University of Central Lancashire

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.




Countdown to Completion

I am an archaeologist – a very tired archaeologist.

“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham


My original completion date for my PhD was to be December of 2014. I lost six months due to a family death and there is just no way I will meet that goal. I am now shooting for a March deadline. My dear husband has only eleven weeks until his four year mark and must turn in his thesis for his PhD in archaeology on that date. So our family has two very stressed eleventh hour writers and a never-stop-even-to-sleep toddler. (He is awesome! To the full extent of that great American world).

My Day of Archaeology is a how a typical day goes:

7:00 – Toddler decides we have slept in long enough the sun is up (and has been since 3 am) so it is now time for us to be up. We resist waking up as we staid up the night previous until 2 am working on our thesis. Husband and I decide to cheat and bring the tablet into bed with a bottle of milk. Toddler feels like king of the world getting to watch ”The Incredibles” while kicking mummy.

8:00 – Everyone finally awake, fed, and most importantly dressed.

8:15 – Husband takes toddler to nursery. Yeah, both husband and I get to work today. I feel extra inspiration and excited to work as Thursday was mummy day, the day I get to stay home all day and just be a mummy with toddler. Thursdays are great days – most of the time.

8:30 – Laundry monster!!!! Housework is a huge distraction, long laughed at in PHD comics. I have a theory though. A PhD is a long term stressful event that seems to have no end. Housework also has no end, but when you get a sense of accomplishment when you finish the dishes or have filled the airer to max capacity (thus cannot do any more laundry).

10:00 – Arrive at office at University of Central Lancashire. Decide to go against norm and check email, as I know there is one I really want to read. (I peeked at my email the night before). Glory in receiving information for the former Soule Steel of San Francisco on their production of T-posts. (I do a lot of rural archaeology). The have sent me some great research material. Husband arrives at office minutes after me.

10:30 – Check out a Modern Conflict Conference in Bristol in October, papers due at the end of the month. Put a pin in that one.

10:45 – Discover for Day of Archaeology Routledge has 100 free journal articles. Downloaded a few but for the most part not really my subject area.

11:50 – Husband fetches some printing and brings mine down.

11:00 – Am really excited to read the Soule articles.

11:30 – Finish Soule articles (very short but very promising – hint #133 is a weight). Feel even more excited at having decided to try my luck with the TESS database from the United States Patent and Trademark office.

11:35 – Start to read a chapter of Husband’s thesis on Incised Stones of the Great Basin. The things we do for love!

12:45 – BRAIN HURTS – Can’t shake this dreadful feeling I have already willed away half the day and I have not yet written a single word for myself. I must quite all distractions and get some REAL work done.

12:46 – Start trolling through GPS and photo logs to make sure all artefacts are accounted for in the artefact log for Santiago Corrals in the San Emigdio Hills. (Link is my blog.)

13:00 – Husband surprises me with Subway. Yeah Husband. Start eating but continue working as long as I can do so one handed.

13:20 – Delude self a minute of Facebook is allowed as I am technically on a lunch break.

13:40 – Distracted by a chemistry video on the way different chemicals interact in very cool ways. Can’t remember a single name but the cool feeling remains. (Sorry I can’t seem to relocate the video for your enjoyment. )

14:00 – Get back to work feeling overrides, yet feel like I have forgotten something… Yikes we forgot to sign in for the month per the UCLAN understanding of Tier Four Student attendance compliance. The Government wants to make sure we do not secretly desire to live here forever, and falsely use a student visa to gain entrance. I have missed a sign-in before and received a note that I could be reported to the Home Office if I miss another sign-in. The thought of the Graduate Research Office reporting me to the Home Office feels like some crazy black and white spy movie plot, but a very real fear. Unlikely, but the though of getting kicked out of the UK this close to completing my PhD would kill me.

14:05  – Rally husband and we set off to the Graduate Research Office to sign in. Small talk on archaeology that cleans the air of stress begins.

14:45 – Return to office. Demand of myself more focus. Continue to sort out artefacts for non-feature artefacts.

14:50 – Finish non-feature and send all documents to the printer.

14:55 – Start on description for Feature#1 a pasture with no artefacts but a good selection of wooden and metal t-posts. (Now you understand my excitement about the Soule email.)

15:30 – Finish description and other paperwork for Feature #1 and send to the printer, decide to head upstairs to pick up printing. Actually a fun thing to do as they have builders in demolishing and rebuilding a lab (not for the archaeologist so not sure what is for). The builders have put down sticky plastic to protect the carpets, but someone was not very good at their job, THANKFULLY, and the sensory experience of popping floor bubbles as you walk is highly entertaining and stress relieving.

15:40 – Return from printer and correlate work into respective binders.

15:45 – Check email, and for once have an important email. Finance office telling me to sign a promissory note if I want to get any money off of them. I am very happy to oblige not even thinking about future pay back of student loans.

15:50 – Start paperwork for Locus #1 a homestead which predates the Corrals. Spend a lot of time checking photographs to photo logs and turning them into slides ( A holdover from my CRM days with Pacific Legacy), and check artefact logs.

16:50 – Another trip to the printer another trip across bubble floor. Life is awesome.

15:00 – Correlate. Oh no missed a few documents need to go back to the printer, Oh darn.

15:10 – Get back from printer. Have a quick chat with husband to see who cooks and who get son from nursery. I get the sacred bus pass, and he gets to battle the oven, I win. Toddler loves the bus.

18:00 – Return from nursery find Husband has bought kebabs so we finish watching The Incredible.

21:30 – Toddler FINALLY goes to bed. Ditch all plans for working.

1:00 – Not sure how it happened again but finally make it to bed. Feels like a scene out of Date Night.