Sunday, 25 November 2007

Step 1: identity

The relationship between an archaeologist and their trowel is powerful. As Matt Lemke's collection of testimonies (in Trowels , in Assemblage 2 (1997), shows, the trowel is not a tool, it is almost an extension of the digger's self. I found myself as outraged by the person who kept several trowels as I would have been by a bigamist. Having-a-trowel is assumed to be identical to being-an-archaeologist.

Or see Chapter 4 of Matt Edgeworth's Act of Discovery: an ethnography of archaeological practice (pdf e-book), where (on p. 94), he says:

"A well-worn trowel is taken to symbolize the experience and skill of the digger ... Clearly it is not just a functional implement ... but also an object of significance in itself".

But what do you call an archaeologist who doesn't use a trowel? Here I think, is the explanation for the historic antipathy between diggers and people like geophysics, finds and environmental specialists, may appear on site but don't quite belong. That is perhaps a minor issue of politics; more important is the effect it has on the diggers as they progress through their careers.

It is common to meet senior managers who feel, and even say, that they belong on site, digging things up, and would do so if they could get all this management stuff out of the way. This is a recipe for disaster: any sane analysis of the skills and training that someone need as should be based on what their role is, not what they wished it was.

As a starting point, you could consider the following questions:

Do you excavate?
Do you record?
Do you analyse?
Do you interpret?
Do you administer?
Do you monitor?
Do you manage?
Do you enable?

You could then, if you wish, have a rather sterile debate about which activities were still 'real' archaeology, and which were not. More importantly, those who have drifted to the latter end of the list, in search of status, security, and power, must recognise that they are no longer directly involved in investigating the archaeological resource. Until they face up to this, a process which may well involve some mourning, they will fail at their new role, since they will place no value on managerial tasks, will be uninterested in fulfilling them efficiently, and will instead embroil themselves in interfering with the archaeological conduct of excavations at the slightest opportunity.

If, after careful thought, you realise that you are still at heart a digger, but your job title says manager, you will probably be happier and more effective if you change jobs. If you decide you want to be a manager, your should equip yourself for that role as best as you can.

Step 1: What is your current role?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you hold copyright on your "work" you are an archaeologist. If you dont you're a muppet, probably working in some charity scam pretending that it is part of the civil service