David Connolly is the founder of the British Archaeological Jobs and Resources (BAJR) website and runs, along with archaeologist Maggie Struckmeier, the Past Horizons website, a web portal specialising in the reporting of archaeological news and projects from around the globe. Formerly a guitarist and key member of punk band Oi Polloi, David left to pursue a career in archaeology and subsequently worked the British field circuit for a number of years. He has also excavated and surveyed sites in far flung places such as Croatia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates and Jordan. His experiences at York helped him form a keystone in his belief of the use of methodologies in archaeological practice. Currently residing in Scotland, David specialises in archaeological surveys and regularly partakes in community archaeology projects.
Once there was a time without BAJR (pronounced badger) – however, very little is understood about how it became a part of British archaeology and how it has evolved into its present day form.
The Man Behind BAJR
BAJR was a creation of myself, David Connolly and was born out of a realization that although the world of archaeology can be a wonderful place to be, it can equally create very real problems for those who wish to pursue it as a career.
At the end of the 1990s I was experiencing this very problem and was not in the best of places, both mentally and physically. Once in the not too distant past, the world was my oyster; I worked my way around the Middle East and Central Asia in winter and the UK circuit during the summer. But these halcyon days were not to last and I became trapped in an ever decreasing spiral of work dependence, an all too common malaise of the peripatetic jobbing archaeologist.
Around 1997 my life started to change for the better when I met Maggie my wife. She seemed to see saw some sort of potential in this washed up train wreck of a man.
I tried to ‘man up’ and made an effort to create a website to promote my own work, but it all felt a bit pointless.
At around the same time, I became aware of a newsletter called the Digger which was a ‘tell it like it is, no holds barred’ publication, doing the rounds of the site hut. Reading this suddenly made me very aware that I wasn’t the only one out there experiencing difficulties. This led to many discussions about all the associated employment problems such as poor wages and unregulated conditions that archaeologists were trying to cope with. Maggie then suggested that I do something positive with this knowledge and take a stand.
At last, I felt I had a real purpose and my sad little website got a makeover in August 1998 and became a platform to announce employment opportunities within the profession.
With this new belief that we can all do something positive to change our lives and not just sit and grumble about it became the foundation stone of BAJR. It was envisaged as a resource for collecting any archaeological jobs that were on the grapevine and also to act as a means to stay in touch and communicate.
Early BAJR existed in a time before social media and mobile internet. Connection was via dialup modems and field archaeologists would normally use the computer at their local library to check BAJR for jobs and then print any out to share around. Seeing the valuable role that BAJR was now playing in the employment process, archaeology companies were increasingly emailing job adverts for inclusion onto the website. BAJR was fast becoming a popular method of finding staff, not just for digging teams, but for other roles as well.
This central portal ensured that postal lists were now becoming obsolete and the expense to a company of taking out a Guardian advert or similar was no longer required. Every BAJR job advert could be printed out and posted up on the walls of site huts in a matter of minutes after they were uploaded.
Each advert that came in was hand transcribed from email or letter over to an html page – but this scrutiny led to interesting consequences. Examining each and every job posting provided the opportunity to question and even to refuse those that seemed to pay less than the ‘standard’ wages. Of course, this meant that criteria needed to be made clearer so that companies and applicants knew what was acceptable and what was not.
A system needed to be formalised, something that provided markers for progression and pay minima grades based on responsibility. This was worked upon and then introduced, over two years and several discussions with contractors later, the nuances and present structure finally evolved.
Simple to understand, it was generally accepted by most of the UK archaeological contractors as a basis for pay and conditions. It has to be stressed though that these grades have never sought to replace Institute for Archaeologists levels (PIfA, IAfA and MIfA) or even attempt to subvert them; it is merely a way for all contractors and all archaeologists who use BAJR to know what is expected and what the bottom line is.
It is true to say that some people feel that the BAJR pay minima represent de facto levels, but this is not the intent. Although, every company is consulted annually on the following 12 monthly grade pay scale, the choice to advertise or not, is always in the hands of the contractor. They are free to pay less than the quoted grade if they wish, but if they do they know that their jobs will not be advertised on BAJR.
Thus the modern day BAJR is a beast of three parts:
- Jobs portal – It is accepted by archaeologists working in the United Kingdom that BAJR (British Archaeological Jobs and Resources) is a trusted portal for archaeology job adverts and has a strong pay and conditions ethic.
- Forum – BAJR also provides a platform to encourage open debate on all that is right, wrong and humorous about the archaeological profession.
- Information provider – A comprehensive searchable directories ranging from curatorial services to heritage courses within the UK.
It is now fifteen years since the first BAJR website was uploaded but the brand and the ethos behind it has stood the test of time.
Defining and distracting views of BAJR include misconceptions, expectations and beliefs that merged into a monolithic vision of an organisation that must be up to something, but what was that something?