BAJR Federation Archaeology

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Would be nice if curators occasionally gave the contractor some flexibility on where to stick trenches rather than putting out specs with fixed trench locations in stupid places (we've got one in the system now, not entirely obvious why the client is being expected to pay for holes in the middle of a known in-filled quarry.....) - actually being unfair, only some curators....can think of some career curators who to my knowledge haven't held a trowel since their 3 week Uni training dig...

What questionable working practices?
What should happen is that developer rings up before approaching development control. You ask how big and where the development is. Depending on agreed published criteria you then respond by saying an evaluation of such a scale is needed unless the developer would like a desk top assessment to look for evidence against an evaluation and then give them your price. The result is that the first time a curator sees the developer there is either a desk based argument for no further work or a recommendation based on an evaluation.

bit too easy isnt it
Dinosaur, dunno. How do you know I was aiming that comment at you? Just a bit of Bajr baiting, don't know you from Adam do I.

With regard to your gripe with curators. Have you tried talking to them? I for one usually answer the 'phone or emails and am always happy to negotiate. If yours aren't or don't, perhaps you should take up a complaint with their managers, or stop moaning?
Of course there are good, bad and medium in all branches and fields (and indeed in all walks of life) and I've seen something a bit pooh from one only this week, but by and large I'd say curators do very well with minimal resources.

My gripe is not with curators themselves but with their lack of numbers and resources - hardly their fault! More power to their elbow I say.
Here again I would come in with Vulpes... talking to the curator and saying... listen... this is daft... the trench is on the side of a cliff... and here is a big hole... full of rubble... perhaps better here... that way every one is happy... and the contractor can go away feeling that they are doing their job well.. I so often dealt with things on the phone... and of course out on site... where a 'see what you mean' can be transformed into a new approach, rather than a 'why did you not tell me' furtehr down the line.

Responsibility lies with us all though. It is easy to bask any one of the various archaeo-groups... harder perhaps to say... why don't we support each other... ? and communicate. :face-thinks:
but why do we need a curator to decide where to put any trench?
Is Uo1' idea an example of an archaeologists with "policies" or simply ideological opinions driven by financial gain and a wish to have freedom from scrutiny by officers representing democratically elected members?

Kicking curators is a BAJR staple and because I although I always enjoy being hailed as an inexperienced, unregulated bureaucrat who doesn't know the difference between WHS and Argos brands and on who's head the sole responsibility for all ills in archaeology squarely falls, I thought I'd have a go too....

Most commercial archaeologists, because of their lack of experience (and possibly overlong hours in the pub) cannot negotiate with developers without just making complete fools of themselves. Standing in meetings with their scruffy ex-army clothing, trowel in back pocket, unlaced boots, smoking a roll-up, smelling of old patchouli and recent sweat, calling everybody "man" talking about "whole earth sampling" not realising developers think their referring to Muesli and complaining loudly about the lack of professional standards whilst telling the developer that they can "do the job cheaper than anybody else".
Then when the excavation is in progress they whine about "unexpected results" due to "the evaluation under representing the archaeology" (which was of course carried out by a rival unit, but when quoting was fully accepted as being good enough to base a price on). So they put forward a "strategy" which involves digging more features with more people and consequently more costs. They are surprised at the large amount of Roman pottery from the site explaining that "the evaluation missed the rubbish pits and focused on the building remains so they didn't expect so much pot". A site visit involves trying to elicit responses from barley coherent mumbling dirty people who will not look you in the eye and point at invisible features they have yet to excavate and tell you "there's loads of re-cuts man" while any sane person sees a ditch with more than one fill.
Even worse post-excavation involves getting somebody straight out of Uni to "analyse" the enviro, who's very pleased that "the macro-fossil evidence fits with their PhD thesis on post-processional paradigms in colonial Nigeria" and is "really excited about the assemblage" whilst showing you a spelt seed. Of course it turns out that the pottery is all greyware and requires no further work and that the on-site interpretation of the possible "Iron Age ritual enclosure" is actually a series of field drains with residual pottery.
Then you wait five years before finally receiving a pdf of a report (if your lucky) missing the matrix "cus you don't really need one on rural sites" and/or "the original PO did one but they left under a cloud (to join a rival unit in other words) and they "deliberately didn't hand over the projects properly". Further correspondence with the archaeologists pointing out the deficiencies of said report results in the statement that "it's all the bl**dy curators fault cus they discharged the condition and so the developers don't need to pay anymore" (completely misunderstanding basic planning legislation) and finally sullen silence,
until the next meeting.........

Are people happy with my characterisation? Or am I simply taking a general feeling of frustration about archaeology and blaming "others" who can be lumped together in a caricature daily mailesque way rather than responding properly?
No steve you are describing exactly the current situation hence

why do we need a curator to decide where to put any trench?
Unitof1 Wrote:No steve you are describing exactly the current situation hence

why do we need a curator to decide where to put any trench?

The same question can be fired streight back:

Why does a local planning authority need a contractor to tell them where trenches should go?

The question itself is missing the point, "need" is not the issue. Sometimes I say where to put trenches, sometimes I ask the developer (through their consultant/contractor) where to put the trenches. Depends on the circumstances. One reason I do it is in some cases so that everybody is quoting on exactly the same basis, sometimes because I have a specific question concerning the archaeological potential and sometimes its based on a specific impact lead threat. Sometimes (gasp, horror) it's because I don't trust the commercial unit based on experiences on similar projects.

Generaly, though I am quite happy to have a look at trench layouts submitted by commercial units and as long as they address the issues raised by the development I'm happy. I'm also very willing to have my trench layouts questioned and have them altered if required.

The real question is:

Is it better to have unregulated commercially minded consultant archaeologists who are acting as advocates for an applicant deciding on the requirements on a fee by results basis, or officers employed directly by democratically elected members who have no direct financial involvement in outcomes, have some consistency across different cases and who are subject to a regulated complaint structure?

When considering that question try changing the words "archaeologists" with "broker" and "applicants" with "bankers" and see if you would be comfortable with the consultant lead approach in those circumstances?

Is everybody else as relaxed about my characterisation of a contractor as Uo1?
From a commercial contractor's point of view, the whole point of trial trenching is to determine what's there and how much it's going to cost to deal with it, so there's no point scr**ing-around or it's all going to hit the fan further down the line.

Are there still units like that around? I'm used to working in a culture where developers are dealt with at an equal level of intelligence, we've run courses for them so they understand what's involved in archaeology and how it fits in with what they're doing, and we're expected to be able to talk construction/engineering jargon straight back at them. Afraid the days of the stoned hippy workforce are over :face-crying:
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