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Advice on bringing my field skills up to date?
It's been forever since I was on here, but hopefully you kind people can point me in the right direction.

After my so-called academic career proved to be a flop, I more or less gave up on archaeology. It's been ages since I worked on an excavation (2006) barring a couple of days spent as a volunteer. Most of my field experience is from survey-only projects in the USA and I studied rock art in my research (the recording of which required little more than a good pencil and a camera) so I never had that much excavation experience to begin with.

I'd like to get back into contract work but I am not at all confident that I know what I am doing, especially when it comes to paperwork! Can anyone recommend some good resources for getting up to date on field methods? Perhaps a good field guide or undergraduate textbook?
That's a very good question.

I'm not sure there is such a thing. Though there must be textbooks used on undergraduate courses? Anyone know?

In my humble opinion, the best way to learn is on the job as digging is more of a craft than a knowledge, also, different companies use different recording systems.

But then you may get trapped in the cycle of needing experience to get work, but can only get experience by working.
I'd say keep pestering units to give you work, ringing up every thursday or friday and politley asking if there is any work was how I did it. Do anything anywhere (within reason - just saw how that read!) that is offered and learn everything you can as fast as you can.

Also having a car (with buisness use insurance) a clean driving licence and the williness to carry folk and/or tools make you much more attractive as an employee.

Other than that, dunno, volunteer digs?

Anyone else got ideas?
Most employers don't need much pestering at the moment!

yes, just get a site job and it'll all come back to you after about 2 minutes in the mud
It's encouraging that there are more jobs going, finally! I might actually have a chance of getting outside once in a while.

Anyway, after asking here (ask first, research later?) I did some poking around on Amazon and came up with the following possibilities:
  • The Archaeology Coursebook: An Introduction to Themes, Sites, Methods and Skills by Jim Grant, Sam Gorin, Neil Fleming (aimed at A level students)
  • Techniques of Archaeological Excavation by Philip Barker
  • Digging Up the Past by John Collis
  • Excavation (Cambridge Manuals in Archaeology) by Steve Roskams

Any opinions on any of these? Apparently the Philip Barker book is, or was, the "bible" on the subject but as far as I can tell it hasn't been updated for 12 years or so. Not that your basic shovelling will have changed much in that time but I don't know how much modern techniques might have changed.
No idea if I am honest. I learnt it all on the job......being old.

Though in my day Refrew and Bahn was the 'bible' but not much about actual digging in it.
Probably read the lot, then you'll know more about how it should be being done, before being subjected to the cold light of what actually goes on... Sad
I think that Lesley and Roy Adkins - ''The Handbook Of British Archaeology'' is the best book on British archaeology. All periods covered extensively with plenty of illustrations, the second half of the book covers excavation / dating techniques in some detail. Well worth buying.
I like Peter Drewett's "Field Archaeology: An Introduction", it's a short and easy read that covers all the basics of practical work.
Personally I would read this...

Museum of London Archaeology
Service (now MOLA) archaeological site manual (1994)

Read it and see the full methodology in commercial ( we all do it.. come on admit it! )

In addition. Skills Passport provides these as the core skills required by a company

Correct use of Handtools
Site Formation Processes
Stratigraphic Excavation
Context Sheet Recording
Site Photography
Section Drawing
Collection of Samples
Artefact Recovery, Recording
& Storage
Site Safety

Site Grid and Trench Layout
Dumpy Level and Staff




Watch out with the molas guide fig. 30 where it indicates a pointing profile as tuck. It's more likely called beak or double struck which is proud. Can't say that I have seen any like it. Tuck pointing is a whole different gamet of pointing where brickies tried to mimick artisan rubbed and guaged brickwork joints by first filling the joint with brick coloured Mortar and then scored a grove into which they tucked a lighter coloured mortar (which then probably had to be trimmed) to give the impression of the thin joints that georgen brick makers/layers most notably laid on the facade but sometime all around buildings using bricks which might have been guaged or rubbed (both?). Some joints are around 2 to 3 mm and on arches and lintels almost imperceptible. It's only recently that some thin joint techniques have been brought back using light weight blocks but most brickies would run a mile if you suggested that they could lay anything less than around 10mm. Another problem with the term tuck pointing is that the Americans tend to use the term for repointing.

Kinda a bit of a big knowledge gap in the buildings recording of molas circa 1994?
.....nature was dead and the past does not exist

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