project manager

Continuing Changes in my CRMArch Career

Nevada, United States, July 26, 2013

by Chris Webster, M.S., RPA


Woke up and checked emails while having breakfast. Normally I do a workout too but today is just too busy. We’re recording episode 13 of the CRM Archaeology Podcast on Saturday and the topic is the Day of Archaeology. So, I have a lot of blogs to read.

On top of that, I’m finishing a draft of my first book, writing two proposals, and doing research for another project that I can’t talk about just yet. It’s going to be a busy day.

Before I really get into the day, though, I’d like to talk about my past “Days of Archaeology”. The first year this event happened was 2011. I was working for a company in the Great Basin and they had me monitoring on a seismic operation. So, that’s what my post was about. My wife was out there with me.

For 2012 I was working for a different company and had been made a Project Manager. My wife was no longer in CRM Archaeology and was pursuing other interests.

This year, I own my own CRM firm, I’m writing a book that will be published by Left Coast Press, and I’m hosting a fun and informative podcast. It’s amazing how life changes so quickly. Unfortunately, I think my income has experience an inverse relationship with my career path. I’ve been moving up in archaeology, but, since starting a company is a long and stressful process my finances have taken a serious hit. Don’t think that writing a book will make you rich, either. If I see any money from this writing it won’t be for another two years because of the payment schedule. So, back to my day!

0545 to 0800 Catching up on Blogs and News

I often spend time in the morning reading blogs and news articles. I post those to my Random Acts of Science Facebook page and they autopost to Twitter. Gotta keep the word informed about CRM goings on…

Today, though, I’m reading all the Day of Archaeology posts coming from the other side of the world. The U.S. hasn’t really started the day yet so there aren’t any posts. I’m reviewing posts that we’re going to talk about on the podcast.

0800 to 1145 Business Development and Proposal Writing

Most days I try to spend at least a few hours contacting potential clients and letting them know I exist. My business model is very different from most archaeology firms and I have to convince them that it’s a safe bet to go with me. That’s not an easy sell for some of these companies. I also run into the problem of not having any corporate experience. I have plenty of personal experience but my company is brand new. Some clients want to see past performance but I don’t know how to get past performance without performing. It’s all very circular.

1300 to 1630 Book Writing

As I mentioned above, I’m writing my first book. In case you ever thought about writing a book I’ll tell you how I came to this point. First, you have to have an idea. For me it was the idea that I wanted to tell people about things I wish I’d known when I started in archaeology. So, I started the Shovelbums Guide series of blog posts on my blog. It was well received over the two years I’ve been writing it so I decided that I’d compile all of the posts into an eBook.

When I was at the SAAs in Hawaii in April I showed the rough draft to the editors at Left Coast Press. I was really just wondering if there was anything like that out there. They said that there wasn’t and that I should send in a proposal. Their proposal guidelines are very straightforward and I did it easily. Within a few months I had a contract!

Now, I’m trying to finish up the draft of the book. It’s mostly done except for some little finishing touches. I also need to sort out the graphics. Since I’m doing this on my own dime I have to come up with everything on my own. I can’t really pay someone either since I won’t see any money from the book for two years. I think you have to write about two books a year to see consistent payments. Talk to Tom King. I think he does at least two books a year!

1900 to 2100

Finishing up my Day of Archaeology blog post and doing some reading. I haven’t read fiction in a long time. Archaeologists that want to stay at the top of their game are constantly reading. Sometimes it’s popular works on broad subjects and sometimes it’s papers and site reports. That part of the job is never done.

So, no fieldwork for my Day of Archaeology, but, a lot of CRM archaeology is done in the office. I’m trying to change that slightly with my business model but there will always be office time.

I hope I see a lot of CRM posts from the United States on the DayofArch this year. There was an increase between last year and the first year and I hope there are more this year. As far as I’m concerned, our job is only half done when the site report is turned in. They other half of our job is telling people about what we do. In many cases here in the west the projects are on public land. The public has a right to know what we found and what it means.

Happy Day of Archaeology and here’s to another great year of science!

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

A day in the life of MOLA project managers, as dictated to Louise Davies

The ‘unsung heroes’ of every excavation we do: the MOLA Development Services Project Management team (AKA the dream team) are terribly busy and important, and have therefore dictated their day’s activities to me, Louise.


Mike Smith

A fairly recent addition to the MOLA management team, Mike joined us from Southampton and has fitted right in. Today Mike has filled his day with an exciting medley of writing update reports for a large infrastructure project, writing a WSI (Written Scheme of Investigation) for a trial trench evaluation at a hotel site, and looking into potential new tenders. He has managed to stay awake throughout and has some lovely cheese sandwiches for his lunch.

The face of pure concentration

Mike hard at work – crossing t’s and dotting i’s (c) MOLA 2013


Derek Seeley

It’s that time of the month, and Derek has mainly spent the day invoicing. He has also sorted out a new watching brief that’s about to start soon, and, most importantly, has arranged his day on the golf course tomorrow.


Stew Hoad

Stew has been very grumpy today, mainly due to being knocked off his motorbike yesterday by a white van man and suffering lots of bumps and scrapes, and because he’s just had his WiP meeting. He did manage to edit a report though, and has done lots of liaising with clients.

Poor Stewie and his injuries (c) MOLA 2013

Poor Stewie and his injuries (c) MOLA 2013


David Divers

Also largely absorbed by invoicing today, Did has managed to make time to replenish his tea bag supplies and eat a pot of delicious olives. He also took the monthly grilling we are all subjected to by the MOLA finance team in his WiP (Work in Progress) meeting. Here we have to go through all our projects, explain what’s going on, justify the profit margins we have managed to achieve, and get told to invoice, invoice, invoice.


Craig Halsey

Craig has been working hard all day on a secret presentation for a tender bid. He has also examined some bathymetric data, emailed a client to get some information on asbestos on a site we’re about to start working on, and looked at some lovely Bronze Age flints found at Chambers Wharf on the Thames Foreshore by Courtney from the Thames Discovery Programme team.

His love of geoarchaeology coming into play here

Craig and his flint (c) MOLA 2013


Nick Bateman

As part of the Senior Management Group at MOLA and head of Development Services, Nick has spent most of the day at a strategic management meeting on the future of MOLA.

Louise Davies (MOLA): Managing Archaeological Projects in the City of London

I have been working in archaeology for almost 10 years now, since finishing my Masters at York University, and have been working as a Project Manager at MOLA for nearly 3 years. Today for me started very well when I realised I already had my hard hat, boots and vizi vest at home and not under my desk, so could proceed directly to my first site meeting of the day instead of coming into the office first.

I visited a site in the City of London where were have just started doing a 5-trench evaluation in the basement of a bar. It’s so cool going into these old buildings, which have often been very recently vacated – you find all sorts of weird things in them. This one still had cocktail glasses on the bar and a huge box of un-pulled Christmas crackers on the floor. I met with the MOLA Senior Archaeologist who’s doing the fieldwork and delivered a (very basic) work mobile phone to her. We are always short of site mobiles and only got a spare one for this site four days into the project. The trench she has been working on has a big Roman quarry pit in it, immediately under the concrete basement slab, which is nice and just what we expected. The second trench (in the kitchen of the old bar) is proving slightly more problematic as they keep finding drains and ground beams, and also operating a 5-ton mini excavator in a basement room is quite hot and smelly!

After the evaluation site, I walked to my next site, about ten minutes away, which is a large open area excavation. It’s the biggest project, in terms of size and value, that I have worked on, and I’m very excited to be project managing it. We started work there just over two weeks ago on a 14-week programme, and should have over 20 staff on site at the peak of the fieldwork. So far we have reduced the ground level by around 3m and found a series of post-medieval basement rooms, complete with vaulted roofs, brick floors, stone-lined drains, wine bottles, and even a graffitied brick.

Brick graffiti (c) MOLA 2013

Brick graffiti (c) MOLA 2013

We’ve got a great team down there at the moment, and they’ve been helped by our standing buildings team and brick specialist to try to date the building materials and work out the complicated phasing of the buildings. The walls seem to be a complete mish-mash of yellow stock brick, chalk blocks, red bricks, ragstone rubble, Tudor brickwork, everything.

Today I was meeting with the City of London Archaeological Advisor to show her around the site, and she’ll now make weekly visits to the site throughout the duration of the programme. We’re expecting medieval and Roman deposits beneath the post-med basement slabs, so plenty to see in the next few months. We had a special treat today when we were allowed to climb up to the top of the scaffolding to look down on the site below. A bit of a knee-trembler being so high up, but it was worth it for the view!

Holding on for dear life!

5 storeys high and cool as a cucumber (c) MOLA 2013

I then had a quick meeting with the construction manager to give him an update, and went back to work to have lunch with my lovely friend Craig, do some invoicing, and commiserate with Stewie and his motorbike-falling-off induced injuries.

Danny Harrison: Senior Archaeologist on a Former Churchyard Site

Friday was forecast to be an unseasonable bright and mild day as British summertime goes, with rain predicted for only half the day. I went into the office at the comparatively leisurely time of 9am, having been told the previous day that there were no sites I needed to attend. On arriving it seemed that phone calls had been received from a site, kindly but forcibly asking where the archaeologist was.  I then speedily received a Site Written Scheme of Investigation from a project manager, an address, a phone number to call when I got there and a had a brief meeting outlining what was to be done when I got there. I got together some boots and basic kit  and then hared down the road with all my clobber to catch a bus.

Thankfully when I arrived on site it began to rain, and luckily I was locked out for long enough to cool off for a bit. The site was without its foreman for the day, but the onsite contractors were anxious to get started on reducing ground in a churchyard for a building extension; though the building had been designed to have a minimum footprint intrusion, it was likely that some disarticulated bones might be found.

We began the ground reduction and soon found a large quantity of bones- which we carefully retrieved and placed in storage to be reburied. It became quickly evident that these bones had been deliberately placed in the area being excavated, probably by the builders when they disturbed burials during works nearby on site in the 1970’s. Among these bones we were very surprised to find a tiny lead coffin which had been placed with them. We carefully moved this with the bones to a safe place. On examination, we noticed an inscription on the coffin lid. I wrote this down and photographed it.The excavation went on all day, punctuated with refreshing showers.

When I returned to the office, I consulted a website archive with the colleague I had been providing cover for. I was very surprised to find the name on the coffin in the records. It seems that the baby- who had sadly passed away aged only 15 days, had been buried two days later and a couple with the same surname- possibly parents, were recorded as living on the same street as the church. The profession and surname of the man were closely associated with the area and its immigrant population, the man being a weaver of Huguenot descent. On further searching, I was pleased to see that this couple had a child two years after the death of the baby we found, who hopefully survived into adulthood.

The Business of Archaeology

Michelle Touton

While surveying, you sometimes find unexpected things–like blueberries! Yum.

I’m a project manager at a contract archaeology company, which means I have to be both an archaeologist and a businesswoman.  Anathema to purists, maybe, but in the United States most archaeology is done commercially, as part of an industry called Cultural Resource Management (CRM), and businesses need people doing business-y things to keep them running.  In CRM, developers hire archaeologists and architectural historians to help them deal with cultural resources that will be affected by their development project, in much the same way as they hire environmental scientists, traffic engineers, and architects.  We work for the developer, but our first duty is to the resources.

For me, the 2012 Day of Archaeology was pretty typical.  My primary task for the day, as it has been for the last month or so, is to continue editing a site report.  The archaeologist who wrote the report works mostly on prehistoric sites, but this report is about a historic site.  Since it’s her first historic-period report, we’re taking our time with it to teach her how to do it right.  Historic-period artifacts require completely different analysis knowledge than prehistoric artifacts (e.g., learning to recognize mold seams on bottles or differentiate fabric types in ceramics, vs. categorizing edge flaking in stone tools), which takes time to learn.  You also have more lines of evidence (in the form of historical maps and records) that you need to bring in to your analysis.  Work on the report has been slow-going because I often am too busy with other things to get a chance to work on it.

The Day Begins

My first task upon getting to the office–after brewing a pot of tea, of course–is to check in with our people in the field.  Today we have two field projects going on, both of which are in the monitoring stage.  “Monitoring” means that an archaeologist watches the construction crew as they dig, in order to spot any emerging resources (artifacts/sites/etc.) before they’re damaged or destroyed.  Monitoring is usually done after we’ve already done testing and evaluation of anything we know is on site, and is largely a failsafe to protect things we didn’t know were there.


Waterlogged Day, Waterlogged Wood….

My name is Anne Crone and I am a post-excavation project manager at AOC Archaeology Group, working in their Loanhead office in Scotland. I am currently managing a number of large post-excavation projects, the most important of which is the Cults Landscape Project – important to me because I also carried out the fieldwork in partnership with my colleague, Graeme Cavers, and because it has enabled me to ‘indulge’ many of my research interests, in crannogs, waterlogged wood and dendrochronology.


The Cults Loch crannog under excavation


The fieldwork project has involved the excavation of a number of sites in and around Cults Loch, a small kettlehole loch at Castle Kennedy, near Stranraer in south-west Scotland. The project arose out of the initiative of the Scottish Wetland Archaeology Programme, the aim of which was to more fully integrate wetland archaeology into more mainstream ‘dryland’ archaeology. So we selected a landscape in which the archaeological sites appear to cluster around the loch and within which there were two crannogs – these are man-made islands found only in Scotland and Ireland and which are repositories of all sorts of waterlogged organic goodies!  We have excavated one of the crannogs which sits on a little man-made promontory jutting out into the loch, the promontory fort that lies on the other side of the loch, overlooking the crannog, and one of the palisaded enclosures that lies on the grassland around the loch.

And now we are halfway through the post-excavation programme.  We know that this is a later prehistoric landscape because we have 1st millennium BC radiocarbon dates from the promontory fort and crannog. But more exciting – I have been able to dendro-date some of the oak timbers from the crannog and we now know that most of the building activity took place in the 2nd and 3rd decades of the 5th century BC, and that there was refurbishment of the causeway in 193 BC – for me these more specific dates bring the occupants more clearly into focus…

Today – well, it started off with a 3 mile walk to work – usually a great start when I can think through my schedule for the day – but today the heavens opened and I was soaked by the time I arrived at the office! After drying out I settled down at my desk to read the report on the soil micromorphology from the crannog which my colleague Lynne Roy has just finished. As project manager I need to edit and check each report before it is sent out to the client, in this case Historic Scotland, but as the archaeologist I also want to read it for the insights it will give me into the taphonomy of the deposits on the crannog. And it is really fascinating! We found large patches of laminated plant litter, interspersed with gravel and sand layers which we interpreted as floor coverings that had been repeatedly renewed. Lynne’s analysis has revealed that the occupants probably cleaned away as much as possible of the dirty floor coverings before scattering over a sand and gravel subfloor and then laying down fresh plant litter. She can tell which surfaces were exposed for a length of time while others were covered almost immediately. And her work on the hearth debris indicates that peat turves were probably the main form of fuel on the site.


Recording timbers in the warehouse


Like many archaeologists the majority of my time is spent at my desk, writing reports, editing reports, filling in/updating spreadsheets, and dealing with emails. So it is a pleasure to be able to don my lab coat and spend some time in our warehouse handling waterlogged wood. I am currently writing the report on the structural timbers from the crannog. The majority of the timbers were undressed logs or roundwood stakes, mostly of alder and oak, so most of the recording and sampling was done on the crannog. Samples for dendro and species identification were brought back to the lab but we only brought back complete timbers which displayed interesting carpentry details and were worthy of conservation. I have been completing the recording of these timbers and deciding which ones should be illustrated for the final report. There are some interesting timbers in the assemblage –large horizontal timbers with square mortises, presumably to take vertical posts, but what is the function of the horizontal timbers which have very narrow notches cut diagonally across them? Next week I will be off to the library to look for comparanda and to find explanations for some of the more unusual aspects of the assemblage

Read more about Cults Loch here


Friday fun in the ScARF office – part 1

Not even being the Day of Archaeology 2012 could bring the sunshine to Edinburgh today, so whilst the view from the office at the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (SoAS), is definitely dreich, at least reading about all this archaeology will brighten up the day!

My name is Emma Jane O’Riordan and I am the Project Assistant for the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) or @scarfhub on Twitter. The project took part in the Day of Archaeology last year too so you can read about the background to the project in the 2011 posts from the Project Manager, Jeff Sanders here and here.


A Day of Archaeology for a Freelance Zooarchaeologist

Sylvia Warman Cirencester UK

8.30 am

My day starts with checking emails.  I am signed up to the ZOOARCH email list, a superb resource which enables animal bone specialists to ask each other questions, hunt down missing references and even identify mystery bones. The first email is from a PhD student in France who has read a paper I wrote back in 2004, requesting a copy of my thesis. This involves burning the files to a CD, as it is too large to email. The second is a request for a paper I had contributed to in 2007 on an assemblage from Tewkesbury (Gloucestershire) which had included the skull of a lamb from a four horned breed (like the Hebridean breed of sheep still seen today).  Unfortunately I did not have this paper as a PDF (the preferred format for emailing) so I photocopied my hard copy using my handy printer/scanner/photocopier.

The next is from the local history and archaeology society, the council is changing the parking charges for evening and weekends and there is concern that this will impact those who attend the lectures that this group organises.

I receive several emails that include adverts for archaeological jobs. I forward these to some friends who are currently without work. The recession hit commercial archaeology hard and many archaeologists are currently out of work. Now government cuts mean that those working in the public sector also face the possibility of redundancy.

I receive some comments back on a draft report I have written for WHEAS (Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeological Service). The report is on an assemblage of animal bones from a Romano-British site in Worcestershire. Much of the county has acid soils which are not good for preserving bones as they are alkaline. So when a site in the small pocket of calcareous clay comes up I often have the pleasure of studying the bones. This project is a publication, but much of my time is spent on assessments. The latter are short summaries of the potential of an assemblage which are then used to help decide what further study is worthwhile.


The snail mail arrives – a parcel from WHEAS with some additional animal bones from the evaluation carried out at the same site (as the excavation assemblage I have already studied). I take the parcel to my lab in the conservatory at the bottom of my garden.  I quickly scan these in case there is anything to add to the report, they are very similar to the bones I have already looked at from the excavation, mostly cattle and horse leg bones, all very well preserved and stained dark brown from the deposit in which they were buried.

additional animal bones from the evaluation


I head into town (about ten minutes’ walk from my house) to post the CD and photocopies. I have lunch in town and then head home.


I read through the edits and reply with a date by which I will have them completed. Commercial archaeology projects are often run to very tight timetables so keeping the client updated is important. A project such as this one could have up to ten different specialists contributing to it both within the organisation and freelance like myself. The project manager ensures this all runs smoothly and that everyone has the latest information.  This project has been partly funded by English Heritage as far more was uncovered during the excavation than had been predicted.

I start working on the edits which are very clear thanks to the track changes tool that the word processing program has. This makes it much easier to work on documents that are emailed back and forth. I complete the text edits but the reformatting of the figure proves more complicated and will have to wait until next week.

5.30pm My Day of Archaeology ends

Medieval Chapels and Monastic Sites in Glamorgan and Gwent

Hello, my name is Richard Roberts, Project Manager with GGAT based in Swansea.  Assisted by my colleague Rachel Bowden, I am undertaking  a project on behalf of Cadw investigating medieval ecclesiastical sites in southeast Wales.

We have so far created dossiers on the historical and archaeological background for the selected chapel and monastic sites, and have undertaken a desk-top analysis to identify those sites which are likely to retain significant remains.   The use of aerial photographs is a key element of the project, and is already proving especially useful to identify the extent of monastic precincts.

At the moment we are preparing  the ground for the fieldwork, identifying and contacting landowners.  The fieldwork, a rapid descriptive and photographic walkover-survey, has been tailored to aid the assessment of the heritage resource with reference to aspects such as survival, condition and significance.  It is hoped that recommendations made will enhance conservation and the long-term preservation of the best of the resource.