Archive for October 2007

EIA fun

October 29, 2007

I have been spending the last week and a half working on a, archaeology based, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). We the students are given a protected building/site and a fictitious proposed development; we then have to determine direct and setting impacts. First, we must present our case, and mitigation proposals, as if we were expert witnesses and then after we get the grilling or ‘constructive feed back’ we actually attempt to write the archaeology chapter of an Environmental Statement (ES).
My project is two blocks of flats (apartment buildings) that threaten Govan Old Parish Church. This church is on the site of an early Celtic church and had ‘hogback’ tombstones, which have Viking motifs carved on them. The flats are only near the site but they would block the line of sight from many public areas across the river Clyde.
I am currently torn about some potential mitigation solutions as the flat will be on the site of a 1910 shipbuilding area which was closed in the 1960s. Did this construction already ruin the archaeology bellow it? Should this site be preserved for future generation who will be interested by their distant industrial past?


October 21, 2007

Well I am officially a student representative for my class. I try to make improvements for later generations of archaeological students, and from an anthropology perspective, there is no better candidate than ‘the outsider’. I need to take some training that has been called ‘useless’ by past student reps I have talked with.
I handed in my first essay on Friday and once again culture shock hit me like a bucket of bricks. First, you need to hand in two copies of the essay, then you need to attach two ‘receipt pages’ to each. I noticed that even when you are handing in a dissertation, which only requires one paper copy and one electronic copy, you STILL need to fill out and attach two receipt pages. I can see why they were running out of trees in UK around the time of the industrial revolution.  For those who care my essay was on the impacts the Institute of Field archaeologists have had on ‘the profession’ in the UK.
As time marches on, I am confronted by my holiday options. As the Clash put it “Should I stay or should I go?”. I want to go home see my family and friends but I have already received numerous invitations to have Christmas in Europe (and new years in Paris).  Oh the burden of being loved!
Oh and I also watched the Brits loose to the Springbucks in last night’s World Cup Rugby final. Most of the Scots in the pub cheered when the  Brits lost so clearly the hatred continues.

British Archaeology the land of acronyms!

October 12, 2007

After reading legal documents, ethics papers and Institute of Field Archaeologist (IFA) papers on their plans for the future, I have concluded that British archaeology is the land of acronyms. I am an outsider in a jargon filled field of study, and I thought understanding a fast talking Scotsman at a pub was hard. Many professors I have talked to believe that jargon is a type of language to keep the secrets of their knowledge away from those who did not rise up through the trials and tribulations that THEY had to face. Let is be known that jargon has regional dialects (or rejargon as I like to call it)! I believe part of the problem is that there are so many organizations floating around like dead fish in a red tide of ink!

Lets play ‘What does it mean?’
Is it
a)    A terrorist cell of archaeologists
b)    A non government organization
c)    A education design

It’s a education design! I still don’t know what it stands for! Every time I try to look it up I’m swamped with adverts for online schools!

How about Cadw?
Oh I won’t waste your time, it is a trick question! Cadw not an acronym it is Welsh for ‘keep’ and refers to the Welsh version of ‘English Heritage’. Regional jargon ahoy!
Well I am off to have some Taiwanese food with my flat mates and a night filled with BEERS. BEERS of course meaning Brain Endangered by Ethanol at a Rapid State

Archaeological Legislation (aka Justice the Shovelbum)

October 5, 2007

Yes archaeology from a legal standpoint, truly a yawn-inspiring subject but I found some very interesting differences and similarities. The first major difference I noticed is that an archaeologist in the UK is not require to have a license or required to produce a report at the end of a dig. Currently the Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA) is attempting to get chartered but my professors seem pessimistic that it will happen in MY lifetime.
The second major difference is that everything of value, i.e. pretty treasure or musueum quality artifact (GOLD!!!), belongs to the Queen under ‘Bona Vacantia’ but she never takes ownership and she passes it off to a heritage board which determines which museum gets what. Ironically Scotland is now a nation within a country and the export of artifacts, even for further analysis by experts, is illegal, so if the Queen wants you to pick up some gold artifacts for her make sure she writes you a note first.
Another difference I noticed is the treatment of ‘important’ sites and monuments. In the UK there are three ways to protect a site/monument. The first is to give it ‘Scheduled’ status, which means it is considered ‘nationally important’. The second is to give it ‘Listed’ status (usually given to buildings), which means it has architectural and/or historic importance. The third is to give it Conservation Area status, which seems to be the only way to protect a battlefield, such as Culloden. There is currently no protection for battlefields as there is usually nothing ‘standing’ to protect so it falls through the legal cracks. In Canada (I believe) that Parks Canada simply buys or acquires the land and looks after it (but I don’t really know so please don’t quote me on this).
A similarity I noticed from my time in Canada and the UK is a legal black hole when it comes to the treatment of human remains. Do you study them or rebury them? Do you use a religious ceremony and if so which one? In Canada, there are living relatives for prehistoric bodies that are uncovered so they can advise us on treatment and/or perform the proper reburial rituals if necessary. One thing that seems to unite all archaeologists is the lack of any uniform method for the treatment of human remains. Finding a burial is exciting and often fascinating but inevitably once the press or public is involved it is like hosting a tap-dance recital on thin ice.

My course outline

October 1, 2007

I had my first class today; there are four other people in my class with only one other ‘North American’ and one other male student. The following is the break down of my course, which consists of four parts. The first part is the ‘core courses’, which are further broken down into three parts ‘research training courses’ ‘the context of professional archaeology’ and ‘the practice of professional archaeology’. The second part is the optional modules where you pick the courses you want from a list of eleven choices, assuming they are all offered. The third part is ‘work placement’ which runs for 8-10 weeks and according to the head of my department there is a great deal of flexibility on which projects you work on or who you work with. Last year on student did a surface survey of a small island while another student worked for a heritage organization assessing monument reports. The final part is a short dissertation or a research report that weighs in at 6-8 thousand words. The workload became clear today when we received the course reading list and my jaw literally dropped, at least the majority of them are online so I don’t have to take out a loan simply to buy my textbooks.