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Archaeological Unemployment

16 Nov

Unemployment is doubtless a thing that many archaeologists will experience during their careers.  This is especially the case for archaeologists hired for temporary fieldwork, where contracts can run out and expire or where work can become lean (during certain periods of the year or during economic instability).  There are factors outside of your control that can either work in your favour or work against you.  These include, amongst others, the current economic climate, your work experience and previous employment, your educational record, where you live, if (in Britain) you are CSCS card holder, and if you can drive.  Archaeology, as a whole, is generally a very well-educated sector, with many people having at least an undergraduate degree to their name, if not a Masters.  However, it is often said that once you have entered the fray and became a paid archaeologist it is much easier to gain employment once again at the same or other archaeological units.

Generalisations aside, the past two and a half months have led me in a fruitless search to gain employment, and I have recently signed onto Job Seekers Allowance, a financial safety net for those searching for work in the UK.  I was somewhat shocked, and impressed, that I was able to choose archaeology as a main option on my job seekers agreement form after hearing many horror stories from friends.  Although I hold out hope for carving out a career in the archaeology/heritage sector, I realise that now is a particularly tough time.  I also realise that as a physically disabled person (see previous posts), picking archaeology as a career choice was never going to be a straightforward career progression or job choice (but I’m not one for easy rides).

As a recent guest post from Charles Hay pointed out, a career in archaeology is not easy for anyone, and you will have to find work in other sectors to help pay your way whilst you search for that dream archaeology job.  Be open for anything, don’t be afraid to move, and always apply, even when you don’t think you stand a chance.  Whilst I may feel sorry for all the archaeological units that have received my CV in their email inbox’s, I do not for a moment regret not sending it.

As always there is hope.  Many of my friends who I have studied with, or have got to know at University, have gained jobs in the archaeological sector.  There has been another recent round of Institute for Archaeologists/Heritage Lottery Funded training placements released (8 in all), based in either Scotland, England or Wales.  (Be fast though, the closing date for some of the positions is the 19th of November, a few days away, whilst others are open until early December).  BAJR, the British Archaeological Jobs and Resources site, always presents new jobs as soon as they are available.  The IFA job sheet is also well worth signing up, as is the daily checking of the University of Leicester Museums Jobs Desk.

And if worst comes to worst, you can always volunteer!  If you have a day free and there is a local dig coming up, why not join in and gain experience, get to know some new people and have fun.  I have volunteered for quite a few units now, both during my undergraduate degree and during my ‘gap  year’ (i.e. surgery year), and I’ve managed to get to Germany for free as a volunteer, managing to work on an excellent site.

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Skeletal Series Repository, Amongst Other Things…

17 Jul

I’ve recently updated this blog with a side page, the Human Skeleton tab, for the skeletal series posts.  It can be found just next to the ‘About’ section.  Here you can handily find all the posts that I have wrote so far about the bones in the human body as used in the study of human osteology in archaeological contexts.  The posts discuss the human body in easily recognisable sections (such as leg, arm etc), and the contents include information on how to recognise and name various elements, anatomical landmarks and what to expect if you have the pleasure of digging them out!

Hopefully the series will give you enough information on how to differentiate and recognise the various type of bones in the human skeletal system, and also provide information on how individual bones fit together as whole in the skeletal system.

Meanwhile I’m currently back home relaxing and reviving myself after the 2nd semester of the masters program.  Shortly I’ll be heading out to visit our nearest continental neighbour, France, with the family for a week or two, so you may not hear from me in a while.  I am hoping that there will be a further guest blog or two in the near future, but I’ll be back to write about the next entry in the skeletal series, the human foot (Pes), soon enough.  In the meantime I’m sincerely hoping the dissertation has wrote itself whilst I am frolicking in the French countryside, but I highly doubt that will the case…

I recently had the great pleasure of excavating a medieval site in the lovely Peak District village of Castleton with the University of Sheffield.  Obstinately, the yearly project aims to find the medieval leper hospital in, or just outside the village, but there has been little luck this season of digging which was recently completed.  Whilst I only partook in a few days worth of excavating, it was with great pleasure I found myself in the great (wet) outdoors once again.

One particular highlight was the digging of a test pit in someone’s back yard under a gazebo with a dear friend, as the rain lashed down and the thunder rolled and roared overhead.  Minutes after the downpour the bright rays of the sun penetrated through the dark clouds and the backdrop of the 12th century medieval castle high up on the hill became clear for all to see, it was an immense sight for sore and tired eyes!  The excavation provided immense relief from sitting at a keyboard and it reminded me why I love field archaeology, and archaeology in general, so much.

Across my travels online I have had the pleasure of reading the adventures of various archaeologists recording their views of the sites they have dug at.  A particular favourite can be found at The Facts of My Ignorance site, a delightful read of Callum Dougan’s traipse across Mediterranean and Levantine archaeological sites, volunteering in various countries and at various digs as he goes.  His entry on the City of David project is enlightening, and revealing.  I have heard of this site before through friends who are studying for the MA in Biblical Archaeology here at Sheffield, and it seems archaeology will forever be tied in with politics, particularly in light about out who funds archaeology and why.

Over at Amateur Archaeologist, an impressive self leaner has collated a vast range of online archaeological and linguistics archive as well as writing detailed articles on a vast range of interests from Egyptian archaeology to Mesoamerican linguistics, cultural heritage management  to archaeological ethics amongst other topics.

I haven’t mentioned it yet on this blog, but Dr Fitzharris’s The Chirurgeons Apprentice is a site to watch out for!  It is an amazing repository and archive of detailed research on the ‘early modern chirurgeons’, the forerunners to today’s medical surgeons.  This site never disappoints and provides some fascinating insight into what terrors awaited the 17th century person if they ever happened to have an accident or become ill.  The subtitle perhaps says it all- ‘A website dedicated to the horrors of pre-anaesthetic surgery’.

Up next is Robert M. Chapple’s site who is a professional field archaeologist based in Northern Ireland.  On his site are a number of interesting articles on Irish archaeological sites he himself has dug at, alongside various posts on archaeology in the wider world.  His entry on his own ‘Transit Van experiment‘ is edifying, and revealing, about the state of theoretical and field archaeology.

Meanwhile Hazelnut Relations is a blog ran by the PhD student Marcel Cornelissen at the University of Zurich.  It focuses on use wear analysis of microlithic tools across the Mesolithic-Neolithic (Pre) Alpine Central Europe.  While his blog does focus on this topic, it also carries a much broader selection, and the author has many years experience in field archaeology in various European countries.

Finally we have Wunderkammer, a tumblr blog dedicated to arresting medical/historical images.  The byline, ‘a curiosity cabinet of (un)natural wonders’ intrigues, and the site does not disappointment.  One perhaps not for the faint of heart.

I’ll be back in a while, hopefully with a few different articles on palaeopathology, and the next instalment of the skeletal series.  In the meantime au revoir!