Welcome to my corner of “What’s Up Archaeology?”. I’m looking forward to sharing some of my thoughts with everyone over the next couple months. I intend to cover a few different topics; what my day to day work is like, some industry issues I think need attention, and some of the public outreach projects in which I get to participate. This post is going to focus on a little about what my future posts will be about and a little about what this week was like for me.
A lot of my “this is what I’m up to” posts will not have a lot of details about the projects on which I am working. A good portion of the contracts I work on have confidentiality clauses in the contracts that will not allow me to share any specifics of those projects. These aren’t top secret government contracts, its just bad practice to spread private business around. That being said I’ll try to share as much of the fun stuff as I can.
Other authors may point this out in their articles as well but, within the field of archaeology (in the U.S. at least) there is a separation between academics (archaeologists who work for universities, museums or other academic institutions) and CRM (cultural resource management, contract archaeology, what I do). Academic archaeology is primarily driven by specific research questions, while CRM ‘s methodology is primarily driven by regulations on the local, state and federal levels depending on the project. We try to work toward specific research questions as often as we can, but a lot of CRM is regulatory work.
In CRM it is important to point out there is no dig season. CRM companies are for profit businesses (for the morst part) and we need to keep working to make money. Work is slower in the winter, but it does not stop. When a project is started, we continue fieldwork until we finish. Many companies have a lab team that continuously processes, catalogs, and analyzes artifacts. Field crew will sometimes help in the lab if there is a lull in field work or if weather conditions prevent going into the field (e.g. heavy rain, lightning, frozen ground). Often to the chagrin of my crew, unless I think it will significantly affect our work or there are safety concerns, I rarely cancel fieldwork.
In order to stay working CRM firms are usually running multiple projects with multiple crews at any given time. We happily have stayed rather busy this winter. By the end of this week I will have worked on three different projects in the field and on the reports for at least two others in the office. It’s a little hectic, but there’s something satisfying about working on multiple projects at once and still being able to make steady progress on all of them.
CRM companies also have to worry about administrative stuff and safety concerns like any other business. I ran our monthly safety meeting yesterday, and particpated in a refresher class for my HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response) certification today. The certification is necessary for working on some urban and industrial sites which can have contaminated soils.
Archaeology is hard work and sometimes fieldwork can be rough. I’ve thought about getting out of archaeology to pursue a career in something that didn’t make my bones ache quite so much, but I know I wouldn’t be as happy doing anything else. Some of my posts might not be as fun as the authors who are able to talk about their projects more in depth, but I can promise you will get an honest view of what life is like for a professional archaeologist in the Mid-Atlantic.