Duncan Cambridge

Lego, Fire, Romans and Dead Horses: An academic’s day of archaeology

Last year I missed the excellent Day of Archaeology because I was in the middle of moving house. It’s nice to look back at my 2012 post and think about how my life in archaeology has changed. Although I had been involved in teaching archaeology for a longtime at the end of 2012 I moved to a new job as a lecturer at University of Central Lancashire.  That means a change in the type of day-to-day archaeology I do… although it still involves lots of thinking about animals.

At the moment my days start in roughly the same way, my son Sam (3yrs old) comes into our bedroom shouting ‘the sun is up’. Luckily due to blackout binds and a great clock that mimics the sun rising, the sun in our house doesn’t rise until 7am. At the moment Justine is taking a break from her PhD and PAS work and to work as the finds manager on UCLan’s Oakington excavations. That means for the last month it’s been mainly just Sam and me. So the day begins with a quick read of ‘That’s not my lion’, followed by breakfast, and an attempt to build a Lego tower. Notice the commensal animal (Henry the cat) in the background trying to stay out of the way.

Morning lego

Then the adventure of getting Sam into nursery, this normally involves making it into a mission by singing the octonaughts theme tune, whilst getting some funny looks.

Just after 9am. Sam in nursery and day of work can start. Like most other office-based professionals my day starts by answering emails, most of which have nothing to do with archaeology. For example a fire studies student wants to use our outside equipment store for experiments in starting fires, which gives a particular earworm for the rest of the morning. I also got a very nice surprise, a thank you card from one of our recent graduates, its nice when the work we do is appreciated.

Thank you card

At this point in the summer I am currently the only archaeology lecturer in university. The rest are working elsewhere.

Rick – excavations in Whitewell, Lancashire (Ricks day of arch post)
Duncan and Allie – Oakington Cambridge (Oakington Day of arch post)
Dave – university excavations in deepest darkest Californian
Vicki – checking out the archaeology of Shetland.

Which means my days can be spent answering course enquiries etc. Luckily I also have help during the summer in the form of Ashley a 1st year undergraduate who is working for me as an intern on our Ribchester project. Ashley has also done his own day of archaeology post.

Ribchester is the site of a Roman fort and associated settlement up the river from Preston. In association with the fantastic Ribchester Roman Museum Duncan and me have been developing a project to investigate both the development and decline of Roman Ribchester. We’ve already undertaken some small excavations, which are leading up to a larger field season next summer. So I spend the morning helping him start to record the finds from our September and May excavations. A longtime ago when I worked in Southampton these finds records used a SAF1 sheet. These days it’s straight into a computer database which I spend this week building, but the principle remains the same; it’s a quick basic record of the finds to help inform what needs further specialist work.

Roman finds

I also spend the morning in a meeting with an archaeology masters student advising on their dissertation and a forensic masters student to discuss bone fracture patterns. A lot of the archaeology I tend to do now is in an advisory capacity enabling our students to undertake their own archaeological research.

After a quick lunch mostly spent reading day of archaeology tweets. include those by UClan students.

The afternoon begins with more email admin stuff. Then I get down to some research on animals in Anglo-Saxon funerary contexts. I’ve been recording the animal remains from Oakington including the two horses and a cow burial. I’m currently writing a paper with Duncan reconsidering the actions behind these animal burials and how they fit into the funerary process.  Giving me a very different kind of earworm

Excavation reports

This is the difference between my current job and previous one in commercial archaeology, during the summer I have time to think. Some of the afternoon is also spent helping Ashley with the roman pottery he’s recording and having a random twitter conversation on animal bones as weapons, it is Friday afternoon after all.

The day ends after 5pm with picking up Sam from the universities nursery, to find he has spent most of the day digging in the nursery garden looking for rocks. So he’s also had his own day of archaeology, although the sections of his trench looked very shoddy.