Changing jobs in April.

As I am once again on the move. I do change my job like I change the sheets. It has come to my attention that whenever I change my job at this time of year there seems to be a ridiculous influx of offers.

Now I could be incredibly unrealistic and say it’s all thanks to my ability to do my job, but lets be pragmatic here. April is the start of the financial year. Everyone suddenly has an increased workload, just watch BAJR for those adverts flying up all over the place, everyone suddenly needs copious amounts of staff.

So my advice to those would be archaeologists, or would be ‘stepper-uppers’: Apply for everything, even those jobs you wouldn’t necessarily think you have a shot at, from the end of February onwards. Companies desperately need people. If you think you can do the job but just want a bit more training on something, then tell them that.

Offers come pouring in and options are an archaeologists best friend.



Archaeological dress code.

On site, you have your typical groups of people.

You have your bottom level. These are (like me) your every day diggers. Every day diggers split into two categories: The old hats and the nubes.

Old hats: These are the chaps you will spot and think to yourself “Thats an archaeologist if ever I saw one” They will be your stereotypical baggy trouser, baddy jumper, tatty hat wearing legend!

Now the old hats, these are the guys who, when not on a PPE wearing site, will be in the gear that may make them look like tramps, but if you look close enough, you might just glimpse the odd label of ‘Barbour’ or ‘Sherwood.’ It may look tatty on the outside, but it was expensive when it was first bought and it has served its given purpose well and has clearly become the old faithful! Moneys worth has been had and even though it looks past retirement (usually like the digger themselves) its brought out with pride for every dig. They look something akin to Pete the Tramp:


Now on PPE laden sites, the old hats will be noticeable by their filthy PPE, so worn that the name plate of the company who provided them is no longer recognisable and lets face it a black plastic bag would prove more reflective than the last vestiges of hi-vi! They’ll be stomping round in their heavy, well worn boots, probably with carrier bags wrapped over the top of their socks to stop the water leaking in through the holes. Holes which have worn their way into the leather after being dripping wet and freezing through the winter to baked and cracking in the summer. (Lord! The stuff we put our equipment through!)

20131107_075001 What a rag tag bunch! 🙂

The nubes… although they may be diggers, they are a whole different kettle of fish.

They show up to site in their craghopper/camo/worksmen trousers, specially designed air-flo tops or thermal fleeces, brand new shiny boots and everything is clean and pristine. You can pretty much guarantee that a real fresh faced nube (typically male and quite confident) will rock up with a tool belt or even more spottable… the trowel holster!

HAHA  I Google Image'd hipster outdoors and this is what it brought me!

I Google Image’d hipster outdoors and this is what it brought me!

The nubes PPE will be nice and shiny (not to be mistaken with actual shiny’s who will feature later in this blog entry), they can be differentiated from the actual clean people of site by the fact that they will be wanting to mucky up their PPE. The mucking up of the PPE (and you can tell the difference between those garments which have been put through their paces on countless sites and the dirt in encrusted and ingrained from that which hath just been sullied), is a camouflage tactic, a way of blending in with the old hats. Sometimes successful as a chameleon, sometimes mocked and then welcomed with open arms anyway. In my mind.. they somewhat resemble this:


The next stage up from the every day diggers come’s your Sup’s (pronounced soups). These are your supervisors, project officers, the site directors etc etc, the people who are running the site on the ground.

These are noticeable from their better quality PPE (the company shells out a few extra pennies on these guys kits), they’ll have the gortex coats and over trousers, not your basic arko best that could be found cheapest online. Or even worse just bright yellow plastic things from the farmers market down the road (this will happen at times). They also have boots which you can tell have seen a few seasons, a few sites, but they’re not as muckied as you might think. This is because they don’t get that filthy when stood in front of a machine day after day! These folks also have the black hard hats.

Above them are you Shiny’s. These are the folks who swan out to site in big groups for a tour/inspection. These folks come from many different parts of the archaeological sector. This group is made up of your office boffins, the ones writing the reports, project managing etc, it’s also made up of your contractor bosses, QS’s, consultants and archaeo-county mountys.

Now these guys you can spot a mile off. They move in packs, like great bright, shiny banana’s emerging from the mist. They have the best quality boots, which haven’t seen a spec of dirt, they have the pristine white hard hats, which means you know they’re looking down at your black hats on site! They arrive, chat, laugh and take notes. Again in my mind, they look like this:

Shiny banana!

Shiny banana!

Then as you’re walking off site for your lunch break you notice a pattern from the shiny’s.

The shiny’s stand around the backs of their cars, carefully removing the very clean hi-vi coats, folding them (“what nonsense is this?” you will think to yourself.. “folding hi-vi.. never in all my days”) they will then have a bit more of a laugh and a chat to their colleagues (this is when the “mines bigger than yours” parre goes on). Then comes the boots.. the pristine, £180 a pair boots get taken off and placed in neat little bags, where you notice there are other such boots in neat little bags and these neat little bags are all in a neat little row in the boot (or trunk for those in the US).

Once the PPE is off, more evidence of shiny-ism… they’re all in suits, or then jean & shirt combo. Nobody turns up to site in suits and nobody in jeans and shirt unless they’re covered in holes and you look like a lumberjack!

It’s bizarre but there you have it.

I feel I should note that I don’t spend my time stalking different people on site and what they wear. It’s a conglomeration of rather a lot of small observations made over the years 🙂

Archaeology: Job, Hobby…Life

As a person who is blogging about my life in archaeology I can totally admit that I have a problem… archaeology is practically my whole life.

I go to work 6 days a week (only 6 days a week at the moment, when I leave London it will be back to Mon-Fri) but when I am away from work, and should therefore be closing my mind to all things archaeological.. it still creeps in there.

290720111931 Visiting Tintagel


Photo-0133. Lindisfarne

Photo-0181 Hartlepool Historic Quay

20120918_124714 A Bangor University Research Dig near Mold

20130810_122132 Stonehenge (even went to the new visitors centre on the opening day)

IMG_54013568035117 Walking around Butser Hill (before heading off to Butser Ancient Farm

10173744_10203120975560971_1202073424543653678_n The Beltain festival at Butser Ancient Farm

10441424_10203429457232820_5527424477951562337_n Old Sarum ramparts… magnificant!

10849904_10204723240576595_8400322062997823593_n  A tour of Easby Abbey

So much to see and so little time!

I take days off work and head off to monuments. I used to do the same as a student.

I spend some of my free time writing this, so I get to yabber on about archaeology and every now and then I try to be productive and go through old papers from university to sort the wheat from the chaff and get them into some sort of article shape.

I think it’s time to say…. I need to get a life 🙂

How I got into Archaeology.

So… I went back to Bangor university to give a talk about my job and I thought, well what the heck.. I’m going to just post it on here as well.

Untitled So this is me and all the gubbins.

Untitled1 I did my undergraduate degree with Bangor University.

Originally I had wanted to go to uni to do Egyptology. Of course I had seen The Mummy and thought ‘Well I could give that a bash’ (I may have mentioned this before) but head started to over rule heart and I became pragmatic. I thought I cannot put all of my eggs into one basket so I will go and do history with archaeology (also thinking as a side line that if it all goes tits up, I can simply become a teacher). So I went to Bangor, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, fell in love with archaeology instantly and focussed every module I could on British Prehistory.

Untitled2 As I was going through my degree I pretty much thought I was going to coast on to an MA degree and straight into a PhD (I was young and naive so shush), I had focussed my BA on archaeology, I already knew what I wanted to focus a PhD on (Constructing identity in Iron Age Wales if anyone is interested) so I rightly considered that I should do the middle degree on something a little bit different. I also thought to myself that if my knee’s failed early and I could no longer conduct myself with any measure of decorum on an excavation I could gracefully retire into a museum as a curator (again shush, blame ignorance!).

So off I tottled to the ever prestigious Durham University, I was congratulated by my personal tutor, for A) making that choice and B) getting in. I got there, I loved the first month of it and then all of a sudden like a crash I lost every ounce of interest. I can hand on heart say that this was the worst course I could have possibly imagined taking. I hated every minute of it from December 2011 to September 2012. Mostly I thought I wasn’t earning an MA, I did practically no work, I had 2000 word essays to right (over the whole year I think I had 8 or 9 of them), I had a project to help complete, but there were so many of us on my project team that I think I put a total of 10 hours of work into it over the entire year and finally I had a 5000 word research paper to write. Needless to say my lack of interest and zero effort was reflected in my grades. Up until December I had an average of 74, on my way to an MA with distinction. By the end of the year I dropped to a still respectable 64 (having earned myself some 50’s marks in there too) and left with an MA with merit.

I also quickly realised that if you wanted to get a job in a museum, the last thing they were looking for was an MA in museum studies. They want an undergraduate degree in a related subject, 6 months of voluntary experience and then they want you to start at the bottom and work your way up. If not, they want a major specialisation – to be a curator then have a PhD in the topic of the department your applying for the curators job in. Egyptology gallery – sorry sunshine but that MA in museum studies is useless, you need an Egyptology specialised degree, preferably to PhD level!

But I digress… this is how much I despised that degree. Durham = beautiful, the university consistently ranked in the top 10 in the UK, the degree I chose… not worth the paper it’s written on.

But I rallied my spirits somewhat, I found a modicum of interest in artefact research and report writing and managed to wangle myself a focus on public archaeology (it had to get back in there).

NOW I should point out that I didn’t go off on this tangent of a rant about my course at Durham during the actual presentation. I felt it stir while writing, so went with it!

Untitled3 After leaving Durham in September 2012 (I graduated the following January). I spent nearly 2 months applying to every job I thought I could hack on the BAJR and Museumjobs websites. As time went on I started to go through all of the jobcentre advertisements and found myself applying for sales jobs and trying to become a teaching assistant or cover supervisor in school. Finally in the November I got a weeks worth of work of digging, the same company then had me back for a day in the December to do an evaluation dig. But then back to square one. More applications, more disappointment. Finally landing my first full time digging shindig in the February of 2013.

Now 2 years later and 6 companies after that I have not been out of digging work 🙂

Every time I have wanted/needed to move on I have simply gone onto the council for British Archaeology’s website, gone onto their list of archaeology units and sent every single one an email with my CV on it. I also apply for the jobs that come up on the BAJR website and I’m happy to say that offers for work flood in from both avenues.

Untitled4 Now the best bit about my job is the moving around. I have lived over nearly all of the UK (I just need to make it to N. Irl). I have dug in some of the most amazing and beautiful places this tiny island has to offer, from Edinburgh to Dorset to Wales to scabby Milton Keynes. This weekend I am moving to London to live for 3 months for digging and in July I am scheduled to move back up to North Yorkshire for… more digging 🙂

Untitled5 The bad bits about my job definitely includes the wages. On a construction site you can near guarantee that the archaeologists are paid the least amount. At the end of the week, as a digger, my pay cheque comes back and tells me that after tax I take home £280, a digger driver will take home around £700 and the man that stands by the digger to make sure he doesn’t hit me will take home around £600. All skilled jobs, no reflection in pay scales.

And as two sides to the same coin. The weather! It’s great being able to work outside all day every day (when I get assigned to an office I might as well be like a caged animal).

Untitled6 Most of us think that it will be all lovely digging in the sunshine and don’t get me wrong, the last two summers have been phenomenal. At the end of both summers I have been gloriously tanned, had the best time digging fantastic archaeology, outdoors in the amazing weather.

But let’s not forget folks…. this is Britain after all. Digging means digging in ALL seasons!

Untitled7 Untitled8 And that means all seasons folks. You have to put up with flooded sites, rain coming in from the side and worst of all, feeling like your going to lose your toes to frost bite because the metal plates which keep them safe also conducts that -5C feeling!!

But I have to admit, after everything, I don’t do my job for the money (I’d be desperately depressed if I did) and I don’t do it so that I get to be outside in the great weather.

Untitled9 Untitled10

I do it, because at the end of the day, to me it’s the best job in the world! Same reason all of us archaeologists trudge out into the trenches 8-5 every day 🙂