Ontario Heritage Work: A Day in the Life of ASI

ASI is the largest archaeological and cultural heritage consulting company in Ontario, Canada, with over 35 years experience in the production & dissemination of knowledge concerning our past. We offer an array of services, including research, planning, design and management of all types of cultural resources.

We put together a photo essay showing the wide variety of work we get up to on a daily basis, and what we love about doing heritage work in Ontario!


Winter Archaeology…it’s a thing

It certainly wasn’t what I would have expected after watching Indiana Jones as a kid, poring over my grandparents’ National Geographics, or even after numerous archaeology classes of various types during my university years. In the North of British Columbia, Canada, CRM archaeology is driven by the requirement of oil and gas companies to have archaeological assessments done prior to all developments. They are conducted by privately owned companies complying with government regulations, and this  happens year round.

Winter archaeology. Yes, it is a thing. (more…)

Starting Over in Alberta

The Alberta weather is sometimes cold

The Alberta weather is sometimes cold

This year, the Day of Archaeology actually fell upon the first day of a four day weekend. Having moved to Alberta from Wisconsin in late-2014, I’m currently working a 10-day on/four-day off shift as a field tech for a Canadian Cultural Resource Management company. Actually, they constantly remind me that I’m not a field tech, if only because they don’t use that particular title. Officially, I’m a staff archaeologist working for this particular firm for a limited time. The job duties are essentially the same, though. I basically accompany a higher ranking archaeologist and help them by doing the basics: dig, walk a lot, look for historic properties, and take notes. I’m pretty removed from any decision-making, which after 15 years of being in a supervisory role, is both incredibly relaxing and somewhat boring. It’s nice to be free of the stress and obligations of being a boss. At the same time, I really enjoy performing a lot of the boss-type duties.

In Alberta, you need to be issued a permit in order to conduct archaeological excavation. I’ve been approved to apply for one, with certain reasonable restrictions. This means that I could theoretically work for a firm as a permit-holder, and run my own projects. Unfortunately, I chose pretty much the worst time to move to Alberta. With the price of oil in the tank, development has all but stopped. There just aren’t very many archaeology positions, this year, so I feel lucky to have the job I do. The only other place that seems to be hiring is apparently working their staff for long shifts comprised of 12-hour days. That just sounds like burn out city to me. I can’t imagine how someone could consistently produce quality work with that sort of schedule and I wonder how many will still want to do archaeology in five-years time.

The typical day starts with a safety meeting, which is called a tailgate meeting despite the fact that most of them don’t occur at the tailgate of our truck. After that, the bosses knock out any coordination with the client that might remain. Then, we head out to the project site, where we drive around looking for sites and historic structures. We follow a judgemental survey strategy, which means we dig shovel tests in places where we think there’s a good chance of finding a site. This targeted approach is different than the systematic survey methods that I’m used to. For that, we shovel test along regular intervals in order to get broader coverage. There can be some down time while bosses do boss stuff. Flexibility is an essential skill for a (not a-) field tech.

During all of this, we talk. In addition to the usual discussions about our interests in pop culture, we discuss archaeology. As a result of the judgemental method of surveying, we debate about where sites might be located and how that differs between the boreal forest, the northern plains, the alpine portion of the Rockies, and any other places that we know about. We talk about possible interpretations of the sites that we’re currently working on. We compare the differences in the compliance process between Alberta, the other Canadian provinces, and the United States, which has strong federal legislation. We talk about the job market and the potential for work after the project ends. This all helps me calibrate my reasoning to the Albertan way of doing things, as well as the local variations of cultural property that we might encounter.

This job is sort of a restart for me. In addition to just getting the local experience that employers want to see, it lets me see the local archaeological properties, methods, and processes first hand so I can relate it back to what I already know. I’ve been taking advantage of the opportunities to discuss our work with my coworkers and that will hopefully lead to more (and longterm!) employment in the future. The bottom line for many of the archaeologists that you might have seen in other Day of Archaeology posts is that archaeology isn’t just something we love, it’s something we do to (hopefully) pay the bills. Trying to make that profession fit with the rest of our lives can sometimes be a challenge. In my case, moving has required me to restart my career in a number of ways.

Commercial geophysics for archaeology – a day at my desk

Cs mag survey around the long cairn

Cs vapour magnetic survey around the long cairn

We are a geophysical survey company working mostly in archaeology with some other shallow geophysical work alongside. This is ArchaeoPhysica’s second Day of Archaeology post, this time featuring mostly office work.

I’m Anne Roseveare, the Operations Manager, and I spend much of my time at a desk, make a few field visits and occasionally can be found in the workshop building and mending things. Unsurprisingly, my day involved quite a bit of time on the phone and emailing people about quote requests, ground conditions and schedules. Harvest dates are a hot topic at the moment as often fieldwork is held until the crops are cleared and we’re then wanted everywhere in a short time window. Our overall timetabling process has similarities to multi-dimensional tetris, or at least it feels like it.

We had fresh batches of data in from the previous couple of days’ fieldwork to process, visualise and prepare interim results to send to our archaeological clients. Kathryn’s been busy working through these, checking data quality and getting the data sets GIS-ready. I’ve also been working on the final stage of reporting for a multi-method geophysical survey on a deserted medieval settlement.

One of last week’s surveys was a couple of fields of magnetic data collected on a research basis next to a monument we surveyed using ERT (electrical resistance tomography) a few months ago. It’s not often you get to survey a neolithic long cairn and visit the excavation of the damaged part, so we were keen to see what (if anything) there was to see around it. Our work will inform the long term management plan for the monument.

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Our earlier ERT survey in progress

sloping slice across ERT profiles shows the internal structure

Sloping slice across ERT profiles showing some of the mound’s internal structure

some of the re-excavated internal structure in the damaged area - useful to compare with ERT

Some of the re-excavated internal structure in the damaged area – useful to compare with ERT results

talking through findings with one of the excavators

Talking through findings with one of the excavators

The rest of Friday’s workload was as usual completely commercially confidential – most of our work is development-related and is attached to planning applications (so no pictures from these).

I reviewed a WSI (Written Scope of Investigation) prepared by colleagues Daniel & Martin for a large project, updating the sections on soils & geologies. We often produce a WSI for large or complicated projects – sometimes it is required by the Local Authority Archaeologist or the client. It contains a summary of the purpose of the project and background information that will influence our geophysical work, including heritage and environmental information. Next comes the reasoning why our proposal is the most effective way forward and what the limitations are, followed by what the outputs from our work will be.

Another chunk of my time went into preparation for a forthcoming project, where there are multiple areas to survey and strict access arrangements as the site is sensitive. In this case, our project GIS will help us and the client to map out survey & no-go zones, schedule the different work areas (and re-schedule if needed as the work unfolds) as well as be the usual foundation for our reporting. We’ll be mapping visible signs of landscaping as the fieldwork goes on, too, to give our geophysical data local context.

Behind the scenes, out of sight of clients, there’s always other things happening. For example Martin was preparing a funding proposal to support a research project on a prehistoric mining site and there was unexciting but important maintenance of our internal project archive. Also, project Pegasus is moving along, with Martin & Benj on 3D design and construction (all will be revealed later this year). We usually have a development project on the go – it’s a case of fitting things round the commercial work.

I lost count how many mugs of tea and coffee we got through but this week’s Friday cake was carrot cake with particularly squishy icing – important fuel!

Archaeology and Infrastructure: My life on the front lines of CRM

On our lovely Day of Archaeology for 2015, I was, surprisingly, actually doing archaeology. As an archaeological field technician in the United States, work is unpredictably spotty and seasonal, to be modest. Requiring the minimal degree for any archaeological employment in the U.S. (Bachelors), field technicians (aka. field techs) have a particular love and dedication for archaeology that rivals few other occupations. We enjoy our work enough to throw predictability out the window, and often caution to the wind in our pursuit for work that moves us constantly, and can start or stop within hours’ notice. We move around our region constantly, and sometimes beyond. Work is generally on-call, and the hunt for work is perpetual.

However, as mentioned earlier, on Friday the 24th of July, I was on-site monitoring for a city utilities improvement project in a small city in the Pacific Northwest. I and nearly all archaeological field technicians aren’t drowning in paperwork as most archaeologists do this time of year—they send us out to do the grunt work of various types. This includes monitoring—supervising construction or utility projects in or near known archaeological sites. Sometimes an area is just “high probability”, meaning that based on the topography, what is known about the history of the area, it is highly likely there is something there—we just haven’t found it yet. This was my day. The expert on site, I was keeping an eye out for any artifacts or other evidence that might churn up while they were digging the trench to install new pipes. Artifacts that appear can be of varying types and aren’t always as obvious as one might think, especially when looking for prehistoric sites. This also happened to be a day when the work being done did not actually turn anything up as we had expected. I documented soil changes, took measurements and documented excavated areas (this information is kept for future reference), and wrote a report for the firm I was currently in hire with. Cultural Resource Management (CRM), the field of archaeology I and most archaeologists in the United States work in, is often joked about as the science of negative data. The work we do is where the rubber hits the road; active protection of archaeology in the ground through investigation, analysis, and identification. Minimizing or avoiding damage to sites is the main goal of Cultural Resource Management, and that protection and investigation is the driving force. If we find no archaeology where a proposed pipeline, wind turbine, or electrical tower will be going in, the better it is for everyone involved. Knowing where sites are and assisting large projects, often infrastructure related, we are there to find the “road of least impact”. When something is found, things get a lot more complicated. Considering all the interests involved and figuring out the best action can be difficult, depending on how the relationships between those interests are. That of course is the job of those higher up.

Archaeological Technician is one of the most common jobs in archaeology (approximately 80% of all archaeologists in the U.S. work in CRM), even though we don’t actually know how many field technicians work in the United States. It is a difficult number to come up with, especially considering the transient nature of the work. Most technicians hold other part time work as well, or do small jobs on the side to help make ends meet, or they may only hold the position for a single season. As technicians we also work for a number of companies; rarely does one company have enough work to keep all their technicians busy year round. Many technicians work for a handful of CRM firms around their region, and with each project having different needs the size of crews can vary from one to thirty or so. All this also means that burnout is common, so the turnover can be high. It takes serious determination and a good deal of luck is involved in moving careers forward. It takes a lot more than just a passing interest in archaeology to hold your own in the world of arch techs.

A day of earthquake archaeology in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, archaeological work in the city and the surrounding areas has increased exponentially. New Zealand’s archaeological legislation protects anything deposited or built prior to 1900, meaning that we as archaeologists have had the unprecedented opportunity to record and excavate the architectural and material foundations of an entire city (founded in 1850), along side the archaeological traces of indigenous Maori activity in the area before and after the city was settled.

From day to day, we (Underground Overground Archaeology Ltd) visit sites to monitor foundation removals, record 19th century buildings scheduled for demolition, excavate archaeology from rebuild sites through the city and monitor the almost incomprehensibly vast task that is fixing Christchurch’s horizontal infrastructure (roads, sewers and wastewater). We assess the archaeological potential of hundreds of sites, to determine whether or not they fall under the national legislation protecting archaeological heritage; wash, analyse and photograph boxes and boxes of artefacts and midden; and, of course, write the whole shebang up into archaeological reports and blog posts (on our own blog Christchurch Uncovered).

In the midst of all this we make some fantastic discoveries and some less than exciting ones, all of which are slowly coming together to provide us with a comprehensive idea of how this city and its people grew from a small settlement on a swamp to the place and community it is today. In a city where streetscapes and skylines can change drastically in a week, thanks to the constant demolition and construction required after the earthquakes, archaeology is so important, not only as a window into our past, but as a way of recording and preserving the heritage of Christchurch for future generations.

For the Day of Archaeology, we’ve selected a few snapshots of our day as it unfolded, from that first coffee in the morning to the well deserved beer at the end (with a bit of archaeology in between).

Archaeology in Christchurch always begins with coffee. Always. Image: Jessie Garland.

Archaeology in Christchurch always begins with coffee. Always. Image: Jessie Garland.


Washing artefacts, one of the most glamourous aspects of archaeology. Uncomfortable though it is, far better to wear the mask than to find yourself sneezing out vast quantities of dust later in the day. Image: Jessie Garland.

Recording a 19th century house in Christchurch. Since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, archaeologists in Christchurch have recorded hundreds and hundreds of houses prior to their demolition, recording the city's 19th century architecture for future generations. Apparently, on occasions like today, it can be a frustrating exercise... Image: Matthew Hennessey.

Recording a 19th century house in Christchurch. Since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, we’ve looked at hundreds and hundreds of houses prior to their demolition, recording the city’s 19th century architecture for future generations. Apparently, on occasions like today, it can be a frustrating exercise… Image: Matthew Hennessey.

Beautiful fragment of a clay tobacco pipe with painted relief decoration. Image: Jessie Garland.

Beautiful fragment of a clay tobacco pipe with painted relief decoration, found in a bag of artefacts this morning. Black clay pipes like this are rare in Christchurch, let alone ones with painted decoration.  Image: Jessie Garland.

Photographing artefacts behind the scenes. Image: Jessie Garland.

Photographing artefacts behind the scenes. A meta photograph of a photographer photographing even. Image: Jessie Garland.

Typical site work in Christchurch, on a beautiful winter's day. Image: Jessie Garland.

Typical site work in Christchurch, on a beautiful winter’s day. Most of the archaeological work in the city is undertaken in conjunction with mechanical excavation, especially on sites to do with house demolition or rebuild bulk-outs. Image: Teri Anderson (top), Megan Hickey (bottom).

Appraisalists appraising. These guys work hard behind the scenes assessing the archaeological potential of sites here in Christchurch. Image: Jessie Garland.

Appraisalists appraising. These guys work hard behind the scenes assessing the archaeological potential of sites in and around the city. Image: Jessie Garland.

Getting the paperwork done. Image: Jessie Garland.

Getting the paperwork done. So much of our work involves writing up site excavations, monitoring, surveying, artefact analysis and archaeological assessments. Like any other job really. Image: Jessie Garland.

That annoying point in the day when you have a maker's mark on a bone toothbrush, but you still can't decipher it to figure out who the damn manufacturer is. Image: Jessie Garland.

That annoying point in the day when you have a maker’s mark on a bone toothbrush, but you still can’t decipher it to figure out who the damn manufacturer is. Image: Jessie Garland.


Sorting midden and artefacts. Not the most exciting of assemblages (although there may be a possible association with an oyster saloon, which is fairly fantastic), but still needs to be done. Image: Jessie Garland.

Archaeology in Akaroa, near Christchurch. Stunning, isn't it? Image: Kurt Bennett.

Archaeology in Akaroa, near Christchurch. Stunning, isn’t it? Image: Kurt Bennett.

Around 4 pm, things got a little out of hand. Kim's stack of coffee cups (from the photo above) came under attack and she was forced to defend it. Surprisingly, this is not an uncommon occurrence amongs archaeologists in Christchurch. Image: Jessie Garland.

Around 4 pm, things got a little out of hand. Defending her stack of coffee cups (from the paperwork photo above), Kim was forced to take a stand. Or knee, really. Surprisingly, this is not an uncommon occurrence amongs archaeologists in Christchurch. Image: Jessie Garland.

Unsurprisingly, I got very little actual artefact analysis done today (I did try, but too much social media does not make for good analysis). Still, this is what I'd normally be doing in a day. Image: Kim Bone.

Unsurprisingly, I got very little actual artefact analysis done today. Still, this is what I’d normally be doing in a day. Image: Kim Bone.

And we're out. A few (well-deserved) beverages to round out the day. Image: Lydia Mearns.

And we’re out. A few (well-deserved) beverages to round out the day. Happy Day of Archaeology from the UnderOver Arch team!  Image: Lydia Mearns.

Jessie Garland

The value of non-academic archaeology

I’m a PhD candidate at a major research university. I’ll be defending my NSF-funded dissertation this fall and – finally! – graduating with that long-sought doctorate. And like most freshly-minted PhDs, I’ll be navigating the job market over the coming months and hoping for validation of the blood, sweat, and years I’ve put into earning this degree. But unlike many of my colleagues, I got my start in cultural heritage management (CRM) archaeology, and I currently work for my state government as a transportation archaeologist. This post is all about why the non-academic, contract-based (but still professional!) work – the sensitivity assessments, the pre-construction field surveys, the endless negotiations with engineers, developers, land owners, and bureaucrats, and the reports (oh, the reports!) – is every bit as important to our field as the comparatively glamorous work of  research-focused archaeology (which, I won’t hesitate to admit, has the potential to be a lot more exciting a lot more often).

First of all, CRM exists for a very good reason – the National Heritage Preservation Act (1966) and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (1979) were both enacted in recognition of the fact archaeological and cultural resources are put at risk whenever developments (new construction, re-alignment or renovation of existing infrastructure, etc.) occur. CRM firms, and state and federal archaeology programs, fulfill the mandate of those acts to protect tangible and intangible cultural resources in the face of development.

Beyond this well-known reason, though, lies another facet of non-academic (or “mitigation”) archaeology: it’s inherently public. Public archaeology, as a practice within academia, has gained increasing attention of late for its engagement of local communities, its usefulness as a “face” for our discipline, and its contribution of alternative perspectives on both history and prehistory. It is, in part, the answer to the complaint that academics only talk to each other. Federally-mandated professional mitigation archaeology, on the other hand, has always been outward-facing. Those endless negotiations with engineers, developers, land owners, and bureaucrats – taxing as they can be – mean we are constantly talking about what we do and why we do it to non-archaeologists of many stripes.

As a transportation archaeologist, I might get sent anywhere in the state for any number of kinds of projects, I have to be ready to interface with construction workers, residents of soon-to-be-developed land (who may be soon forced out of their homes), tribal representatives, fellow state employees, curious passers-by, you name it. My job description might not state, per se, that I am required to “sell” the value of archaeology to anyone, but it’s built in to what I do. And beyond just acting as (hopefully) good PR for our discipline, I get to hear what non-archaeologists think of our work and of the past that we study. I don’t always want to hear person X’s theory on why aliens built the pyramids (ugh) – but I never get tired of being told how fascinating the past is. I never get bored with being reminded of how unusual and how extraordinary an archaeologist’s work is. More importantly, I get to be a part of cross-disciplinary dialogue, even if on a small scale. And if there’s one thing I never tire of, it’s talking to people about archaeology.

Uncovering Ontario’s History since 1972

Archaeological Research Associates Ltd. (ARA) is Ontario’s oldest archaeological and heritage consulting firm, uncovering Ontario’s history since 1972.

Over the past 43 years, ARA has completed hundreds of contracts for clients in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors across Ontario. With strong ties to Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) in Waterloo, Ontario, ARA has consistently been staffed with the best and brightest archaeologists and heritage specialists in Ontario.

Stage 4

At ARA, we approach the landscape in a holistic way, offering services in both Archaeology and  Heritage. We have a strong commitment and Education and Outreach, sharing our knowledge with the public and engaging them in learning about their local and greater community.


ARA’s Archaeology Department is responsible for conducting all 4 Stages of archaeological assessments as regulated by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport (MTCS).

Stage 1 investigations consist of an archival search of any known historical, environmental and archaeological data for the study area. The information obtained in this search may be used to determine the archaeological potential of the study area. Sources in Stage 1 investigations may include, but are not limited to, historical maps and archives, oral histories, geophysical mapping, and Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport site records.


During Stage 2 assessments, field crews are dispatched to the study area to examine it directly for the presence of archaeological and heritage resources. Visual inspection or subsurface-testing techniques are employed depending on field conditions. Significant archaeological finds are noted on large-scale field maps, and diagnostic artifacts (i.e. buttons, coins, pottery, bone, stone tools) are retained for analysis. At this point, MTCS guidelines are employed to determine whether or not a site requires further investigation.

In this photo our Field Technicians are completing a Test Pit survey to identify any new archaeological resources in the study area. This particular survey required some creative transportation in the middle of the assessment!


Peter and Crew 2

We always gain permission to enter the property where we are working, here Field Director Sarah has made a new friend in this pygmy goat while checking in with some property owners before beginning their assessment.

Sarah and Goat

After Stage 2, our crews may continue to excavate an archaeological site at the Stage 3 level. A Stage 3 assessment is conducted if a potentially culturally-significant deposit is encountered during Stage 2 investigation. The site is subject to a controlled surface pickup (CSP) in which all artifacts visible on the surface are individually plotted using a Global Positioning System (GPS) device. All of our surface artifacts here are marked by red and white straws.

Rock GPS

In Stage 3, a series of 1×1 m test excavation units are placed in a grid formation, and the resulting artifacts and soil features are used to determine age, cultural affiliation, density, and extent. A determination is made, in consultation with the MTCS, regarding the need for further investigation in the form of full (Stage 4) excavation.


Filling a Unit

Being responsible archaeologists means back-filling all of the units that we excavate…but sometimes the soil just doesn’t want to fit back in the same space! Here we see crew member Owen doing his best high-jumps to pack the soil back in!

In the below photo we are excavating a Euro-Canadian site at the Stage 4 level. In this final phase of the process, a site which is endangered and cannot be preserved is subjected to excavation. Stage 4 excavations are carried out according to MTCS guidelines and industry-accepted standards and practices. At ARA, we endeavour to collect research-grade data. Our collections are effectively curated and are made available to qualified scholars and researchers.


Pam HiVis

Field work can be dirty but we do have fun! We rock the most enviable styles… #fashion

Mikes Goodbye

And sometimes you just want to rule from a throne of dirt! Did we mention our Game of Thrones obsession might have run a little wild? #MustLoveDirt

Unlike archaeology in the movies, the work is seldom glamorous. Archaeological work is physically demanding. Working out-of-doors means exposure to the elements and biting insects; frequently in isolated and sometimes challenging conditions.

Tick Garter 2


At the same time the archaeologist occasionally has an opportunity unavailable to others – to be the first to discover and retrieve artifacts last used by people that came before us hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. It is through these artifacts and other evidence preserved in the record of the past, that their experiences come to life once again.



In addition to looking at cultural heritage resources below the ground in the archaeology department, ARA’s Heritage Department also looks at built heritage resources and cultural heritage landscapes. Our job is to help piece together the history of individual properties and landscapes.

Most of our jobs start in the field doing site visits (rain, shine, sleet or snow!). We get to get up close and personal with lots of different types of buildings and structures. We document their layout, location and condition through floor plans, photographs and even measured drawings.

Kayla and Sarah - Tower in Kingston

These investigations can take you to some very interesting places, like this former military tower!


Here we are taking a close look at some wood flooring to determine if it is original to the structure


We’re testing the pH level of a gravestone to assist with a condition assessment.

Research at local archives is like a treasure hunt. One newspaper clipping may make the whole history of a building fall into place. We find all kinds of interesting articles, from an ad in a 1820s newspaper for a circus held behind a subject building advertising “Grand Entrée by six horses which will go through many pleasing maneuvers” or a fur company catalogue showing stylish men and women. By reading through a record of land transactions we can determine who owned the land and how long they lived there. By examining historic photos or maps we can see the progression of a building over time.

Map 15 Building Footprints

Our work helps to tell the stories of the buildings that were witness to incredible moments in history, ordinary lives lived, and the growth of our cities and towns. We dig deep to describe the people who once lived, worked and played in these buildings, and their importance to the community both past and present.

Outreach and Education

ARA is also very involved in numerous Outreach and Education initiatives. Our Heritage Department recently worked with the City of Burlington and Heritage Burlington to draft stories for 30 themes and 30 properties in the City for their new website ( The research for this involved detailed investigations of many interesting local legends. This website’s goal is to engage the community in learning about their history, and sharing their own stories.

Heritage Burlington WebsiteIn honour of Aboriginal Month (June) in Canada, our Heritage Cartographer worked on a joint project with the Kitchener Public Library to produce the “Local Aboriginal History and Culture Bike Tour”. The Library made this guide available online and in it’s main branch, and held guided tours through out the month.

Large Map Design May 26 2015 v2To view and print the brochure:

We also speak and lecture at various venues. From opening the Mississauga’s of the New Credit First Nation Annual Gathering, to jetting off to Alberta to talk about social media, we are always excited to talk about our passions!


Our Heritage Manager talking about “Heritage is #trending” at the Municipal Heritage Forum in Alberta, Canada.

Speaking of social media, for more behind-the-scenes photos, interesting cultural heritage news, and all things ARA please check out our Facebook Page (ArchaeologicalResearchAssociates); Twitter profiles @ArchResearch and @ARAHeritage and to further fuel your Pinterest obsession you can find us at and


Working Hard or Hardly Working? That is the question.

“Fully employed unemployed is a common problem, and it would be good to have a post about your work.”

Reply to my message from Matt Law when I asked about writing about my situation.

A bit about me

First a little about myself. This post is not supposed to be my curriculum vitae, it just shows all kinds of jobs and occupations an archaeologist must be ready to take in order to have some income.

I graduated from University of Turku, Finland in 2012 from archaeology and in 2014 from folkloristics. My MA-thesis in archaeology was about the Swedish-Russo War of 1741-1743 and conflict archaeological theory. After this I did another Master of Arts degree, because the folkloristics in Turku started it’s own archive studies line. In my second thesis I studied triangulation between folkloristics and archaeology. I studied as an example regular stones in inhumations, using folk archives to find explanations for the stones.

After two Master of Arts degrees I find myself most of the time unemployed. I graduated from folkloristics in May 2014, and I’ve had several short employments after that. Luckily I worked during my studies and paid my membership fees to Museum trade union, so after I graduated I was entitled to daily benefits – after two months of bureaucracy.

The work for archaeologists is scattered and most archaeologists in the profession face unemployment sometimes. Many times. During winter the ground is frozen, so that puts a halt to excavations. Last year (2014) I spent a total of 10 weeks as a digger after my graduation in May. I also wrote articles and held lectures at community colleges (Kansalaisopisto). I’ve tried to get funding to do independent research, but with no success. Year 2015 mostly repeats last year.

Here are a few photos of my fully-employed days in 2014:


Excavations in Harjavalta at the end of Summer 2014. Heavy rain and an improvised tent.

During the excavations in 2014 in Harjavalta the road to construction site and excavations was blocked with gravel and stones during the weekends to prevent thefts. One Friday the workers forgot that the archaeologists were still working.

During the excavations in 2014 in Harjavalta the road to construction site and excavations was blocked with gravel and stones during the weekends to prevent thefts. One Friday the construction site workers forgot that the archaeologists were still working.

Never try to disrupt the movements of archaeologists equipped with shovels. Archaeologists breaking free in Harjavalta during excavations 2014.

Never try to disrupt the movements of archaeologists equipped with shovels. Archaeologists breaking free in Harjavalta during excavations 2014.

Year 2015 for archaeologist

Like I wrote, year 2015 seems to repeat last year. I worked as a digger in Museovirasto (NBA, National Board of Antiquities) most of April. We circled around Pirkanmaa (Tampere region) and for an archaeologist specialized in conflict archaeology these trips were wonderful, although the excavation sites were “normal digs”. Most sites were located near battlefields of the Finnish Civil War (1918), and I spotted several bullet or shrapnel holes in buildings nearby. I was fascinated with shrapnel tears in the attic of an old house. The master of the house gave me a few pieces of shrapnel as a memento, which were picked from the floor of the attic.

A shrapnel's spilnetrs tore the floor of this attic in Messukylä, Tampere during the Cibil War of 1918.

Shrapnel splinters tore the floor of this attic in Messukylä, Tampere during the Civil War of 1918. I was thrilled to see these!

The shrapnel tears, soon 100 years old, compared to my hand.

The shrapnel tears, soon 100 years old, compared to my hand.

Shrapnel splinters from the battle of Messukylä, 1918.

Shrapnel splinters from the battle of Messukylä, 1918.

It’s moments and discoveries like these that make this profession worth the effort.

Sometimes archaeology is full of sh*t. Especially when you have to dig in a horse pasture. Two horses and one pony were observing kneenly, as two brave diggers crossed the fence and started looking for signs of iron age.

Sometimes archaeology is full of sh*t. Especially when you have to dig in a horse pasture. Two horses and one pony were observing keenly, as two brave diggers crossed the fence and started looking for signs of iron age. Sastamala, Finland in April 2015.

Before this one month job I wrote articles to local news paper Turun Sanomat about the foreign volunteers in Winter War (1939 – 1940). The fee for these writings is small but every little bit helps in my situation. I also had lectures in community colleges. One was about the conflict archaeology of Late Iron Age Finland with title “Lännen pitkä miekka iskee idän sapeliin? Nuoremman rautakauden konfliktiarkeologiaa” (The long sword of west strikes the eastern scimitar? Conflict archaeology of Late Iron Age). I also held five lectures in other college about the history of guerrilla warfare, the radio intelligence in Finland before and during WWII (things I learned during making this lecture made the movie Imitation Game look rather ridiculous, by the way), War of Åland (Crimean war in Finland 1854 – 1855), the Lapland War (1944 – 45, Finns against Germans in Northern Finland) and Foreign volunteers in Finnish wars of 1939 – 1944.

Jobs like these keep me interested in things – with a deadline. It’s important to have a set date, before which I have to read all the books necessary and produce a popular representation of the subject. These jobs are also an outstanding alternative to full-time alcoholism.

As a new profession I was a guide in four days trip to Carelian Isthmus (in Russia) in the beginning of May. We visited battlefields of WWII and I provided the speaks and representations. The preparations to visit Russia were thorough. I made very large maps with cardboards, contact paper and glue, which worked fine. Usually the guides just give A4-sized maps full of sings and arrows, which are incomprehensible.

Dragon's teeth, tank obstacles in Siiranmäki, Carelian Isthmus.

Dragon’s teeth, tank obstacles in Siiranmäki, Carelian Isthmus.

This new profession was fulfilling. Sites were amazing and the trip to Russia was mostly without difficulties. Some roads were in horrible condition, but we got by. Timing was good, since the sites were clear of vegetation and we got to witness the Victory Day Celebration in Viborg.

Currently: what I’m looking for in 24th of July 2015

The trouble with being a tour guide is the same as with being a professional field archaeologist: you have to move to different sites all the time and employment time is short. I’d like to get employed in Turku, but the chances for that are poor. Second chance is to go to longer excavations to some other part of Finland. Currently the private companies do most of these kind of excavations, and so far I haven’t been contacted. Usually one, two, three month excavations are rare and my only chance to get to those is in the beginning of Summer or Fall, when students are back at university. The economical situation doesn’t help.

There is a program to employ people under the age of 30. However, the program ran out of money a month ago and since I haven’t been on daily benefits for 300 days, I can’t get this support.

This week I managed to get one actual job done. During the year 2012 I interviewed war veterans and collected lot’s of material, and made a web site for the museum which employed me. Yesterday I finished the student version of these sites after many difficulties. Today I’ll do the finishing touches to the site. Designing pages like these is difficult for many reasons: I have little IT-training, the software I’m using is simple – for better or worse – and it’s hard to decide the visual design because I’m partly color blind.

Then there are the funds I’m trying to get from different associations or trusts to write books or to do research. The first notice will come next month, after which I hopefully can once again turn into full-time researcher. For a few months.

And there’s the free stuff: reviews to professional magazines, articles with which I try to score “academic points” in case I begin doctoral studies, helping other researchers by email and of course helping other small scale field studies for which I get payed in free accommodations, travels, food and beer. I suppose stuff like this keeps archaeology running – the free work and the beer.

More Companies, More Changes

(Chris Webster – President and PI at DIGTECH, Co-Founder of Field Tech Designs, LLC, and host of the CRM Archaeology Podcast)

First, a big thanks again to the organizers of this event! It’s a lot to put on something like this. Go and buy something from their store to support this for many years to come!

Welcome to my fourth Day of Archaeology post! Hard to believe this has been going on for four years now. Every year, so far, I’ve been at a different stage in my life. Nothing stays the same around here, ever! Here are my last posts: 1st year here and here, 2nd Year, and 3rd Year.

Logo - No Back 900x400Last Year

When I wrote my 2013 Day of Archaeology post my new CRM company was just seven months old. I had done a few projects, but, I was mostly focused on the arduous task of business development (BD). I’ve never been good at BD. It seems that no one actually teaches you how to do it. So, I never really learned the ins and outs. I do have some networking skills, which helps, but that’s not all BD is about.

This Year

I’ve got a few more contracts down, but, I seem to have put the CRM side of DIGTECH on the back burner. That’s not to say I would turn down a contract if I were approached, I just don’t have time to go seek them out right now. What I’m really focusing on is my other company, Field Tech Designs.

FTD Banner SmallField Tech Designs

This is what I’ve been working on for much of today’s Day of Archaeology.

Excavation Forms

I’ve been subcontracted to do the excavation for a project in Lake County, CA and the fieldwork starts next week. It’s actually a pretty sweet gig. DIGTECH will do all the fieldwork, but, we aren’t doing any of the artifact analysis and report writing. While I do enjoy those phases of work, I don’t really have the time for it right now. So, this gets me out in the field, shovel in hand, and then allows me to get back to other tasks.

For the fieldwork, we’ll be using iPads rented from my other company, Field Tech Designs, to record the shovel tests and excavation units we’ll be digging. I’ve created custom forms for the shovel tests and spent a portion of today creating the excavation forms.

Working digitally will allow us to transmit the completed paperwork (should digital forms be called, electrowork? digiwork?) to the PI at his office 200 miles away every day. With cell service, we can transmit the forms as we finish them.

Tablet Rental Program

I’ve also spent some time coming up with the various pricing models we’re going to have for our tablet rental program. Over the last few months I’ve gotten the sense that some companies are a bit apprehensive about buying a fleet of tablets for their fieldwork. I don’t know if it’s the upfront cost of the tablets or the thought that they could easily break (which isn’t true). Either way, I thought that since they are used to renting things like Trimble GPS units anyway then a tablet rental would just make sense. Renting the tablets allows Field Tech Designs to assume the burden of keeping them maintained and updated while always giving the client the latest and greatest.

Video Tutorials

For the custom forms we are creating for our clients I always make a video detailing the use of the form and how to turn the digital data into a CSV file and then a Word Document. It’s pretty straight forward, but, if you’ve never done it there are a number of steps that just make more sense when you can see them.

Working on video editing this afternoon made me realize just how old my MacBook Pro is getting. I could really use an upgrade soon!

Podcast LogoPodcasting

I spent some time thinking about, and taking notes on, some things we’re going to talk about in the podcast we’re recording on Saturday. The CRM Archaeology Podcast is up to episode 38 and we’re still going strong. We’ve released an episode every other Monday for the last year and a half and we never lack for things to talk about. That’s why I’ve come up with another idea…

New Podcasts

I feel that the current podcast could really be split into a bunch of other shows. The shows would be essentially single topic shows that focus on really digging into whatever issue they are concerned with. I’m not going to go into too much detail right now, but, stay tuned for a lot more content about CRM Archaeology in the coming months.

Third Company

The last thing I did today was some research for a new company. This new entity will have something to do with aerial drones but I’m not going to go into it right now. We’re in the research phase right now. Since the FAA here in the U.S. is still up in arms about using drones for commercial purposes, we have some time. I’m a licensed pilot, though, and that might go well for me if the regulations go the direction I think they are going to go based on some information I recently received from an FAA official here in Reno. Interesting times are ahead in the world of Drones.

So, working on tablets with Field Tech Designs, researching a new drone company, and trying to, sort of, find more work for DIGTECH so I can test out all my ideas…busy day. Unfortunately, nothing I did today directly made me any money. One thing you learn while you’re indulging your passions and chasing your dreams is that money isn’t always the reason to do things in life. If you keep doing what you love and work hard at it then the money will come.

Oh, I also turned my popular series of blog posts, the Shovelbums Guide, into a helpful guidebook for CRM Archaeologists at any level. The book was published by Left Coast Press in April and is called the, “Field Archaeologist’s Survival Guide: Getting a Job and Working in Cultural Resource Management”. You can find it on Amazon and at the Left Coast Website.

Enjoy the other posts for the 2014 Day of Archaeology!

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!