The Archaeologist Who Stayed Home

For the record: I am an archaeologist, even doing a PhD on contemporary archaeology at the University of Central Lancashire. I am not a “mummy blogger,” just putting down a couple of my thoughts on a subject we archaeologists really don’t talk about much.

Four more days. Four dreadfully slow days until my husband comes home from the field. He has been away for seven and a half weeks on a very exciting excavation in southern California, the kind that are once in a lifetime. While he is off having fun in sunny California, I am home writing my PhD and being a mother to our three year old. That’s right archaeologists have CHILDREN!

This is our first big time apart, with only one of us is in the field. Even when we both worked professionally in cultural resource management, we managed to get on the same projects, most of the time. At the time, ten days apart seemed a life time. How ignorant we were. When you can hear the time you are away in the development in the speech of your pre-schooler, you feel you have been away for years. (I did three week field work, six weeks before my husband left, and noticed a difference. I can’t imagine what it will be like for my husband.)

Being apart is something as an archaeological family we are all going to have to adjust to, as such I have really tried to help our Munchkin while dad has been away. Here are three things that have helped us.


  1. Communication: Pretty much a given, but is so much harder in real life. For this particular excavation it was NOT every night, but on his days off we did get to have some Skype time, which helped greatly. Munchkin was mostly happy to get to talk and SEE daddy, but after a call he would act up, which is a kid’s way of showing emotional distress.
  2. Calendar: At three he gets the idea of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and that at one point in the near future we are going to have a church day. Seven weeks may as well be seven years or seven months, no real way to understand. We printed off a calendar of all the days dad is away and let Munchkin choose his stickers. Every morning after breakfast we pull out the calendar and place a sticker. We have learned all about numbers and days of the week (thank you They Might be Giants). We count down every once in a while to see how many days until daddy gets home. He gets numbers. He also get the power of stickers and tries to put his dinosaur sticker on the final day every day, as if by some magic it would make dad come home earlier. (If only…)
  3. Celebrate Important Dates: The 15th of July was one of anniversary days (how long we have been together). We met at a volunteer excavation in Pioche, Nevada a little over a decade ago. We have always celebrated this day as something special. My husband went the extra mile this year and had flowers and a gift sent to me on the day. Even though he was not here, I could feel the love!

If I REALLY, REALLY thought hard I could come up with another two and then it would be a tidy list of five, but then it would seem forced.

Relationships as an archaeologist are tough. I have seen many come and go, and I know that we are not unique. Most of the time I have seen family archaeologist become one in archaeology and one leaves and gets a “real” job. I love archaeology. I don’t want to be the one to leave, I want to be an archaeologist. Thus, I am an archaeologist.

If this post has not been archaeology enough for you, here is how I spent the non-mom section of my day: researching the difference between Temple Grandin and Bud Williams (Google bud box) cattle management systems and how these differences could be seen in ranch corral layouts.

Countdown to Completion

I am an archaeologist – a very tired archaeologist.

“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham


My original completion date for my PhD was to be December of 2014. I lost six months due to a family death and there is just no way I will meet that goal. I am now shooting for a March deadline. My dear husband has only eleven weeks until his four year mark and must turn in his thesis for his PhD in archaeology on that date. So our family has two very stressed eleventh hour writers and a never-stop-even-to-sleep toddler. (He is awesome! To the full extent of that great American world).

My Day of Archaeology is a how a typical day goes:

7:00 – Toddler decides we have slept in long enough the sun is up (and has been since 3 am) so it is now time for us to be up. We resist waking up as we staid up the night previous until 2 am working on our thesis. Husband and I decide to cheat and bring the tablet into bed with a bottle of milk. Toddler feels like king of the world getting to watch ”The Incredibles” while kicking mummy.

8:00 – Everyone finally awake, fed, and most importantly dressed.

8:15 – Husband takes toddler to nursery. Yeah, both husband and I get to work today. I feel extra inspiration and excited to work as Thursday was mummy day, the day I get to stay home all day and just be a mummy with toddler. Thursdays are great days – most of the time.

8:30 – Laundry monster!!!! Housework is a huge distraction, long laughed at in PHD comics. I have a theory though. A PhD is a long term stressful event that seems to have no end. Housework also has no end, but when you get a sense of accomplishment when you finish the dishes or have filled the airer to max capacity (thus cannot do any more laundry).

10:00 – Arrive at office at University of Central Lancashire. Decide to go against norm and check email, as I know there is one I really want to read. (I peeked at my email the night before). Glory in receiving information for the former Soule Steel of San Francisco on their production of T-posts. (I do a lot of rural archaeology). The have sent me some great research material. Husband arrives at office minutes after me.

10:30 – Check out a Modern Conflict Conference in Bristol in October, papers due at the end of the month. Put a pin in that one.

10:45 – Discover for Day of Archaeology Routledge has 100 free journal articles. Downloaded a few but for the most part not really my subject area.

11:50 – Husband fetches some printing and brings mine down.

11:00 – Am really excited to read the Soule articles.

11:30 – Finish Soule articles (very short but very promising – hint #133 is a weight). Feel even more excited at having decided to try my luck with the TESS database from the United States Patent and Trademark office.

11:35 – Start to read a chapter of Husband’s thesis on Incised Stones of the Great Basin. The things we do for love!

12:45 – BRAIN HURTS – Can’t shake this dreadful feeling I have already willed away half the day and I have not yet written a single word for myself. I must quite all distractions and get some REAL work done.

12:46 – Start trolling through GPS and photo logs to make sure all artefacts are accounted for in the artefact log for Santiago Corrals in the San Emigdio Hills. (Link is my blog.)

13:00 – Husband surprises me with Subway. Yeah Husband. Start eating but continue working as long as I can do so one handed.

13:20 – Delude self a minute of Facebook is allowed as I am technically on a lunch break.

13:40 – Distracted by a chemistry video on the way different chemicals interact in very cool ways. Can’t remember a single name but the cool feeling remains. (Sorry I can’t seem to relocate the video for your enjoyment. )

14:00 – Get back to work feeling overrides, yet feel like I have forgotten something… Yikes we forgot to sign in for the month per the UCLAN understanding of Tier Four Student attendance compliance. The Government wants to make sure we do not secretly desire to live here forever, and falsely use a student visa to gain entrance. I have missed a sign-in before and received a note that I could be reported to the Home Office if I miss another sign-in. The thought of the Graduate Research Office reporting me to the Home Office feels like some crazy black and white spy movie plot, but a very real fear. Unlikely, but the though of getting kicked out of the UK this close to completing my PhD would kill me.

14:05  – Rally husband and we set off to the Graduate Research Office to sign in. Small talk on archaeology that cleans the air of stress begins.

14:45 – Return to office. Demand of myself more focus. Continue to sort out artefacts for non-feature artefacts.

14:50 – Finish non-feature and send all documents to the printer.

14:55 – Start on description for Feature#1 a pasture with no artefacts but a good selection of wooden and metal t-posts. (Now you understand my excitement about the Soule email.)

15:30 – Finish description and other paperwork for Feature #1 and send to the printer, decide to head upstairs to pick up printing. Actually a fun thing to do as they have builders in demolishing and rebuilding a lab (not for the archaeologist so not sure what is for). The builders have put down sticky plastic to protect the carpets, but someone was not very good at their job, THANKFULLY, and the sensory experience of popping floor bubbles as you walk is highly entertaining and stress relieving.

15:40 – Return from printer and correlate work into respective binders.

15:45 – Check email, and for once have an important email. Finance office telling me to sign a promissory note if I want to get any money off of them. I am very happy to oblige not even thinking about future pay back of student loans.

15:50 – Start paperwork for Locus #1 a homestead which predates the Corrals. Spend a lot of time checking photographs to photo logs and turning them into slides ( A holdover from my CRM days with Pacific Legacy), and check artefact logs.

16:50 – Another trip to the printer another trip across bubble floor. Life is awesome.

15:00 – Correlate. Oh no missed a few documents need to go back to the printer, Oh darn.

15:10 – Get back from printer. Have a quick chat with husband to see who cooks and who get son from nursery. I get the sacred bus pass, and he gets to battle the oven, I win. Toddler loves the bus.

18:00 – Return from nursery find Husband has bought kebabs so we finish watching The Incredible.

21:30 – Toddler FINALLY goes to bed. Ditch all plans for working.

1:00 – Not sure how it happened again but finally make it to bed. Feels like a scene out of Date Night.


Not Just an Archaeologist

I am an archaeologist.

Right now I am also working toward a PhD at the  University of Cenral Lancashire (UCLAN) in Preston, United Kingdom. My subject area is the historical archaeology of South Central California, and I am looking at how people create their sense of identity and attachment to place through the process of belonging. This means I am theorizing on what an Archaeology of Belonging is and can do particularly in colonialism.

Overview of Pueblo San Emigdio toward the San Emigdio Hills in Kern County California.

Originally my husband (who is also an archaeologist) and I came to the UK from the United States for a one year MSc by Research degree. We wanted to get a higher degree because we wanted to have a family at some time in the future. At the time we made the choice of coming to UCLAN, we were working in the field for a CRM company in California. Although we were not completely unhappy, it was time for a change. We had been field technicians for about five years, had not had a home in two as we were in near constant ten day rotations. When not working we would visit and stay with family. While working our house became the contents of two large blue totes and a red roller suitcase of books placed in exactly the same way in every hotel room we lived in. Life was good (we even had annual passes to Disneyland and would work a full day and have dinner and a ride at night) but we wanted to one day have a family as well. So we finally accepted the invitation from a colleague to study at the university he worked for. Equating more education with a more stable position in archaeology.

Why the background story? It’s important, as on the 29th of June during the Day of Archaeology, archaeology was but one aspect of my identity (a theme in my PhD).

Almost half way through the MSc and right before I was to start my field work last year, we discovered our future dreams of a family were to happen a whole lot sooner. I gave birth to my son in November, a couple of weeks after I graduated from my Masters. In January I started the PhD.

My Day of Archaeology consisted of:

General email round-up from the school email system to see if I have succeeded through Progression and Registration for my degree with the university. (Can’t forget about Facebook as a tool to keep in touch with family, friends, and old colleagues.)

Taking my son to Baby Club at the local Sure Start Centre. See how I include in my day attendance of a social group event, but have completely completely disregarded the countless minutes of my domestic work as a mother including cooking, cleaning, baby care (and those loads of nappies, expressing breast milk, and new baby solids which I made not bought). Maybe as archaeologist we fail to think and look at the mundane as we see it as too everyday, but it is the everyday rituals that show my identity in the archaeological record. Just something to think about, as I think about it more and more every day. What are the mundane things we miss as archaeologist that are / were actually so important to peoples in the past?

While my son takes naps in the afternoon I TRY and read for my literature review. Today it was Vicki Bell’s edited volume Performativity and Belonging. I am particularly inspired by Anne-Marie Fortier’s article “Re-Membering Places and the Performance of Belonging(s).”


The biggest bit of archaeology today was writing an abstract to present an oral presentation at the Theoretical Archaeological Group (TAG) for the 2012 Liverpool conference, on my work on developing an Archaeology of Belonging. It will be the first major conference in which I will be an oral presenter. I am a mix of excited and very nervous.

As I said: I am an archaeologist. But I am also a PhD researcher, a wife, and a mother.