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Essential field skills guidelines
#1
O.k. this leads on from another thread.

What are the essential field skills that people in commercial archaeology think freshly minted graduates from UK universities should have after a three year course?

Let's try to define the minimum of what you'd expect people to be confident in doing when they first turn up on a commercial site.

The aim is to formulate some kind of national standard for the curriculum that could be put forward to be endorsed and adopted by universities across the country.

Let's hear it!
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#2
I'll start off... in no particular order .. (could people keep numbering (and if enhancing or correcting one that is already there... use the same number as well)

1 Basics of stratigraphy and how this relates to how you dig.
2 How to take a level, how to set it up and how to find a benchmark - plus how to reduce levels!
3 Laying out a trench with tapes
4 Locating your site and grid coordinates both site and national
5 setting up a section line (using a level and using a bubble level)
6 Proper use of each tool and when to use them
7 Directions for a JCB driver




"I don't have an archaeological imagination.."
Borekickers
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#3
I would add to that

7) an understanding of scale when drawing
:face-thinks: an understanding of how a matrix works, though not necessarily the experience to draw one.
9) knowledge of the basics of recording cuts, deposits and structures. Not full knowledge but, for example, understanding what a cut is as opposed to a deposit or layer.
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#4
10) Basic site formation process:
a)how a posthole is formed, and what the parts are called
b)how stakeholes are formed and why they rarely have cuts
c)how open cut features fill up
d)how walls decay, are robbed out etc
e)treebowls (NEVER boles, that's the trunk) and tree throws

I know that there is plenty more to discover,but this should be the very basic starting point. It really upsets me to have to have to teach postholes to graduates.
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#5
to 10) I would add
f) the origins of deposits (erosion, floor, fluvial, aeolian etc.)

11) how to set up photographic scale & board, what's supposed to be in a photograph and what not (random buckets, tools, feet), and how to take a picture that isn't blurred, over- or under-exposed

12) lay out a site grid either by tapes, right angle prism, and/ or total station

13) be able to identify different kinds of material culture (pot/ brick/ stone tool) and ROUGHLY place them chronologically (Roman/ Medieval/ Post-Medieval/ from outer space)

14) how to take environmental samples for different types of analysis (bulk for botanics/ charcoal for C14 etc.) and from where

15) use of common/ standardized language when filling in context sheets
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#6
I agree with all of the above, apart from the JCB directions butI've never been on site with one so far.
We get taught full single context recording and site formation processes. Surely most of these should be introduced during first year at university? It was for us.
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#7
16) I would definitely advocate the photographic skills...how to take a useful photograph with a fully manual camera using ranging rods, takes practice.

17)I would also add understanding the difference between a geomorphological feature and an archaeological one, but seeing as some senior archaeologists struggle with this, it would be harsh to ask graduates Smile

"excavate this dry stream bed, it looks like a soutterain!"

Seriously though,

At the end of the day, these are all SKILLS, which take time and practice to develop. If we're all honest, how many of us were decent at everything that came up during our first commercial excavations?

I think most graduates do short or very sporadic excavation during a degree and universities vary widely in their requirements for this. It is probably unreasonable to expect everyone to be adept in all aspects of basic fieldwork following on from a few weeks digging spread thinly over 3 to 4 years. For example, during my degree, but I only ever once got the opportunity to excavate a pit or a posthole, there were either few of these features to go around or it was always walls!

A potential problem is that how many universities have professional units still attached to them? Deriving competitive skills may become increasingly difficult unless commercial and university-based archaeology interact on a more grass-roots level, across the board.
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#8
I think even an awareness taught out of a textbook is better than no awareness at all.

I really don't think it's too technical to ask that people be aware that soils and sediments move and that not everything black is charcoal, it doesn't have to be very technical, just enough to allow those who want to to follow up on it. -PS, why wouldn't you at least put a slot through and record a palaeochannel?

Best way to improve photography, let people see the photos they take! I take your point though, nobody explained cameras to me for years. I'd hate to think what my early photography looked like.
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#9
How to tell the difference between a JCB, 360 excavator and rubber duck
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#10
Seriously though, I would suggest teaching people how to approach excavating a site given that in commercial archaeology we are given a percentage of features to excavate. Careful planning and thought first and not digging the hell out of anything that looks like fill and then worrying about it afterwards.
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