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Health and Archaeology
What are the health risks associated with fieldwork?
I noticed that there was a previous posting on mental health issues.

The recent posting on diversity brought up the subject of skin colour.

My professional background relates to skin, cancer and radiation. I was also treated for skin cancer 30 years ago.
Have there been any studies to look at skin cancer incidence, both on exposed areas of skin and elsewhere, in the elderly who have worked long-term, at some time in their career, as field archaeologists?

Is there a higher than normal incidence of back/neck and knee problems?

Are there respiratory problems in those who have worked on dry soils/sands or with biologically contaminated materials, eg fungal spores etc?
I think John I have met archaeologists with all of the conditions you mention except perhaps skin cancer. What is very sad is the number of archaeologists who don't for a variety of reasons live long enough to draw their pension. Its not as if archaeology has a particularly high profile for deaths at work (I can only think of 7 persons to my knowledge in 30+ years at the section face), but I suspect that there are lots of conditions contracted through work that have incapacitated folk and perhaps are under reported....
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
The problem with contract work is that you can loose people from the employment pool, due to what could be relatively mild but chronic ill health, and nothing is recorded in relation to the profession.
Any subsequent deaths or incapacitation could be medically recorded in association with any final, less demanding employment.

Skin cancer could have a long latent period and would need a systematic follow-up. I believe that farmers are a high risk group.......if they live long enough!
Solar damage to skin, in current workers, can be monitored with UV photography.
Going back to the diversity thread and the question of skin colour, I was thinking that although there should always be equal opportunity, there may not be equal risks in terms of sun-induced skin cancer.

Although we have an abundance of fair skinned people here in Scotland, the sun can be a bit more elusive than elsewhere. Hypothermia is probably a higher risk factor ;o)

[Image: daer07.jpg]

Members of Biggar Archaeology in sub-zero temperatures in January 2012.
The one to worry about is lung cancer !!!!! All you smokers out there (and there are a lot in archaeology) you are seriously putting yourselves at risk I don't know many people who have had skin cancers but those I know were treated and recovered. Those who were diagnosed with lung cancer (unfortunately far too many now) did not recover. The factor they all had in common was that they smoked.
Not strictly job related, but could be a consequence of the stress factor.
There could be synergy, in terms of lung caner induction, between inhaled particles and cigarette smoking.

It is correct that most skin cancers are not life threatening if caught early enough. Melanoma can be a bit insidious and difficult to treat.

Mine was the least problematic, a basal cell carcinoma.
However, my GP at the time categorically refused to refer me to a specialist and told me that it was nothing to worry about.
Having done an advanced dermatology refresher course, along with a local skin specialist, I decided to contact him directly.
He saw me, diagnosed basal cell carcinoma and arranged for the operation to remove it. He also wrote to my GP!
Wooops! That last posting was by me.
I was just reading an article about I-fags and it got me thinking....

I haven't had a cigarette in 18 years, I don't consider myself cured. I am just a smoker that isn't, at the moment, smoking. My problem is that I used to love smoking and I think smoking was also an important part of archaeological culture. Standing back from what you were doing, reviewing the progress of the trench/feature, it seemed natural to roll a cigarette and take the precise time it took to make and smoke (maybe a couple of minutes) to think about the job. Likewise communicating with your fellow workers it seemed natural to do so whilst sharing the social nicety of a cigarette.....what I know the Australians call a 'smoko'. Further you could see this extended into out of work hours. Many people who didn't normally smoke would have a cigarette with a beer with their colleagues.

I am not in anyway trying to justify smoking. I totally agree with Wax that it is injurious to health. But it used to be an important part of the way archaeologists interacted and I'm not sure that it has been adequately replaced. Of course there were always supervisors that seemed to think any respite from toil was a bad thing and frowned upon any kind of break. But I think they would object to the general principle of archaeologists talking to each other or standing back to review their work, so smoking wasn't really anything to do with their objection. I also think that John may have touched upon another aspect of archaeological smoking i.e as a means of stress relief. Sure fags don't do much good, but stress is a killer as well.

Yet to see an archaeologist smoking an I-fag by the way, but its probably only a matter of time.....
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
Flying a kite reduces blood pressure.....I have measured it when I was concerned about my late wife continuing kite flying well into the final stages of her illness.
Despite her pain and discomfort, it induced in her a sense of serenity. This is not unique to my wife.

Adding a camera can do the opposite with a beginner ;oO but this soon goes ;o)
Step back, admire your work from the ground and above, even if it is your first flight:
[Image: nms01.jpg]

However, I cannot imagine kite flying replacing the classical post-coital, cigarette smoking scenes in films.

Forget the fags.
As a postgraduate student, I remember cutting into blackened lobes of lungs handed to me in the operating theatre.
In some cases, the scalpel blade grated against the grittiness of the gathered debris.

Capture your site, frame it and hang it on the wall:
[Image: sitew04z.jpg]
Jim Knowles/CFA Archaeology site.

Double ditch swimming lanes with walled central sun bathing area?
These Iron Age people really knew how to live!
A friend who was an asthmatic and also an occasional smoker (I know!!) went along to his annual asthma clinic check-up and admitted to his doctor smoking the occasional fag. The doctor admonished him and said 'Look at this' and put a slide under the microscope. It was black. 'That' the doctor said 'was a lung section from a heavy smoker. Now look at this'...and he put another slide under the scope which this time was pink and detailed. 'What do you think about that?' the doctor asked. My friend thought a little and replied, 'I think I'd like to know what the guy with the pink lung died from'.....
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
My liver hurts.

Opps, meant to post that on "Three Word Days".

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