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Excavation Skills! - makapanman - 7th September 2011

I'm the archaeology technician at Liverpool Uni and we offer a module called Excavation Skills which is primarily based around our fieldschool.
I have some ideas on things we can do during term time and things I wish I'd learnt/known/practised before starting out but thought I'd canvas for some more ideas.

So..What do you wish you'd done at uni that would've helped out there in the digging game

thankee kindly


Excavation Skills! - Dinosaur - 7th September 2011

Learning how to repair the seat and pump in a chemical toilet quickly

Excavation Skills! - Dirty Boy - 7th September 2011

Couple off the top of my head:

How to use a good old fashioned SLR camera
How to actually set up a good looking archaeological shot
A little bit of basic soil science - oxidisation etc. Something I wish I'd been taught early on

Excavation Skills! - Jack - 7th September 2011

The list is endless!

But here are a few.

'You never stop learning in archaeology'
'Approach each site with a fresh brain'
'Don't be biased by what others say or what you've read'
'Give an impression to the students of just how little we know about the past, rather than cling to old and new so-called facts'

But in a practical sense.

1) Understanding the formation processes are paramount. So discuss this (with evidence) on your context sheets. Its far more important to know how those pottery sherds got to where you found them than dating them! Samian pot in a pit don't make it a 'Roman pit'. And certainly doesn't make your site Roman!

2) If you don't know, write (on the context sheet) that you don't know

3) Archaeologists never (hardly ever) give a statement of errors. This is extremely important! It doesn't take much for those uncertain relationships to become etched in stone, and before you know it someone has written a synthesis of Iron Age Britain based on it!

Excavation Skills! - P Prentice - 7th September 2011

learning not to bother to write 'supervised 1st years when in 2nd year' on a cv

Excavation Skills! - Sith - 7th September 2011

P Prentice Wrote:learning not to bother to write 'supervised 1st years when in 2nd year' on a cv

What about 'supervised graduates when in first year' for all those mature (experienced) students.

Excavation Skills! - P Prentice - 7th September 2011

dont ever write subsoil

Excavation Skills! - Oxbeast - 7th September 2011

If you've got some experience to put on your CV, for god's sake put it on! It makes you more desirable than someone with no experience on their CV. Everyone has to start somewhere.

How about constructing a Harris matrix from the primary archive and learning why this is important? I think there are computer programmes to help with this, but there are bound to be any number of instructional cock ups to sort out...

Ditto above comments about manual SLRs. These will seem like antiques to the youth of today.

Excavation Skills! - makapanman - 7th September 2011

Thanks folks.
A couple of usefull things there so far.

Excavation Skills! - RedEarth - 7th September 2011

Do some desk-based work and/or visit an HER so you have some idea of what you are actually looking for on site in the first place, but don't allow it to bias your opinion.

Learn to survey.

Not sure about learning to use SLR cameras - how useful is that likely to be in 10 years time? Why not learn to use a theodolite or plane table?