Archive for May 2008

Indiana Jones and the Risk Assessment Form!

May 21, 2008

With the upcoming release of the movie “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, archaeology is again at the forefront of media attention. Some of my comrades directed me to the following article on how Indiana Jones does not seem to be a real archaeologist. It is shocking, I know. The fictional Dr. Jones is more of a scruffy, Nazi-slaughtering, ‘tomb raider’ (yes Lara Croft you are an archaeological criminal as well). Listen I hate fascism so I don’t mind the departure of a few racist goons but taking artifacts out of context (without employing the proper procedures) and making the entire field of archaeology appear to be a ghoulish endeavor through the desecration of graves (via his use of a femur bone as a torch), this just not acceptable Indy!

Many will be saddened to know that archaeology is not one big adventure. Sure it is not your normal job as I was firing muskets two weeks ago but it is a job. Although, archaeologists are sometimes called the “cowboys of science” we try very hard to come across as professional and an important part of the planning/pre construction process. How else can we bring our wages to acceptable levels? A field archaeologist, with a university degree, in the UK makes £15k that is not enough money to start paying back any type of student loan. I think I mentioned this earlier but back in Canada a construction worker with a high school degree makes more money that an archaeologist with a university degree. The big question is will this newest movie help or hinder us in our cause. Only time will tell. The next big question is will it entertain us. *Fingers crossing* I sure hope so!

While ‘true’ archaeology can often be very boring, tedious, and makes very bad TV shows/films. Can you imagine Harrison Ford’s character filling out paperwork for his adventures? Hell, I would love to read THAT risk assessment form!

  • Project leader: Dr. Henry ‘Indiana’ Walton Jones, Jr
  • Sources of risks and associated/potential risk/s

The jungle-illness, damage/destruction of equipment, personal injury and/or death

Pit lined with spears-personal injury or death

Pressure triggered blowgun traps-personal injury or death

Optically triggered spear trap-personal injury, death and/or loss of treacherous guide

Pressure triggered ‘rolling rock’ trap-personal injury, death and/or loss of Fedora hat

Treacherous guide-becoming stranded in a collapsing temple in an unfamiliar jungle with an angry tribe likely leading to climatic meeting with personal nemesis, personal injury and/or death

Armed and angry indigenous tribe-personal injury or death. Highly likely that it will lead to death as I am stealing their sacred idol and can’t speak their language

Snake in cockpit of seaplane-loss of temper with pilot over choice of pets

  • Practices, methods and techniques that will be employed to minimize risks

“Stay(ing) out of the light.”

Running like hell and employing fancy footwork

Employing a bullwhip to bypass obstacles

Utilizing a bag of sand as a counterweight when attempting overcome traps meant to stop the looting the sacred site

Swimming across an unfamiliar body of water to escape via seaplane

Somehow, I cannot imagine him getting the funding for that particular project. He didn’t even think of wearing a ‘high-viz’ leather jacket or a saftey-Fedora, pfft… rookie mistake.

I have to say though I have had fun thinking this up. I will likely continue this kind of joke as the countdown to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skill continues.

Better health and a more mature self

May 20, 2008

I can tell I am an adult now. How can I tell this? Well for starters, while I am typing this post I am sipping on a glass on Laphroaig whisky. First, that alcohol ‘wince’ has long since surrendered thereby allowing me to finally taste the subtitles of Scottish whisky. This newfound ability to ‘taste’ whisky is only part of my maturity milestone. Another maturity milestone is the ability to find a sense of satisfaction with my job (placement…for now) this whisky represents a reward for a job well done, in a non-alcoholic way. Many of my visions of the working man is one who drags his bedraggled body through the door and pours himself a stiff drink. Note that this vision is that from television and not from my family life.
Today I felt I gave my all to my work, luckily my work does not evoke the seemingly soul-crushing feelings which plagues the tie-clad, borderline alcoholic television personality. Instead of wanting to drown my sorrows in an ocean of booze, I find myself beaming with pride at my accomplishments. I archived the paper work from three different sites; normally it takes me just under a day to archive one site. Big boy pants ahoy! Now I just have to wait on that final batch of chest hair and everything else will fall into place.
Not only have I hit a maturity milestone but I have also hit a ‘project milestone’. Today I finished archiving the second season of Two Men in a Trench, which is another source of pride. Between the two seasons I shuffled, shorted, and shipped 1084 documents; I am now moving on other projects but anything else is a bonus. Next week I will begin digitizing the drawings, pictures and slides from the projects. Other plans for my work placement include: checking out the artefact assemblage and the survey data, working on a competitive tendering document, and more!
Although my work will continue, soon, I will be without a work placement patriarch. My boss is going to France to undertake trial excavations on what WW1 Astro-German archives suggests, and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) has confirmed, to be the mass grave of over 400 soldiers from “the Great War” (sorry about the lack of names but I don’t wish to step on any toes). Such is the life of a world-renowned battlefield archaeology.
Oh, I have also started up a Flickr account so I can share some of my European adventure pictures. My user name on the site is Ridgeway Williams, feel free to have a browse of my photos but if you decide to use them please give me credit and cut me in if you are trying to make money off them.  I learned about Flicker through the photography podcast “This Week in Photography (TWIP)”. I enjoy the podcasts but the website is somewhat less intimidating for beginning photographers (like myself) as it ‘drops’ considerably less names and terms which maybe confusing to those who are not professionals. The website also acts as a portal to the portfolios (on Flickr) of tremendously talented people (check out the winners from their themed biweekly competitions), one can always become inspired by taking in some the amazing art, and knowhow, that is being shared.
Speaking of art, this whisky is like the perfect combination of a goose bump-inspiring photo, a childhood lullaby and the smell of a summer bonfire carried by an ocean breeze.

Brown Bess and Tonsillitis

May 14, 2008

I love working in the battlefield archaeology center. Last week one of my coworkers casually asked me if I wanted to shoot off some muskets after work. Clearly, I said yes and it is great fun. I was wearing my aviators, under the required goggles, and I felt very Hunter S. Thompson-ish. Now we weren’t just shooting the guns to sound cool. We were conducting an experiment on the correlation between the final appearance of the musket balls and the soil in which they embedded themselves. We did the shooting at “the farm” which had a hill, which we used as a back catcher for any rogue musket balls, and a lot of sheep around ahh Scotland.

On the less fun side of my life I was just informed that I have tonsillitis. Yesterday it felt like I was swallowing razorblades and then the fever hit. It is a cruel trick to be sweating buckets and feeling freezing cold simultaneous. I tried to go to the clinic yesterday but they are closed on Tuesday afternoon for no apparent reason. I dragged my carcass out of bed this morning and now I am popping penicillin tic-tacs and I already feel a bit better.

It is times like this that I appreciate the diversity of sources for innovation and discovery. It seems to me that the words which follow the greatest discoveries and innovations are some form of “what the hell”. Clearly, I am thinking directly, and thankful, of Fleming’s contaminated plate culture. Henri Becquerel and the discovery of radiation is another great example. Becquerel left a bag of uranium salts on some photographic film and, on a hunch, developed the film only to find that the salts had fogged, by exposure to radiation, the portion of the film they were sitting on. My knowledge of the effects of radiation hurts me to think about carelessly throwing bags of radioactive stuff about but I can’t really judge the person who first discovered it. One could argue that another example of careless behavior is giving black powder muskets to a bunch archaeologists. Ya seriously who does that?

Job placement announcement

May 1, 2008

I apologize for using a teaser and then following it up with only the deafening sounds of silence. Come to think of it, my blog is always silent but you get the point.

My work placement will be very diverse but the part, that is concrete and, I am excited about is my involvement with battlefield archaeology. I, think, I can safely announce that I am compiling the work undertaken by the British archaeological television show “Two Men in a Trench”. There are at least twelve battlefields; they range in dates from the medieval era to the Second World War. The battles include Culloden, Bannockburn, Dover, and Flodden just to name a few.

I will be working on the largest archaeological evaluation of battlefields in Europe! I think I am actually compiling the largest archaeological evaluations of battlefields in the world but I can’t prove that and I don’t care enough to waste my time looking in it to. If you somehow do know that my work constitutes as the largest in the world, don’t even tell me; my ego is just the right size and I think I would just look silly with a “big head”.

There is talk of a lot of other cool stuff but nothing is certain and I do not want to come across as a liar, a braggart or some unholy combination of the two. I am content to ride this crazy wave for now.

OK I have to brag here for a minute. I get to work on the first battle where that new-founded “grenade” was used. Back in the day when they looked like something Wyle E. Coyote would use to try to kill Roadrunner, and no I don’t mean anvils either. Being in Scotland I find it interesting that I get to work on the battles where Scotland gained, and then lost, its independence. Heck, I get to be a true spectator to the very poor military track record of Scottish rebellions. Hold on a second, didn’t I just promise not to brag and doesn’t that make me a liar? And so the slow descent begins.

Well my lunch break is over so I probably should get back to…wait for it…archiving the last “pitched” battle in the UK. Yes, that is correct, right now I am thumbing through the mud-caked field records of Culloden. It is like being there, minus the blood, the mud or both. Wait, did you hear that? That my friends, is the sound of my blog is silently yelling with joy.