BAJR Federation Archaeology
Could this be the end? - Printable Version

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Could this be the end? - Segovax - 8th February 2009

I swear I am not the only one to feel so desperately, well, desperate as we trudge through this horrendous winter of media propagated doom and gloom and I feel a little better that the traditional digging months are hastening towards us but am I the only one to feel that when summer comes there may no longer be any jobs for field staff in archaeology? Has anyone been in an archaeological 'cold snap' before and if so did you hibernate in Slovakia where it is cheap or did you surrender your love or fieldwork in favour of a more pragmatic job? someone tell me there is light at the end of a tunnel and that aside from bankrupt Irelands fabled Atlantic Way road scheme up the west coast from Limerick to Derry may occur or that some miracle pipeline will begin? In a world where jobs are made real from rumours and whispers on the wind someone out there must know of something 'down the line'?
And someone silence the media and its credit crunch doom and gloom'athon!


Could this be the end? - 1man1desk - 10th February 2009

There's quite a bit of discussion of this theme on some of the other forums on BAJR - look there for some ideas.

I've been through two previous recessions since I started work in archaeology. I struggled through the first one (in the '80s), living hand-to-mouth and travelling all over the country to get digging work, with periods of unemployment - but that gained me a lot of varied experience.

The second one (in the '90s) threw me out of work as developments dried up. I was forced to leave both Scotland and field archaeology, moving (very reluctantly) to a consultancy job in England.

A third, smaller downturn in the mid-90s threw me out of work again, with a short spell of unemployment before joining a different consultancy firm. A blessing in disguise, as the new job had much more opportunity within it.

Each time this happened, it was very unpleasant, but each time I was able to turn the enforced change to my advantage and take a step forward in my career, rather than backward. So, its not nice, but it can be a blessing in disguise - for some individuals.



1man1desk

to let, fully furnished


Could this be the end? - kevin wooldridge - 12th February 2009

The UK is pretty unique across most of Europe in archaeologists being able to work continuously all year round. Many other places, due to their latitiude or excavation custom, can really only offer the majority of its archaeologists 6-9 months work a year.

How do archaeologists cope?

They do other things for the remainder of their non-digging time. Or move to places where there is work in the otherwise lean months at home. If UK based archaeologists learn anything valuable from this current recession, it might be 'coping' stratagies for lean times. And like riding a bike (I am sure 1M1D would agree) once learnt is not forgotten....

[Image: 3216700919_bab3ee7520_t.jpg]

With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...



Could this be the end? - troll - 13th February 2009

I`ve had to diversify until better times arrive too. I`ve just spent 13 months as an assistant manager in a large retail business. I`ve had a good taste of "alternative" approaches to management and to be honest, I have learnt a few new things. But by God I`m soooooooooo bored I could eat tarmac.Big Grin

..knowledge without action is insanity and action without knowledge is vanity..(imam ghazali,ayyuhal-walad)


Could this be the end? - Segovax - 16th May 2009

In fairness, as an update, and as a way of mitigating my somewhat dramatic Wintertime query of whether or not this 'is the end' of large scale commercial excavations for some time I am now pleased to say i was wrong. It seems that just because jobs are not always advertised doesn't mean they are not there. Just takes a bit more ringing around and listening to those site hut rumours that so often become gold.

However , while i am on the matter of 'the end' of commercial archaeology i think i may use this forum as a cathartic tool.

i have been digging for a few years in commercial archaeology all over the British Isles. I readily up-sticks and move on a momments notice to some andom town near the job, sometimes the company pays...sometimes i do. Obviously there are lots of sacrifices as archaeologists that we make on behalf of our chosen career but this has never bothered me too much as the rewards have often been worth the inconvenience. Yet, something has changed in the way i now feel about archaeology...too often i have seen the needs of the common worker ignored (for a great example see Paul Everills The Invisible Digger). Sub standard welfare facilities often with no heating, and sometimes no shelter and no toilets (i felt ashamed on one occasion when i had to watch my girlfriend wander across 100m of scrub to find a bush to use a toilet and could do nothing to help her),having to shar eating facilities with dirty barrows and equipment, individual diggers putting themselves at risk on sites where despite treacherous working conditions (icy quarry edges, no duck boards and numerous trips, slips and falls) they still have to abide by the hateful expression 'show willing' and brave dangerous elements due to a fear of losing there jobs due to their fragile employment status as a temporary worker. Archaeologists being asked for more and more qualfications or skills (CSCS, EUSR, IFA) but precious little actual training, pay increases or aid from the companies employing them. Often training is an individual concern that only the most conscientious over worked supervisor or friendly colleague can help with. Not part of a formal trainng regimen. Holiday pay being removed or brushed aside and coined by companies as time-off-in-lieu and then refusing to allow employees to take time off.
I have seen skeletons excavated and then dumped unceremoniously in cabins inside finds bags too small to fint them. Blatant archaeological features destroyed by plant owing to constant developer harrasment ( i can understand their sentiments but the archaeology should not have to pay).

I often see my archaeological friends finally become so exasperated they just throw in the towel and leave to go and get a 'proper job'. But its ok because there are always 'new grads', who often have little to no idea about the practicalities of digging as archaeology degrees seem unable to prepare students for the reality of commercial digging. So effectively an experience brain drain afflicts the archaeological community and again the archaeology suffers.

I know this all seems so negative and i do love our jobs (although not all prehistory Smile ), I just wish i could think of a way of improving working conditions, professional standards and archaeological accountabilty.

I have been showing 'willing' for a few years and would love to know that there are others out there to do the same and champion the cause of the humble site assistant


Could this be the end? - BAJR Host - 16th May 2009

A short answer to your sad but true post...

This can and will be dealt with if we stand up to it... know our rights... require what is being denied..
It can be done.. should be done... and with the potential from the Federation, sharing and networking... it will be increasingly hard for poor employment and work practice to hide...

The resposibilty will fall on us all to highlight... both the bad and good.

I've been through it before.. and it will come out the other side... how it comes out will be up to those who stand up and make it.

"Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage."
Niccolo Machiavelli


Could this be the end? - Segovax - 17th May 2009

Its true, public dissemination of poor welfare and substandard archaeological practice will mak us more aware of our rights, but there is of course still the possibility that your average field worker will stay silent for fear of losing his/her job or worse what form of sanctions can a field worker bring to bear on the offending unit that will cause a speedy and thorough change.



Could this be the end? - Gilraen - 20th May 2009

Hi Segovax,

I am so sorry to hear about your experiences and have had a few of my own. Starting a job we were all put up in caravans which hadn't seen life for about 20 years next to a rather large electricity sub-station. The caravans were so disgusting that they gave us all a day paid to clean them - HANG ON, thinking back - they got us to clean them? *shakes head*

I know that a lot of people say this - get out of archaeology and get a 'proper job'. This enrages me. Archaeology IS a proper job. All of us on the forum would agree that diggers without a full-time contract with a unit are treated poorly, and I hope the conditions have changed over the last 10-15 years (10 since I was on the 'circuit') and I think that the new sweeping wave of labour-induced health and safety regulations has gone some way to help this.

To truly make a career out of archaeology, I think that you have to become established with a unit. I know this is hard but the way to do it is establish a skill set that sets you apart from everyone else. You don't have to have a Masters Degree to do this, and you can even be just be an outstanding field archaeologist! I would certainly recognise this. I hope that other managers out there would.

And remember - as BAJR says - if we all work together to make the IfA sit up and help eradicate the exploitation of what is, in effect, professionals with the industry, then the change can only be positive. I hope you stay in archaeology Seg.

All the best, Gil.


Could this be the end? - Gilraen - 20th May 2009

I have just been promoted to Project Officer level on the forum and now have 2 hard hats. I am very proud. (sorry, i know I am sad....)


Could this be the end? - archgirl19 - 20th May 2009

Sadly it's not just field staff who are loosing their jobs. I had my letter today (so I can finally be open about this) to say they're giving me two months notice of the end of my job, and I'm a HER Officer. Ok so as far as I'm aware I'm the only one whose job has been cut totally so far but who knows what will happen next. Things are looking bleak all round if you ask me.