University of Western Australia

Publish or Perish

Back in the first year of my undergrad I remember being told “for every day spent in the field, expect to spend three in the office”, because “excavation without publication is destruction.” I didn’t believe it for a second, I thought I’d be gallivanting all over the place, digging things up with gay abandon, without a second thought for paper work or grant proposals or journal submissions. But here I am, in my office, working on four projects.

Hi, I’m Liesel. I’m a first year combined Masters/PhD student at the University of Western Australia. I’m in the Centre for Forensic Science because my research is in analytical chemistry, using techniques developed for use in forensic science and applying them to artefacts, rather than evidence.

The first project I’m working on today is writing up the excavations I just got home from in Egypt. I work with the University of Hawaii at Tell Timai, in the eastern delta. It’s an amazing, sprawling Greco-Roman city, slowly being eaten up by the two villages on either side of it. This season I worked on finishing the excavation of a Hellenistic house, you can read more about it on my blog. Today I have been in touch via email with other people on the project, all over the world, trading elevations for maps, maps for photos, and photos for past reports. We’re working on writing the site’s first monograph, and I will be co-authoring two chapters, one on the house and one on the coins from the site.

Today’s conundrum was; was the house built all in one go? Or was the west half added on later? I think it was added on later, because the walls are at a slightly different bearing, and they’re thicker. Also, the site ceramicist says the ceramic fill under the floor of the east and west halves are different.

The second is my PhD project, which involves chemical analysis of thousands of beautiful Spanish silver coins. As exciting as that might be, getting the coins from the museum to my university has proven more complicated than I had thought, and they haven’t arrived yet. So instead I am doing some background research and trying to teach myself the periodic table. I can recite up to Zinc without too much trouble now.

The third project is being on the national committee for NASC14, it’s a conference being held next year in Adelaide, South Australia for students of archaeology, run by students of archaeology. I think it’s a great idea and so just this week I decided to be a part of it.

The fourth project is coursework for my Masters degree. It’s in forensic science and I’m doing it at the same time as my PhD. Today was Advanced Forensic Anthropology, and I spent all afternoon measuring skulls. I’ll measure them all three more times and then run my measurements through some stats to look at how precise I am.

Even though I’ve been in the office all day, there’s plenty of interesting things going on here.

A Day on the Ground for an Aerial Archaeology Project

APAAMEHello from the Research Assistant for the Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East. To save my time and yours, we just call it APAAME. We are perhaps best known for the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan Project which has conducted a season of aerial reconnaissance in Jordan from a helicopter every year since 1997. Day of Archaeology has not caught us in the air however, but in the office.

I am writing this from our new office in New Barnett House on Little Clarendon St in Oxford. We are in the process of moving our entire archive to Oxford University from the University of Western Australia. Our large map collection is in mail tubes, and our complete collection of Hunting Aerial Survey diapositives of Jordan from 1953 are in 7 boxes against the wall, but the slides and printed photographs are unpacked – we just haven’t got shelving for them yet!

Fortunately, the majority of our collection is already digitised, and that is what I will be working with for the most of today. Glamorous I know – but flying in a helicopter taking thousands of photographs of archaeological sites for a month a year, and delving through archives to investigate collections with aerial photographs of the Middle East, leaves quite a bit of follow up work.

I have not even finished my first cup of coffee for the day and already I am fighting with Flickr. We use Flickr to host are on-line photographic database ( Flickr was chosen because it is relatively cheap and extremely accessible medium to host our ever-increasing archive. We have recently decided to upload our images with their full geo-referencing information, and so I am going through the backlog of updating around 61,000 images on Flickr with their geo-tags. I have to batch edit these photographs in Flickr, which is fine except the interface Flickr uses doesn’t seem to cope with handling too many images at once. *sigh* I’ll just get myself a cup of tea … Meanwhile, in the background, I have Adobe Light room where we catalogue all of our images updating the metadata in Flickr.

Why am I geo-tagging our Flickr images? Traditionally, you would search for a location by place-name, but this is extremely difficult for the Middle East due to variations in place names and transliteration from Arabic to English, let alone to other languages such as French and German. (The Graeco-Roman city of Gerasa – for example, has appeared (so far) with 13 different spellings of its ancient and modern name in various languages). If you know where a place is located on a map however, you can simply go to the map interface ( and zoom in on the area of interest, and you will see whether we have any geo-tagged photographs for that area and what site reference we are using. Alternatively, if you have found a site of particular interest on our archive but don’t know where it is, you can open the map interface and see its location on a map.

While I am working over in one corner of our office tackling the everyday issues of managing a digital archive, Professor David Kennedy is in the other using the archive as part of his ongoing research. The digitisation of our archive has opened up an increasing amount of time that can be dedicated to analysis and research, and has meant an increasing output of publications. Currently David is researching the Hinterland of Roman Philadelphia, which involves the search for historical photography, maps and early explorers accounts of a landscape that is now largely built over. He is putting the final touches to a lecture inspired by this ongoing research that will be delivered at the ARAM conference on ‘The Decapolis’ at Oxford University’s Oriental Institute on Monday: ‘Brünnow and von Domaszewski in the Jordanian Decapolis’. The research for this lecture involved time spent in Princeton earlier this year where the photographic archive of Brünnow and von Domaszewski is held.

Now that I seem to have Flickr happily batch organising my geo-tagged items to be accessible to anyone, I am doing a bit of research on Content Management Systems and digital archaeology projects. APAAME is looking to evolve the way in which we manage our content and related data, but exactly what system we implement for what purpose is currently under investigation. Everyone has their areas of expertise, and so we are contacting those that have computer database, data mining and CMS operating know-how that might have some good advice for us. I am also keeping an eye on our twitter feed, that is particularly active today with everyone’s #dayofarch posts, as well as updating our blog with info about our new publication.

So that is what APAAME were up to on this day, 26 July 2013.
If you would like to contact us or keep in touch– please feel free to use one of the following methods
Twitter: @APAAME
Flickr archive:

A Day in the Life of Gaye Nayton, Heritage Archaeologist

Hello from Perth, Western Australia where I want to introduce you to a day in my life. As an archaeologist I am a bit of a hybrid beast. I work as a consultant archaeologist/heritage consultant and run my own consultancy. I also carry out academic research, having a PhD from the University of Western Australia and authoring the first book on WA historical archaeology. I also work as a public archaeologist running public outreach programs and I am authoring a book on WA historical archaeology aimed at the general public. You can check out my varied archaeological personalities at my web page at

When people think of archaeology and archaeologists they think of digging but the truth is most archaeologists spend 90% of their time in the office or lab. I thought for the Day of Archaeology I would take hourly photographs throughout my day to show how my day panned out. I could have been on a site but statistics are against it and this day like many others is going to be spent mainly in the office working on reports. My sister Jackie is helping out my Day of Archaeology project by hanging around and snapping photos every hour. (more…)