Albania > UK #worldinterview #11

Albania > UK

Interviewee: Raksha Dave

What drew you to archaeology and what path did you follow in your archaeological career?

I’ve always been interested in history and archaeology as far as I can remember. I have a photo of me; I must have been about three years old trying to trowel in the back garden so I think the draw to pursue a career in archaeology has always been strong.

I studied at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL graduated in 1999 and have practised archaeology ever since. My archaeological roots are firmly planted in field archaeology having worked for commercial archaeology companies in London but this has happily deviated to a more Public Archaeology focus through my broadcasting work. I spent 10 years as a Senior Archaeologist and Presenter for the ‘Time Team’ and have since then presented a documentary for the BBC.

I’m very lucky to have had a varied career,  I’ve worked for the UK’s professional body Chartered Institute for archaeologists(CIfA) and developed and delivered community archaeology projects but now I’ve come back full circle to broadcasting and I’m currently working on a TV documentary for Channel 5 that I’m presenting which should be out in autumn 2017.

What difficulties do you think students face in pursuing a career in archaeology?

Here in the UK we have our own particular set of problems. For the commercial sector the bottom line is the lack of pay and the offer of permanent contracts in particular for those entering the profession at the graduate level.  A lot of archaeology graduates realise that a career in commercial archaeology is piecemeal, they often have to go from contract to contract, little or no training is offered, and career progression is difficult. Conversely, I also know from friends that trying to get employed into academic posts can require a lot of luck and persistence so most people look to shoehorn themselves into better paid and structured jobs in curatorial archaeology, the museums or consultancy.

The downside to this is that retention is poor and the sector inevitably haemorrhages talent. It’s not unusual for early career archaeologists in the UK to decide to re-train or move sectors because they feel the profession is unable to support a decent standard of living.

Rather frustratingly these problems have been recognised for a long time and yes, whilst there has been some move towards addressing the above we now have other issues such as attracting students to archaeology in the first instance – but that’s another discussion for another time!

What is the relation between archaeology and the public in the UK?

It’s probably been the best it ever has been – the UK has a strong public archaeology presence and year upon year the public offer is very strong. Impact is now seen as an integral output to any archaeological project whether that’s commercial, research or academic. Advancement in digital technology has made it possible to access and disseminate archaeological information and stories instantly. Public and community archaeology in the UK has emerged as a specialist field in its own right and I look forward to see how this develops further.

The main problem for the UK is finding new ways to engage those audiences we don’t reach. There’s not a year that goes by that I don’t attend a conference session discussing the lack of diversity and representation in archaeology but I haven’t seen any real progress on how this agenda has moved on. We are really good at disseminating information to audiences but only to the individuals that are ‘engaged consumers’ of archaeology, not to others who may have zero knowledge or appreciation about the subject. Archaeology as a career, sadly, is a reflection of this, we lack diverse representation within the sector at differing career levels whether that’s on basis of gender, socio-economic background, ethnicity and disability, to name a few. I’d like to see archaeology in the UK move towards addressing this issue.

There’s a debate in the UK at the moment about the lack of alternative narratives in the public history we produce and teach, that we are still reflecting white, male, colonial attitudes. Archaeologists are way ahead of the historian curve and are well aware of the dangerous pitfalls of having such a narrow outlook.I don’t want to see equality and diversity shoe-horned as a specialist interest; surely it’s in everyone’s interest to have a varied workforce that produce and curate narratives that reflect all aspects of society.

What are the challenges that archaeological theory faces in the new millennium/post-processual era?

Blimey what a question and what a minefield! I think the real question is what does archaeology theory do for us? For the majority of the non-academic sector many would wonder what relevance theory has for them in the everyday practise of archaeology in their workplace. Many would say none or not hugely but in reality their work and methodology has in some way been influenced by archaeological theory.

I’ve been very lucky to have worked with Ian Hodder and with Peter Ucko both of which left a huge impression on my ideas of collaborative working. In fact I remember feeling quite shocked that Ian had taken his time out to thank me for coming out to Catalhoyuk. It was the first time that anyone – not to mention an eminent archaeologist, acknowledged my specialism as a field archaeologist rather than, ‘just another digger’. That experience left a huge impression on me -the realisation that everyone’s contribution is valid.

It’s really important that academic institutions and the commercial sector look at ways to work towards a more collaborative economy. The time of working in silos is over and we need to think more on how to deliver projects that would benefit academia, commercial practice and impact outcomes delivered to the public. I think it would be quite exciting to see this sort of reflexive working, one where new technology, theory and methods would be tested within a commercial setting and on the other hand commercial units benefiting from larger research agendas facilitated through graduate studies. This partnership working would benefit us all I can also see further positive knock-on effects with regards to training and career pathways into archaeology.

About Raksha:

Field Archaeologist, Pubic Archaeologist and Broadcaster.

Twitter: @Raksha_Digs

Questions from Nevila Molla in Albania.

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South Africa > Albania #worldinterview #10

South Africa > Albania

Interviewee: Arbër Kadia

What drew you to archaeology and what path did you follow in your archaeological career?

The reasons are many and I can’t really remember the exact initial thought or attraction that drew me to it. To me all reasons are all valid ones because whatever it is that makes you go down the path of working in the heritage sector has to be strong enough to keep this fire burning.

In my youth I have been actively involved in associations, societies and organizations that had the preservation and promotion of all Albanian way of life in their core. This might have been one reason. Secondly, my education has played another key factor, due to some inspirational masters and lecturers as early as the A-Levels in Ancient History (Greek & Roman) at Eton College as an international scholar and then in University of Bristol. Being an Albanian in the UK during my formative years put in perspective the necessity of working hard to get Albania recognised. Although part of Europe, Albania was and is terra incognita, even to many professionals of the field.

Once fully immersed in the running and preservation of heritage, one comes to the realisation that this path is not easy one and that human patrimony needs to be seen as a whole and thus improved simultaneously in the disciplines that it is comprised of. Societal development has to run parallel to this.This all-encompassing approach unfortunately is very difficult in a developing country. This is maybe the reason why I decided to move from the field work to an administrative and policy oriented path.

What is the relationship between politics and archaeology in Albania?

To put it bluntly, everything in Albania is political. Corruption, nepotism and dilettantism are ever-present. This refers not only to the lack of funding which is vital to the field and its distribution to the wide sector but also to job allocations and the lacklustre administration of the territory which is heavily damaged by uncontrolled development projects.

Heritage specialists therefore find it close to impossible to stop the political machinery once it is set on carrying out certain construction projects. The distorted understanding of politics and power in this country makes for archaeology and heritage as a whole to be at its service and not to fulfil the constitutional requirement of protecting and improving the “DNA of the Nation”. All is not dire however as there are certain specialists that have managed to include legislation and management plans in certain territories. In general however it still remains an uphill struggle and much energy is employed to make politics understand the irreversible threats in question.

What difficulties do you think students face in pursuing a career in archaeology?

Jobs are hard to come by and badly paid. The future is not clear for students of archaeology and many of them move to other industries as a result.

Unless there is better regulation for the necessity to monitor, perform adequate studies, rescue excavations or preservation, it will be tough to attract and guarantee these students jobs in both state and private sector.

The state sector as stated in the previous question is more at the helm of politics and therefore are very limited in scope and execution. The private sector on the other hand, which should be more advanced at this stage is still trying hard to find its feet. Poverty being one of Albania’s main threats makes it hard for students to see a bright future for themselves in archaeology.

How do you see the role of archaeology in today’s society and in the future?

Albanian archaeology is deeply rooted in a very classical sense of the word. Academies of old still have not opened up to the world and state oriented institutions are playing catch up as we continue to deconstruct the past using tools which we all know won’t be the same for the future. The inscribed stones, ceramics and paper it is written on will resist the test of time. The amount of information produced by our era where most things are changeable at an unrelenting speed. The intellectual factor that distinguishes the 2nd millennium man is digital media. The biggest challenge is how this digital interchange will be preserved and passed down the line. The future archaeologist will have to sort out encrypted data and digital recycle bins which undoubtedly will be hard to process. We know that data needs to be multiplied and reproduced in order to survive time. Texts would be lost if it were not for the preservation by Muslim scholars or the fastidious copying of medieval manuscripts by monks.Therefore a new kind of archaeology is required, which one the discipline shall need to adapt to in order to sort out our present in years to come. Quite frankly I think it will be a lot of digitized.

About Arbër:

I am a British educated heritage expert with both field and administrative experience in architectural restoration and consultancy (byzantine churches, mosques, fortifications and roman mosaics, and many listed buildings in Albania etc), archaeological rescue excavations and an extensive experience in drawing up management plans, legislation and policies during experience as Director of Heritage at the Ministry of Culture in Albania. Currently working as a heritage consultant for the Trans Adriatic Pipeline assessing and mitigating impacts arising from construction activity into the wider landscape of heritage.

Questions from Keneiloe Molopyane in South Africa.

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CeRPHAAL team mapping and analyzing traditional hydraulic systems

CeRPHAAL team, partner of MEMOLA project, working with the mapping and analyzing of the traditional hydraulic systems recorded during the field survey of May- June undertaken in the territory of the Upper Vjosa Valley, where are included the irrigation channels, water-powered mills, reservoirs, water pumping stations, etc. At the same time, we are evaluating the historic and current land use and parcelization based on field and historical data.

CeRPHAAL team working with the mapping and analyzing of the traditional hydraulic systems.

CeRPHAAL team working with the mapping and analyzing of the traditional hydraulic systems.

CeRPHAAL team studying the traditional irrigation systems of Upper Vjosa Valley

CeRPHAAL team studying the traditional irrigation systems of Upper Vjosa Valley