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Archaeology

As well as being the first of June, today is the first day of the last month of my contract at the the University. I have very mixed feelings. It has been a wonderful job to have in many ways, but recently I’ve felt like I could do so much more. The old brain hasn’t been really challenged for a while.

Like last time I was in this postion (see also this post from last year) I am feeling disillusioned with Archaeology as a career. I love it. Absolutely love it and its all I’ve ever wanted to do (ask my P1 teacher) but there just aren’t the jobs. I know I’ll have to do something else to earn money until a career job (like something awesome in archaeological computing or publishing or archiving) comes up to apply for.

I know that I’m in a better position than this time last year when living in Loughborough where they didn’t seem to want to employ anyone who can read or write lest they upset the be-tracksuited masses.  At least now I live in a proper city with potential jobs, even gap-filling ones. I also know that we’re lucky to live in a house that is cheap and we won’t get booted out of if I can’t find something.

However, as parents have recently been fond of pointing out, I’m not getting any younger and if I want to start a new career, as opposed to just a job, then I should probably do it sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I shall religiously check BAJR, museum jobs and jobs.ac.uk as well as the Royal Commission, NMRs, SMRs and libraries etc with my morning coffee until I find something. At least I’ll have more time for knitting and baking – maybe I could time travel back to the 1950’s and become a housewifey? :p

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So this past few days of sunshine and gloriously warm temperatures has been lovely – right? Well, apparently not for everyone. The following story popped up in my RSS BBC Newsfeed for ‘archaeology’. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8698586.stm. ‘Mike from York’ obviously needs a cool G&T – talk about making archaeologists sound like a bunch of whingers!

Yesterday I attended a STAR project workshop. Semantic Technologies for Archaeological Resources. It is a joint University of Glamorgan and English Heritage project and aims to:

“investigate the potential of semantic terminology tools for widening and improving access to digital archaeology resources, including disparate data sets and associated grey literature.”

What they were showing yesterday was a demonstrator, which seemed to work really well. You could search across datasets (including the Silchester LEAP stuff *hooray!*) and use a very simple interface to search on contexts, finds, samples or groups. Everything relies on being able to map datasets to the CIDOC-CRM EH version using existing guides like the National Monuments Thesauri, MIDAS lists and other FISH approved terminology lists.

The whole day was interesting but what I think really stood out was the potential for searching the vast amount of grey literature (see for example OASIS). Okay, so the demonstrator wasn’t perfect, some of the natural language processing sometimes got it a bit wrong, but isn’t that better than the current alternative – which is to search them all by eye?! I loved it. Second place for exciting idea of the day goes to the potential in the demonstrator to search across datasets that relate to your own research interest. I can see how you could (relatively quickly) come up with basic distributions for a particular site or find type based on the grey literature and excavation database. You could start to use this to redress the huge gap between what academics say a distribution of thing x is and what recent commerical excavations have added. Like using the Portable Antiquities Scheme but for actual excavation data!

Awesome, says I. Real, actual progress in archaeology. Well done Glamorgan and EH.

It is now day 29 of officially having no job, archaeological or otherwise. The first week or so was spent up North seeing relatives but since then I’ve mostly been at home.

What to do, what to do? More spare time than I’ve ever had in the world but I’m not sure what to do with it. The house is cleaner than it’s ever been, the jungle that was the garden as been tidied up and is now semi-presentable, I’ve nearly finished knitting a lovely soft fluffy cardi, unfinished books have been finished and new recipies have been baked and cooked.

Don’t get me wrong, its fun and everything but I’m rapidy running out of things to do. I’ve applied for some ‘until-i-get-another-archaeology-job’ vacancies in town but some have told me that I’m basically overqualified and they don’t think I’ll stay.There aren’t any archaeology/museum/heritage jobs to apply for right now either.

What are you supposed to do?

Tomorrow is the interview day for the Manchester job, and I haven’t heard anything so I’m guessing I didn’t make the shortlist.

Annoying,  because it seemed quite cool. It was also the only, I mean only, archaeology job to apply for. With only a few weeks left of my Reading Uni contract things are not looking good. Things don’t look like they’ll pick up in the near future, so it’s just as well I have a really understanding other half. The plan now is to move in with him and make the dinner whilst he beavers away in the lab, finishing off the phd.

I’ll keep my eyes open for archaeology work, but am not hopeful, especially with more and more stories in the news like this: from todays Telegraph. I’ll need a job though, so back to the job pages for normal, non academic, non archaeology people  – its been years since I’ve had to do that! Not sure I remember how! Will I have to make a second cv, one without publications? Do I have to play down my research and teaching experience? Eeek. It’s all quite scary.

Hours of my time since the end of the holidays have been taken up with running around after artefacts, changing outfits, and delving into mythology and archaeology. Yes, a typical day for an archaeology researcher so ticking all the boxes of my day job but also Tomb Raider underworld.

Yes, the first new opiate of 2009 has been discovered by me! And I love it. I’ve lved all the Tomb radiers. Yes, I know that the controls for the playstation were odd, i know that the pointy boobs in the early games were annoying, that the exact lining up of jumps on the pc was frustrating and that the stories just get more and more weird, but what other game makes Archaeology look so cool and therefore is the perfect antidote to the current crisis in that field? (Actually, the archaeologist quests in Fable 2 are pretty cool.) I’ll post more about it here when I get a few levels through, but so far, so good!