sip from my second cuppa and consider the enormity and diversity of what DoA actually is.  The real joy comes from reading about what others do, what they discover and how the day passes for those in the field or those in the office.    Exciting!

Morning All

I woke to sun, which in Scotland seems to be a new fixture, and the muggy warmth of the garden is a moment of peace as it is time to get started for the day.    Here at BAJR – the day is both structured and unstructured simultaneously, with a list to try and chip away at, and a feeling that anything could happen as well.    This is an office bound day, with the memory of the last two weeks field school at Rampart Scotland, now a happy memory – though my aching bits remind me that archaeology in the field is a tough profession.  One task that must be completed soon is the transcription of the site records and the reorganisation of the files and finds, the samples and recordsheets into a form that can be analysed and written up.  –  Thank goodness for Murray Cook ( my coDirector) who is much better at the report writing!    But before then I have already made two drawing boards for Maggie (  my wife and the owner of Past Horizons ) –  she sits in the room today, trying to find another article while at the same time preparing for a rather exciting possible project later this year.

Sunny side up.   the Rampart Scotland fieldwork team close the last trench

Sunny side up. the Rampart Scotland fieldwork team close the last trench

Stranger the request the better

Our joint mission as I stare at my list of things to do today,  is to come up with some ideas for a school/community project  input with artist Nicky Bird –  Nicky is an artist whose work investigates the contemporary relevance of found photographs, and hidden histories of specific sites, investigating how they remain resonant – The idea is to provide identity to mining communities that are being swamped by new houses and new people, trying to deliver archaeology that supports Nicky’s work and that of the Council.    What we need is a cottage or industrial building that young and old can dig – it does not matter that it will add nothing new to the greater history, what matters is that it allows dialogue and discussion between young and old, between old and new –  Maggie is following up a promising line – with the old colliery washing house – known as the Leaning Tower when it once stood over the town.    That is one project that will be fun!

Cuppa Tea and impossible list - but on the bright side it is Day of Archaeology

Cuppa Tea and impossible list – but on the bright side it is Day of Archaeology

Now to the list!

Well I often say archaeology is more than just a trowel in the hand ( mores the pity – at least you know where you are with the zen like act of troweling)  and I have prepared my list for the 26th July 2013 in order to try and push myself on to finishing or at least acknowledging the ‘things that must be done’ On Monday I am back out into the field on a contract job – some 30 trenches to be dug, 20m x 1.2m wide  ah the joys of commercial archaeology, after the joy of research.  This is however the point, for me, the diversity of action that I spoke of –  Each day is exhausting and fresh, each day brings challenges and success, being BAJR means to me, responsibility with a smile.   So if you would be so kind, I will have another sip of tea and be onto an important part of teh day – the opening the emails, replying and seeing what news is out there in the world.  Time to check twitter, and facebook, to ponder BAJR Federation Forum and see if there is anything happening out there.   ‘Pon my soul!   Did you know it is Day of Archaeology today…     I better keep an eye on that!


The Life of Badgers revealed – BAJR

Very very excited to take part in this Day of Archaeology 2013.   As it grows, it begins to show the true diversity of what we – as archaeologists – actually do.   From finds conservation to excavation, from research project to commercial evaluation.  Across the globe, the archaeologist shares a day.  So, with this in my mind, I thought, perhaps it is time to reveal the secrets of BAJR – the British Archaeological Jobs Resource – affectionately known as ‘badger’.


On Friday – from the moment I wake – around 5:30am…   to my first cup of tea through to my last cup of coco  ( or wine )  I will let you peek inside the frantic world of BAJR…   never dull and often filled full of curveballs and odd requests.   I look forward to sharing my story and reading the others on the classic that is now Day of Archaeology.

I have been reminded that what happens around me is the other half of the dynamic duo…  Maggie and Past Horizons –    so prepare for hilarious tool related stories…  and gasp as the editing of articles and stories goes to the wire…  before finally the article is published and the next one slaps onto the desk!

Archaeology – never dull…!

Tune in to find out what is happening here as well.    –   You see I am not just a desk jockey!




Training School – Well that was the day that was!

At the beginning off this day one of the team working with me at the Rampart Scotland fieldschool asked if this was a normal day, to which I replied, yes.   What I meant of course was that every day is different.  And even within a single project, every day, every hour can be a diverse mix of new and old, familiar and challenges.  Best of all is working with and helping to train people who have a real passion.  Perhaps this means that ater 30 years of digging, I still have that spark that makes me proud to be an archaeologist.   With the chance to document this event in Day of Archaeology, the originators (who I can’t thank enough) and those that have helped make it happen (who I also must take my hat off to)  I am happy to share one day in my life …   are you sitting comfortably!   Then I’ll begin.   But first I best tuck into some coffee and cake!

The morning started with a shock, as I forgot that we started at 8am, so it was quickly feed the hens, feed the cats, make breakfast for my wife (who has discovered the joys of a bad back – courtesy of our last excavation!)  who also runs Past Horizons.  No time to feed myself, as I jumped into the minibus and drove through the side roads of East Lothian in Scotland to our project – White Castle hillfort on the edge of the Lammermuir hills.  We troop out the van and stroll to each trench, discussing what we will do today, and why.  The process is as important as the digging.  One trech is to be planned, another cleaned for photography, yet another must investigate and sample a layer with charcoal.  And of course the ditch needs cleaned and recorded and topographic survey must continue.  Everyone splits off to their tasks and trenches, smiles tell me that Murray Cook and I are doing something right.

To us there is not such thing as a bad question or a stupid one – they all mean we are discussing and always have time to explore a concept, whether it is long distance trade of bronze and raw materials to the names and locations of supposed Irona Age tribes in Scotland around the 1st century AD.  Then why not use the spectacular view across the Lothian plain before us to talk about 18th century agricultural improvements and farming techniques.   It all matters.

That is a steep rampart!

That is a steep rampart!

Suddenly trench 13 runs across with exciting news – what could it be?  Well it turns out it was a fragment of cremated bone coming out of the charcoal.   Only 4mm long and they spotted it, how about that for keen eyes.  They soon find more, and we discuss what it could mean and a variety of ‘right’ answers.  Talking seems to be half the fun of archaeology in this environment.

Trench to nowhere. The ancient road must be here!

Trench to nowhere. The ancient road must be here!

Soon, another car turns up, with three students (or ex students) from Edinburgh University, they are sset to work on a new trench in the deep bracken (an invasive and damaging fern like plant) .  They want to learn to draw and dig, survey and section, plan and record – they will be the new archaeologists – so for them, the training is more detailed, more structured.

The council archaeologists turn up for a visit as I try again to connect to the internet and post another message from the hill – to no avail –   but Murray and I then spend an hour with them, touring each trench, discussing future strategies and even mutual support in coming years.   They have useful comments to make – and sometimes it pays to listen rather than talk (or perhaps I am just growing up).

Tea break comes and goes, and the hut platform becomes a platform, with no trace of a hut  (yet)  but plenty of sign of root damage to sub surface archaeology.  It looks like it has been put through a cement mixer and then poured back onto the site.   Useful to know for monument management plans.   We start to discuss the next year already, and the next, while talking of other projects to come, and projects we have remembered fondly.

Trench 17 - the dinky ditch!

Trench 17 - the dinky ditch!

All too soon, it is 1pm, and time to head off to Edinburgh, however, I decide to go home, with a twist.  We wind and drive deeper into the hills and point to castles and cairns, standing stones and sheepfolds, that each tell a millennia old story of people and place.  Back at base, we clean and prepare for the big city, which gives me just enough time to check BAJR jobs, answer some emails and even help out a poor woman, who needed a trowel in Cornwall ASAP!  –  no worries.   Then I collate the Open day rota for Saturday ( only 15 people at a time, bussed up from the nearest village) phone up and email confirmations just in time for the team to arrive at my house and it is off to Edinburgh.

Team on the National Museum of Scotland steps

Team on the National Museum of Scotland steps

The newly renovated museum is stunning and I let them off the lead in a stunning, sunny Edinburgh.  Time to meet at 6pm, when I will take them on a mini archaeo-tour and then to some of my favourite watering holes.  Bannermans, Whistlebinkies and the Pear tree.    Although I am only on the orange juice it does not matter, and I get to listen to their stories and lives, their reasons for coming and what they hope to get out of it, from real knowledge to pure simple fun.  And why not, archaeology should be fun, archaeology can produce amazing new evidence and still remain fun.

I tell them about another couple of local projects and a TV link up to a live event with the amazing Archaeology Scotland that is happening over the next month as well as some other education events. The best thing about them is that I can’t wait o learn, and from the team (who are so mixed in what they do in real life) I absorb hints, suggestions and ideas.

Well hello.. so you are archaeologists

Well hello.. so you are archaeologists

Edinburgh trip allows us to bond more to learn about each other, which in a way is just as important as any iron age ditch.   WE even find that the locals can be overly friendly.

Heading back to base, I head off with the boys, and we discuss everything ranging from poor superman jokes to Pictish identity and broch building, then turn again to what could make the fieldschool better.   The conversation is easy and enjoyable.

As I finish off this piece, I am back home, its late, I am tired but I am happy.!  Now…  I wonder what will happen tomorrow…. oh yes…  there is an open day.