I’ve come to a point in my life where I can think it all over. This is probably because of the desperate situation UK archaeology is facing due to the deepening recession, it’s all very closed doors, redundency after redundency, 100’s of archaeologists losing their jobs, probably the worst recession in 100 years and the worst for the profession. So many highly qualified and experienced archaeologists with a passion for what they do best, now unemployed… We hear of many reduncies in the news but what about the archaeological profession, especially in the UK?
It’s an amazing subject, for me I am so passionate about the subject, to physically try to unravel our past is something I feel lucky to be able to do and this can take you anywhere in the world… one minute looking for archaeological sites on a very very cold and wet winters day in the UK, or caught in a sandstorm on a walk-over survey in the desert, to evaluation trenching in some very beautiful place, or coming across a UXO or two next to the most fascinating archaeological site… or, coming into land after a great aerial photographic trip to photograph sites when all of a sudden the windspeed drops and the microlight drops like a stone just missing the ground after full power to recover… the variety of archaeology, the excavations, the discoveries, the amazing people, it’s such a unique profession…
But there is something bugging me…
When the next economic boom comes, I worry for the situation not improving for all those that especially work or want to work in commercial archaeology, if you are lucky enough to still have a job in the profession that is. Poor pay and working conditions, the commercial sector exploiting the skills of highly qualified people when the construction industry as a whole is a well-paid sector, £10-£15 per hour for a painter and decorator for example and I have seen these tradesman paint doors from the bottom up, there really is something wrong, not quite right. I have heard that developers will pay whatever commercial units set their rates at. In all fareness archaeology does suffer under commercial, commercial has it’s good points, without PPG16, etc, much of our heritage would have been lost under a pile of modern developments but poorly paid workers leads to bad workmanship, i believe in doing things right and to IFA standards, ive seen it many times though and had to pick up the pieces on sites under pressure to meet deadlines…
Surely it’s about time the commercial sector really started to move the profession forward, or at least plan ahead inpreperation for the next boom…it’s an opportunity now to do so.
The recent Time Team programme really surprised me to, I watched it purely because of my interest in the Iron Age/Roman transition, Idon’t want it so much these days. Not revuing fieldwalking results before trenching…what is that all about? Im sure Time Team give archaeology a bad name some times, they certainly show the fun side. They should show the other side to it, the surveying, the recording system, the recording of finds, just how much is involved, they should even show how an archaeologist excavates a feature. It doesn’t have to be boring either for the viewer. Lets give archaeology a real boost. This would probably help archaeologists that are unemployed now, getting work elsewhere in other professions if the programme really showed just how skilled archaeologists can be. That way employers would really understand the background, the behind the scenes… Not the usual “Have you found any gold?” I sound like Victor Meldrew, really Im not, I just love archaeology…Nobody seems to be prepared to really overhaul the profession, we might like all things old, we might enjoy our unique camaraderie on site, but lets stick together, afterall this is the 21st century…archaeologists are priceless…
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