What’s Next? After the Field…

When people hear you’re an archaeologist, talk quickly turns to fieldwork, and, let’s face it Indiana Jones didn’t spend much time behind a desk (or at least, those bits were left out of the movies). It’s true that some of the most exciting work as an archaeologist happens in the field, where we collect and record primary archaeological data, and have the odd non-archaeological adventure along the way, but fieldwork is just one part of a what we do.

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As a researcher in a university, the vast majority of what I do (commercial archaeologists dig year round – kudos!) is desktop based, and can involve a heady mix of sample and data analyses, academic administration, interpretation of results and writing, writing, writing, both of journal articles and funding proposals  for more fieldwork and/or salary!

It’s been a little over two months since Harry and I, the last to leave Saudi Arabia, touched down at London Heathrow (on the second attempt, thanks UK in February!)after the Dabsa field season. It feels like a world away, and from my desk in Sydney, it technically is, but it’s also because of the amount of work winding up a field season entails – contrary to my last post, it’s not over even when the in-country post-excavation analysis is over…

Since the end of fieldwork I have:

  • Collated all the receipts from the field, and any remaining Saudi Riyals, for the report on expenditure – useful to do this before team members wash trousers with vital receipts in the pockets…
  • Scanned all field notebooks for backup – holding our field observations and records, the loss of a notebook can be catastrophic!
  • Organised all the spatial data collected in the field, tidying up mistakes and creating a clean, single record, and creating shapefiles in a GIS for data display and analysis.
  • Drafted a report on our activities and preliminary findings to be submitted to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), and to the various funders of our research (British Academy, British Foundation for the Study of Arabia, Wainwright Fund).
  • Developed and submitted a funding proposal to NERC for the dating of the tufa and basalt samples collected in 2017 which will tell us more about the timing of landscape development at Dabsa, and the activity within it.
  • Logged the collected samples from the field season, and prepared them for transport to SUERC and Manchester – and started to scope out whether anyone from York might be visiting these places anytime soon and wouldn’t mind another box in the car to save on shipping…
  • Written and delivered seminars on the 2017 work at Dabsa at LaTrobe University (Melbourne) and the University of Sydney.
  • Written and designed a poster on the 2017 Dabsa results for the European Geosciences Union session that I am co-convening next week on geoarchaeological approaches to human-environment interactions.

So that’s why the blog has been quiet for a while. And it continues! Next on the list is the development of  the report from the season into a paper describing our geoarchaeological approaches, and their importance for unravelling the history of artefact deposition at Wadi Dabsa, as well as dealing with edits I just received from a paper from my PhD data, before I fly to Vienna for the EGUs (a great mix of science and catching up with collaborators to plot more work). One thing you can say about this job, it’s definitely never the same from one day to the next…


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