Day of Archaeology as a Masters student

I am a Masters student studying Archaeology and I have spent today writing parts of my dissertation as well as adding some new posts to my group I recently created on facebook called ‘Archaeology Lancaster’ where I post information about events in Lancaster and other archaeology related news.

My dissertation is on the Roman site of Vindolanda and I still have until September to finish it but I still have a way to go yet! I have done several modules this year as part of my MA- Neolithic Britain, ritual and religions, research module and archaeology of gender which were all really interesting.

I have also been busy with other bits recently – I took my CSCS test and got IFA membership. I have also been volunteering at the local museum and went on a conservation course with them and I am doing a scuba diving course on underwater archaeology soon.

I always wanted to be an archaeologist from as far back as I can remember but I don’t know where this interest came from. I decided to study Ancient History and Egyptology as my degree and then I went on my first excavation in Swansea. After this I looked for more to volunteer on and found one at Vindolanda and then most recently ones as part of the festival of archaeology. I also love being in Museums and collecting books on archaeology.

As part of the festival of archaeology this week I have been to several talks run by Oxford archaeology North in Lancaster – one called ‘what the Romans did for us’ and the other ‘community archaeology’ and I went to a surveying day using a total station in the park. I also went on an excavation at the Senhouse Museum in Maryport and one at Swarthmoor Hall in Ulverston as part of the festival.

At some point in the near future I hope to get a job in archaeology or a related discipline.

Digging from a desk

Prynhawn bob.  I’m Andy Sherman, an Assistant Project Officer with the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeology Trust.  For a large part of the day I’ve been working on a Written Scheme of Investigation or WSI.  This is a document that sets out what sort of work needs to be conducted on a site (evaluations, watching-briefs, building recordings etc) and how that work should be carried out, they are often attached to planning applications by curatorial archaeologists.  The WSI gives the client and the curatorial archaeologists confidence that the site will be excavated properly and gives the field archaeologists doing the digging an idea of the archaeology, geology and history of the site and surrounding area.  The site I’ve been looking at today is an early 18th century farmhouse, which is a Grade II Listed Building and roughly 500m away from a deserted medieval village.  So the archaeologists digging here can hopefully expect to find lots of medieval remains as well as recording any changes to the structure of the building itself during it’s renovation.

Sitting behind a desk is not what I thought I’d be doing when I first became an archaeologist, having watched one to many Indy films as a kid I expected my job to involve long days in the field, discovering the exciting remains of long lost civilisations and being chased by angry tribesmen.  And to be fair the first few years of my job were like that, but as I’ve got older and my knees have started to creek and my back has started to protest I look forward to odd day in the office pouring over old maps and documents.

Talking of old documents I’ve also been fielding phone calls from journalists about a site I was excavating in the centre of Swansea earlier in the year.  While working on site we uncovered a stash of job application letters in a basement.  The letters were written in 1931 and are all from young women, aged between 15 and a half and 21, applying for the position of junior clerk, advertised in a local newspaper.  We’re keen to track-down the relatives or even the applicants themselves so have been in touch with various journalists.  Today they’ve been getting back in touch wanting extra photographs and quotes.

The last job I need to do before heading for a Friday pint is start a new desk-based assessment for a development in Port Talbot.

Job application for junior clerk, 1931

Coastal archaeology and community engagement

I’m Ellie, a project archaeologist with GGAT, and I’m currently working on a community project, Arfordir (‘coastline’ in Welsh) which involves working with volunteers to monitor and record the vulerable archaeology in the coastal zone of south east Wales.  The study area encompasses the coast of the Gower peninsula and Swansea Bay as far as the mouth of the River Ogmore.  This includes fascinating archaeology of all periods, much of which is at risk from coastal erosion, sea level change, visitor damage and other threats.

A view of the ruined Candleston Castle in the sand dunes of Merthyr Mawr

Candleston Castle, Merthyr Mawr, in the new eastern part of the project study area

A large part of the workload of the project involves general admin, I spend the first part of every morning checking and answering emails from volunteers working on the project and liasing with colleagues.  The project study area has just been expanded to the east and a lot of new volunteers have been recruited in this area, so I’ve been organising a meeting and training session, and inviting interested people to come along.

We’ve also just started working in partnership with a similar project in Swansea, and I’ve been creating a leaflet advertising the opportunity to volunteer and get involved in this.  I’m also planning a series of guided walks around the study area so I can show volunteers some interesting archaeological sites and they can get some experience in recording and surveying.  In preparation for this, I’ve been creating maps showing the sites in the area and lists detailing what they are.  Finally, I plan to spend the rest of the afternoon writing a proposal for a spin-off from the Arfordir project, a small excavation on the foreshore of Swansea, investigating a series of wooden posts embedded in the Brynmill peat shelf.  In the past features in this peat shelf have been found to be of prehistoric date, so these wooden posts could be thousands of years old.  I’m hoping to spend part of the autumn excavating them with a team of volunteers so that we can find out.

A day in the life of a CATP at GGAT

Hello! I’m Natasha,  I’m the CBA’s CATP (Community Archaeology Training Placement) person in post with the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust. I’ve been with the Trust for just over 3 months now and have loved every minute!

I’m based in the curatorial divison and my working day never seems to be the same from one week to the next! Over the past few weeks I have been organising our annual event’s day as part of the British Festival of Archaeology, so it’s been very hands on planning logistics, locating resources and packing vans! Not to mention the running of several activities on the day-the children who had a go at our Wattle and Daub demonstration liked it so much they covered the Wattle frame, themselves and me with the clayey, compostey, hay-filled mixture! Nothing like a bit of messy fun to encourage people to learn something new! The day at Swansea museum and the following week at Neath abbey were a great sucess and gave me some valuble events organisation experience.

We’ve got more projects in the pipeline looking to get underway soon but right now,  this week is a little more sedate for a change as I’ve been analysing all our feedback from the events and putting it into a report so we can assess what went well and what to build on for future events.

Today I’m spending most of my time making sure we have everything back that we should have and I’m carrying out an audit of all our display panels, the Trust does a lot of outreach so we have a huge amount! Often they’re lent out to societies or councils explaining some of the work we’ve carried out in the area or outling what the trust does in general and how you can get involved with our outreach and community and projects.  Currently I’m working through our catalogue and checking them off-bit of a difference from this time last week where we were packing tents ready for Neath Abbey’s Activity Day!


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.

Day in the life of an archaeological planning officer

Our main method of finding out where development is going to occur is by checking the weekly planning list produced by the Local Planning authorities (LPA) each week. Two new ones, for Cardiff and Swansea, have been issued this morning so I go through them and note the applications that may have archaeological implications. Today there were 60 registered applications and I identified 11 that could have an impact on archaeological sites. I then checked those with the Historic Environment Record (HER) and also against the early editions of the Ordnance Survey (there are still a lot of post-medieval sites that are not included in the HER and sometimes we can spot these using the old maps). Three of the identified applications appear to be likely to have an impact on the archaeological resource so I enter them into our register so that detailed analysis and advice to the LPA can be prepared later.

Richard Lewis (Head of Projects) came to see me to explain that it appears that a major breach of a planning condition has occurred on a very sensitive archaeological site. I phone the relevant LPA only to find that the Officer dealing with the application and the Head of Planning are both at a meeting outside the Council’s offices. A helpful assistant promises to send me the full set of planning conditions for the development and gave me the name and direct telephone contact for the Enforcement Officer, in case I feel action is required.

Day in the life of an archaeological planning officer

I am Neil Maylan and I work as the Archeological Planning Manager for the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust, based in Swansea, Wales. We provide advice to 13 local planning authorities in South East Wales and I hope to be able to provide a work diary for today.

I started my working day circa 7.30am. As part of my job I am responsible for the Trust’s IT network and e-mails, so my first job is to check the e-mails that have come in overnight, delete the vast number of spam messages that are sent to our open e-mail accounts and redirect any messages that have been wrongly addressed or sent to the open accounts and need to be answered by a specific member of staff.

I also check my own e-mails received over night, fortunately few today and read the weekly newsletter from the Institute for Archaeologists (IfA) Maritime Affairs Group, which always has some fascinating information on an area of archaeology I really don’t know enough about.