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Return to the bad old days.
The IFA does have rules about this - if you think they have been broken, and you have evidence, then report the unit. They have recently shown willingness to discipline RAOs, but they need a complaint and evidence first.

On the specifics you mention (and assuming that the digs in question are commercially-commissioned work) -

Students: some use of students is probably ok, as long as they are a small proportion of the workforce (say, no more than 10%); are supplementary to a workforce that would be adequate without them; are paid; and are not employed in term-time.

Retired amateurs: Again, some use of such people is ok - they often have lots of experience. However, they must be employed, not working as volunteers. They will often be slow and painstaking, which is good for the archaeology but might mean that they are not very cost effective (assuming they are paid).

Graduates of their own training dig: Can't see any problem with that - these are young diggers setting out on a professional career, why should they be banned from working for a unit that provided some of their training?

Overall: Any of the above categories are ok in their place, but if a site is staffed entirely with these kinds of staff, the team will be very unbalanced. They may be cheap but they will probably also be slow, and without sufficient skill overall.


to let, fully furnished
Mercenary, thank you for posting this. I`m afraid that I can`t offer an opinion yet. As I feel my balaklava sneaking out of it`s drawer and, my stomach about to press eject, I will have to go and have a very, very, long smoke first.1man1desk, make your mind up sir-either you specify professionalism across the board or, make fawning allowences for this sort of sh*t simply because big boys names are on the project......}Smile

I agree with your assessment of the abilities of each of these types of excavator, who well supervised and in small numbers can be an asset to any team. As the majority of a team in a commercial project it's a problem. You hint that they would be slow and presumably a commercial liability to the unit. Well, I can only imagine that being true if the overworked curator catches them out (which doesn't seem to ever happen) or other consultants, like your good self, get very strict about skill levels .

These projects are not being done by experienced teams by anyone's reckoning. Having said that, I'd normally just grumble into my pint cuz crap units often try this cost cutting measure.

What really riles me is the RAO and SCAUM connections. So I'm going to have to do some research and see what the IFA says. On the SCAUM connection this individual spoke at TAG last year in a session about training, and despite representing unit managers said nothing about his own unit, and disappeared before anyone could ask him any difficult questions during the scheduled discussion. GRRR...

well, we use a lot of volunteers to do post-excavation work that would otherwise not get done, and it is sometimes surprising what experience and skills this people bring to work. A former dentist was most helpful when I had any teeth questions for my analyses.

However, we do not use students as excavation staff, and I know of at least one commercial unit that does, and have subsequently trashed their way through sites because people just didn't recognise what was in front of their faces. The name of the unit has now become my way of describing hacked about skeletons.

++ i spend my days rummaging around in dead people ++
"Professional" is both a term for someone who gets paid to do a job (but may do it badly) and a term for a required competence or attitude in the workplace. You can do a job in a professional manner without getting paid and you can get paid to do something and do it unprofessionally. To imply that students etc are unprofessional is plain daft.

As far as Mercenary's comments are concerned AFAIK a particular unit did employ a number people in the stated categories for a 2 week dig this summer. It was quite an unusual project (for reasons I am unable to divulge here) and not developer led. Experience levels amongst those staff ranged from a couple of months to several years experience but in addition there was appropriate supervision from very experienced permanent unit staff.

(Would this not be a fairly normal situation in any workplace, with a number of lesser experienced staff as well as a number with more experience, plus those with loads of experience??)

On the dig in question all the 'casual' staff were paid IFA agreed rates (including holiday pay) and were given appropriate contracts with a start and end date. The work was carried out in a professional manner to professional standards. The casual staff employed were happy (and grateful!) to have a couple of weeks work to enhance their experience and CVs for future employment in the archaeology profession. For a circuit digger it may not have been worthwhile to take the 2 week contract, knowing there would not be further work on offer afterwards.

Can it really be considered to be some "sort of sh*t" ??

On the subject of graduates from training excavations - seems like good practice to me to employ such people. They will work to your methods and standards and with personal knowledge of them, you are not just working off words on a CV. If you know they are crap you won't give them the job but if you know they are good you want to have them work for you in the future. You have invested time in them (and they may have invested considerable sums of money in the unit), so make it worthwhile for both parties and give them what might be their first break in 'professional' archaeology !

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that everything is rosy and perfect at this unit but let's not look for more demons than there really are!

Sounds to me like a different project to the ones I'm familiar with. Don't get me wrong I have absolutely nothing against the categories of excavator mentioned (Except maybe a retiree who is doing paid archaeology for fun and possibly taking away a post from a professional, but that's a different issue).

What dismays me is the decline in average skill/experience level. Units who do this are taking a very big step back into the past before the industry was forced to become professional.

The IFA code of conduct simply says that every team member should be qualified and experienced enough to fulfill their role, which is a bit vague and completely subjective. Gone are the days however, when supervision by a very experienced staff member could make up for a low experience level overall. For all the good archaeologists it produced I reckon the archaeology suffered a bit under the MSC scheme.
I am not aware of any other projects the unit has recently undertaken that had a particularly high proportion of students/training grads/retirees/less experienced staff other than the one I refered to. I can say that casual diggers on that project were paid at Level 2: Site Assisant 1, according to the BAJR scale, which suggests they had the experience level required to do the basic job. If the unit was really cost cutting and the staff employed had little experience then wouldn't they have been employed at Level 1 wages? If the unit has done other projects with a similar staff structure then I haven't heard anything of them on the grapevine.

But as I understand it from your posts/replies your problem is with units employing too many of the lower levels of staff compared to the experienced staff, either to cut costs or because they are not considered good employers and therefore cannot recruit/retain experienced staff. What ratio would you suggest for say, Site Assistant 1s to Site Assistant 2s to Assistant Field Officers to Field Officers to Directors ? Does it depend on the size and type of project ?

I am just starting in this game and there seems to be so much politics involved its hard to know who or what to believe ! Sad


• noun (pl. forums) 1 a meeting or medium for an exchange of views. 2 chiefly N. Amer. a court or tribunal. 3 (pl. fora) (in ancient Roman cities) a public square or marketplace used for judicial and other business.
As has been mentioned on other threads I don't think this is a question of not utilising staff of differing abilities but of striking a balance between getting the job done to the appropriate standard and giving those with little or no experience the chance of learning. We do need newbies coming up through the ranks and gaining the experience and skills required but we also need to keep in mind that if the digging/recording of the archaeology is buggered up then it is gone - we cannot go back and redo it.

I don't know about the unit discussed above but there are units (no names no pack drill) who do staff commertial digs with new graduates and vollenteers with only a few experienced staff. This ratio does nothing for the archaeology and to be honest does not equip new site staff with the nessesary skills to work effectively elsewhere (this is from experience of having employed some who have obstensively had 6 months - 1 year fieldwork experience but could not record or dig stratigraphically).

I agree with mercenary that there is a general decline in skill/experience levels in excavation teams. While this is not the fault of the individual site staff it is a general malaise in the profession (if I can use this term!). We lose experienced staff either upwards away from the field or outward to better paid more secure jobs but expect that less experienced staff will be able to jump straight into their shoes. While some can do this admirably we are ending up with excavators who do not relise they are making mistakes and supervisors who have not the experience to notice or if they do not see the problems it will cause further down the line.

Stop now ...Calm...Calm...deep breaths!

Quote:quote:But as I understand it from your posts/replies your problem is with units employing too many of the lower levels of staff compared to the experienced staff, either to cut costs or because they are not considered good employers and therefore cannot recruit/retain experienced staff. What ratio would you suggest for say, Site Assistant 1s to Site Assistant 2s to Assistant Field Officers to Field Officers to Directors ? Does it depend on the size and type of project ?

I couldn't suggest a ratio based on those categories alone because the skills/experience of individuals in the same post could vary enormously. I know field officers with only a couple of years of commercial experience or less, and they are in a different league to the ones who've been at it for 10+ years.

Thinking back to when I started out (not so long ago!) a digger with less than a years experience was considered pretty green. The good units would take on only limited numbers with this experience level, and generally on the larger excavations only, where there would be a surplus of supervision. I was in the business for well over a year before I worked on an evaluation, and about 3 years before I did a watching brief. This was not universal practice, but could be considered an ideal.

The less good units employed a majority of excavation staff with less than a years experience, under the supervision of one or sometimes two very experienced staff.

Ten years on and I had expected that the situation and experience levels had risen. My current employer pays well and attracts experienced staff, a situation I'd like to see become the norm in the industry, but one that I recognize is unusual.

An entirely typical example: a recent large-ish urban evaluation we did had an ever changing team, but on average was run by a field officer with 10+ years experience, and had four archaeologist with experience ranging from 2 to 10 years each. The average was 5.8 years. I can perhaps imagine employing 1 student/training dig grad/retired amateur on the project without our work beeing too adversely affected. On large excavations perhaps one more.

I hope this puts my whinge into context. I expect the unit in question to be leading the way on professionalism in the industry because of the RAO an SCAUM connections, and it clearly isn't. Instead, my own employer, which ironically is considered a cowboy company by said unit, is setting the standard.

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