Publish or Perish

Back in the first year of my undergrad I remember being told “for every day spent in the field, expect to spend three in the office”, because “excavation without publication is destruction.” I didn’t believe it for a second, I thought I’d be gallivanting all over the place, digging things up with gay abandon, without a second thought for paper work or grant proposals or journal submissions. But here I am, in my office, working on four projects.

Hi, I’m Liesel. I’m a first year combined Masters/PhD student at the University of Western Australia. I’m in the Centre for Forensic Science because my research is in analytical chemistry, using techniques developed for use in forensic science and applying them to artefacts, rather than evidence.

The first project I’m working on today is writing up the excavations I just got home from in Egypt. I work with the University of Hawaii at Tell Timai, in the eastern delta. It’s an amazing, sprawling Greco-Roman city, slowly being eaten up by the two villages on either side of it. This season I worked on finishing the excavation of a Hellenistic house, you can read more about it on my blog. Today I have been in touch via email with other people on the project, all over the world, trading elevations for maps, maps for photos, and photos for past reports. We’re working on writing the site’s first monograph, and I will be co-authoring two chapters, one on the house and one on the coins from the site.

Today’s conundrum was; was the house built all in one go? Or was the west half added on later? I think it was added on later, because the walls are at a slightly different bearing, and they’re thicker. Also, the site ceramicist says the ceramic fill under the floor of the east and west halves are different.

The second is my PhD project, which involves chemical analysis of thousands of beautiful Spanish silver coins. As exciting as that might be, getting the coins from the museum to my university has proven more complicated than I had thought, and they haven’t arrived yet. So instead I am doing some background research and trying to teach myself the periodic table. I can recite up to Zinc without too much trouble now.

The third project is being on the national committee for NASC14, it’s a conference being held next year in Adelaide, South Australia for students of archaeology, run by students of archaeology. I think it’s a great idea and so just this week I decided to be a part of it.

The fourth project is coursework for my Masters degree. It’s in forensic science and I’m doing it at the same time as my PhD. Today was Advanced Forensic Anthropology, and I spent all afternoon measuring skulls. I’ll measure them all three more times and then run my measurements through some stats to look at how precise I am.

Even though I’ve been in the office all day, there’s plenty of interesting things going on here.

Organizing a Student Run Archaeology Conference – NASC 2014

My name is Chelsea Colwell-Pasch and I am a post-graduate master’s student at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. I am enrolled in the Maritime Archaeology program there and originally hail from New Brunswick, Canada.  For the Day of Archaeology, 26 July 2013, I spent the day organizing and brainstorming for the National Archaeology Student Conference (NASC) that will be held at Flinders University next April. While archaeology is a broad field and now encompasses many sub-disciplines (like Maritime Archaeology) it is through conferences where a meeting of the minds can occur. With NASC, all sub-fields will be welcomed and the focus will be on students; a conference FOR students BY students. If you have never experienced a conference before, it is a three to four day event that follows a structure and allows registered attendees to participate in or observe various presentations and happenings. It is a valuable venue for honing your public speaking and presentation skills; for staying up-to-date on the latest research and ideas; and for networking with the best and brightest in your field, creating valuable contacts.

I was accepted onto the organizing committee in late March 2013 after a call for interested students who want to assist at the conference was put out to the archaeology students at Flinders. There was an impressive amount of interest from the archaeology department student body and the organizing committee was formed that day. Now you may be thinking that meeting in May 2013 for an event held in April 2014 is very keen, but being students, all we can hope to do is work on this project in our spare time. It takes a year to organize the necessary components of a great conference, and our committee is set on making this a GREAT conference.  In order to make organizing easier and improve our time management we opted to form sub-committees for various aspects of the conference. We have a Chair, secretary and treasurer as well as six working groups or sub-committees, each with a group leader. The six working groups are: 1) Administration, venues and judging, 2) Publicity, stationary and IT, 3) Catering, 4) Sponsorship and fundraising, 5) Scheduling, and 6) Accommodation. I am in the sponsorship and fundraising work group and it has been my task to come up with ideas on how to fund this event. Everything from corporate sponsorships to bake sales and raffle draws. We are students after all.

The logo for the National Archaeology Student Conference to be held at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia 2014

The logo for the National Archaeology Student Conference to be held at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia 2014

After an extended absence, a small group of Flinders students decided to restart NASC, hence having Flinders as the venue and having Flinders students run and organize it. With a large campus set in the beautiful Adelaide foothills, we could not have asked for a more accommodating locale. The views of the city and the Southern Ocean from the school are just remarkable and Adelaide is as friendly as any Canadian town. Accommodation ideas are well underway to assist in every budget level represented. In order to be identifiable and professional, the logo was discussed early on as well, as any marketing or branding would require it. We democratically hold every decision to a vote and come to the best decision via majority. The logo (above) was chosen at our second or third meeting, we then decided on a launch date in order to introduce the conference to the public. Social media policies were written (and re-written). E-mail accounts and web pages were created. A launch party was organized and will take place 29th July, 2013 at Flinders University. This blog is to correspond with that launch and also serves as a tactical move, as we can reach a wider audience and take our conference to the world. We have the where, who and what, now for the when. With it almost being August already (time flies when you’re organizing conferences), we have set the dates for NASC and are pleased to reveal them for your calendars:

Friday 11 April 2014 – Welcome BBQ

Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 April 2014 – Presentation dates

Sunday 13 April 2014 – Conference Dinner

Monday 14 April 2014 – Adelaide based Tour

We are well on our way to producing a truly spectacular conference event for both students and archaeology enthusiasts alike.  With exciting student presentations and inspiring speakers lined up, the conference will be a must for all archaeology students this coming April, especially those looking for a reason to visit beautiful Adelaide, South Australia. International attendees are more than welcome, in fact they are encouraged. If you are interested in presenting, speaking, or attending NASC, for a unique student-centric experience, please visit our Facebook page, our website, follow us on twitter or email us with any questions. We hope to see you next April 2014!


Website: TBA



Stronger Futures: An Archaeology of Contemporary Indigenous Graffiti in the Northern Territory, Australia

I am an archaeology Honours student with Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. For the last year I have been undertaking research into contemporary Indigenous graffiti in an Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. I am due to submit my thesis next Monday.

I am taking time out of my research to post this blog for the Day of Archaeology. Today I have been sitting at my computer, writing about some of the issues I discuss in my thesis, so I will relay them to you here.

To begin, I just wanted to draw your attention to two recent events that are of significance to Australia and will soon find their place in Australian history:

  • Australian racehorse, Black Caviar won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at the Royal Ascot; and
  • the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Bill 2012 passed through the Australian Senate with bipartisan support and is now legislation.

Black Caviar’s recent win is significant because with 22 races undefeated (including Royal Ascot), it is the current living racehorse with the most undefeated wins (and it’s Australian).

The passing of the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Bill 2012 into legislation is significant because it extends the Howard government’s controversial Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 (NTER) for a further ten years. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights condemned the NTER in 2010, claiming that it stigmatises already stigmatised communities.

Have a guess which of these stories featured more prominently in the Australian media?


Permission to disturb

Today has been a day of tidying up on a number of jobs. My first task of the day was to pick up a total station and other surveying equipment that my company is hiring for a job next week. Then I headed out of town (Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia) to do a site recording and collection job. The day finished up in the office writing up reports (and this blog post), and packing up for next week’s travels.

The site that I needed to locate had been recorded years previously, and registered in the Northern Territory Heritage branch’s archaeological sites database. It was a background scatter of stone artefacts, located in a road reserve adjacent to a river where the government is building a bridge. The artefact scatter had been assessed as having low Aboriginal and archaeological significance, and a permit to disturb had been approved by the Heritage branch, under delegation from the Minister.

In the Northern Territory, Aboriginal places and objects are protected under the terms of the Heritage Conservation Act (1991), and any disturbance requires consent from the Minister under section 39(a) of the Act. The application process requires archaeologists to determine the Aboriginal and archaeological significance of the site, outline consultation with Traditional Owners that has occurred, and identify future curation of salvaged artefacts.

When I arrived at the site, I discovered that it had already been disturbed by heavy machinery, most likely in the course of road works to maintain the gravel road and river crossing where the bridge will be built. I was unable to locate any of the artefacts originally recorded. I recorded the condition of the site, and conducted a survey transect of the wider area to assess whether there was further background scatter in the vicinity. I didn’t find anything, so I came back to the office to write up the report.

Work in the tropical north of the Northern Territory is highly seasonal. Unlike most of Australia, we don’t have the standard seasons – we have a wet season (October to April) and a dry season (May to September). Most archaeological work happens between July and November. The work is mainly archaeological survey related to development, but can include salvage and research excavations. Highlights of the last two months include working in remote areas of Arnhemland, commuting to work by helicopter each day, and working with some of the most spectacular rock art in the world. We also found a stone quarry where we made a conservative estimate of 1 million + artefacts. It was huge!

I am currently balancing the busy work season with post-graduate study at Flinders University (Adelaide, South Australia). I find the archaeology department (and the screen & media department, where I also study) are very flexible and helpful when it comes to supporting students with other commitments. Before I finish up tonight, I should check the university’s online learning system so I can download this semester’s unit guides. No rest for the wicked…

Yours in the Top End,