blogging archaeology

#259 Social Media Research

Hey everyone...I'm passing along a research study from a student in the Netherlands that is do a master's thesis on the use of blogs and social media in making archaeology accessible to the public. Fleur Schinning is wanting to know some demographics and some thoughts about the blog you're reading now. The questions, most anyway, are designed to ask you about THIS blog. So, answer honestly!

I'm chairing a session on social media and archaeology at the EAA in Glasgow this September and I've chair the Blogging Archaeology session at the SAAs for the past several years. I'm very interested in social media and it's power to make archaeology more widely understood by the public and to educate the public and professionals alike.

So, help Fleur out and take the survey. There is a link here:

If you want to see the questions first, there in THIS PDF.

Thanks for helping out and hopefully making blogging more effective and more productive.

One more thing...I haven't been on here much because most of my efforts go into the Archaeology Podcast Network. If you haven't checked it out, head over to the website and give it a listen. We have seven shows and more on the way.

Also, if you're in the San Diego area on July 25 come be and hear me talk about digital field archaeology in CRM at the monthly meeting of the San Diego Archaeological Society. The talk is at 8pm at the Los Penasquitos Ranch House: 12350 Black Mountain Rd., San Diego, CA 92129.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field!!

#225 #BlogArch March - Where is blogging going?


So, I completely missed February. Between trying to pay the bills, a huge proposal I had to write, and starting a second company (more on that in a future post) the time just got away from me. Nothing has changed, since I'm writing this on my iPad while walking so I don't get behind in the Great Archaeology Step Challenge over on FitBit. Maybe I need to move to Mars. That extra hour or so every day would really come in handy.


The Question

Doug's final question for the blogging carnival is: Where are you/we going with blogging, or, where would you like to go?"

The Answer

The simple answer is that I would like to see blogging become a jumping off point for conversations in different mediums and among different people. Good blogs should turn into TV shows, documentaries, books, and podcasts. Start the conversation on the blog and continue it elsewhere. 

Some blogs already do this in various ways. A few are syndicated on larger websites and some bloggers have been asked to write for larger media outlets. My own blog is coming out in a few weeks as a book from Left Coast Press. Well, part of a series I did, anyway.  

So, where should we be going? We should be using our blogs to engage with the public. Some bloggers seem to write for others in thier profession. To me, this is a little like preaching to the choir. I understand it in many cases, but, I think we need to spend more time explaining what we do to the public. After all, our job is only half done when the research is finished and the report is written.



We'll be talking about some of this at the Blogging Archaeology session at the SAAs this year. I'm hoping to have a meetup with four of the panelists from the CRM Archaeology Podcast where we can continue the discussion. I'd like to buy a few more microphones and a mixer so we can do a live recorded question and answer show too. If you find value in what we do, click through to the website, if you're not already here, and click the donate link. Every amount helps and you'll be entered into a drawing for the book I mentioned above.

Thank you to Doug for organizing this blogging carnival! I think it's been a rewarding and insightful experience for everyone involved.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field, and, at the SAAs! 

#218 #BlogArch Carnival January: Best Posts


We’re moving forward with Doug’s Archaeology Carnival and this is my January post. I like to wait until the end of the month so I can wait for everyone else to post. That way I can see what they do that I like, what I don’t like, and take all the good parts and call them my own. Sort of like Apple does with technology. And, like Apple, I make take those ideas and make them iAwesome! Right.

I figured a post that essentially boils down to a popularity contest should start with a little bombastic ego boosting. Feel free to comment your ass off so this can be the post I talk about next year.


It can be difficult to measure the “worth” of a particular post. Some posts receive comments, some don’t . Some get a lot of “page views” and some don’t. Then there are the unique views. Those are supposedly the views that count only once per person visit. That means you get counted only once even if you use the same device to check out a post several times in one day. Many bloggers say the unique views are the ones that count. Apparently the bots the troll the internet, such as Google Search, hit sites multiple times which inflates your page view count. I don’t know whether that’s true, and frankly, I don’t care much.

I don’t have any hard numbers on comments, views, or unique views because I switched from Squarespace 5 to Squarespace 6 last March. When I did that I lost my metrics for Squarespace 5 which accounted for my first 115 or so blog posts. I can tell you, however, which posts were more popular.

By far, my most popular post was the one I made about getting fired for blogging. It happend soon after I started my blog and I’m pretty sure I had over 600 unique views on that post in just a couple days. I keep getting hits on it so I’m sure it’s over several thousand by now.

My most popular series is my “Shovelbums Guide”. It seems that people like this stuff. I named the posts so they are highly searchable as well, so, I think a lot of non-archaeologists end up finding them on Google. The posts were so popular, in fact, that I decided to make an eBook out of them. I happened to have a rough draft of the book on my iPad at the SAAs in Hawai’i last year when I stopped by the Left Coast Press booth. My plan was to ask one of the editors, Caryn Berg, if she thought it would make a good book. I had no intention of publishing it traditionally. She told me that it was a great idea and encouraged me to put in a proposal. I did…the book will be out in April, just in time for a book signing at the SAAs in Austin!

Right now I get between 2500 and 3500 unique hits per month on my blog. It’s pretty steady, even though I don’t blog on a strict schedule. I think I’ve created enough content that I get a lot of hits from people just searching terms on search engines.

I hope to expand on the blog in the future. What I really want is to have a community of CRM bloggers that blog for the DIGTECH CRM Archaeology Blogging Network. That sounds ambitious, I know, but some many people blog so infrequently that they never get exposure. I’d love to see a number of bloggers blogging on here about CRM topics so there is always something good and no one feels pressured by a schedule. What do you think? If you want to joint me and blog on the Random Acts of Science blog, let me know!

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!

#217 Archaeology Site Visit: A Requirement for Understanding?

Northwestern Nevada.

Northwestern Nevada.

I’m reading an article in the recent issue of Nevada Archaeologist (available to a select number of people and therefore virtually invisible) by a former professor of mine and it made me think of a few things I want to discuss here.

Leach, Melinda, William Swearson, Amber Summers-Graham, and Katie Graham

2013      “Good Luck in Making Unexpected and Fortunate Discoveries”: Teaching and Learning at Serendipity Shelter. Nevada Archaeologist 26:85-103.

The article is generally about the excavations that have taken place at the prehistoric site, Serendipity Shelter, over the past several decades. Serendipity Shelter is located in the northwestern corner of Nevada in a very remote, and difficult to get to, area. 

Much of the article is dedicated to explaining how volunteers have contributed to the excavations and analysis at the site. Volunteers from a number of agencies, and from the Surprise Valley community, have excavated there over the years. Students at the University of North Dakota (UND) did much of the sorting and analysis of the artifacts recovered during the excavations. As part of the article, several of these students discussed their experiences with Serendipity Shelter and described their first trip out there after working for countless hours in the lab.

It’s with the student narratives that I take issue and want to discuss.

Lithic Landscape: Obsidian in Northwestern Nevada.

Lithic Landscape: Obsidian in Northwestern Nevada.

All three of the students that relayed their experiences in the article worked on the artifact collection in the lab at UND. At least one worked on the collection for four years! Throughout that time they saw virtually every artifact, including tools, lithic debitage, flakes, some pottery, and faunal bone. Presumably, they were discussing with Dr. Leach the setting at Serendipity Shelter and had possibly even seen pictures of the site. Still, though, all three said that there was no substitute for actually being on the site. Without that experience, they couldn’t properly place the artifacts in context and see them in relation to the people that created them and lived, or at least stayed, there. Really?

To me, this is one of the reasons we have looting and inappropriate site visitations. It’s the reason people go to sites, instead of being content to read about them. I would say that most, verging on all, archaeological sites are not talked about in a publicly accessible forum. Only a handful are managed by an agency or private interest that allows people to visit. Fewer still are written about in popular archaeology books. Even fewer are shown, usually not very well, on television during specials on esteemed networks like Discovery and the History Channel (#sarcasm).

Even if a site makes it to a publicly accessible medium, what are the chances it was written about in a way that satisfies the curiosity of the reader? Even after four years of working on the artifacts from Serendipity Shelter and after four years of talking about the site, the students in the article were unable to comprehend the site without a visit. What does that say about how we talk about and describe sites? I understand that visiting a site is a truly immersive and inspiring experience, but, it shouldn’t be a requirement. 

I guess what I’m saying is that we need more areas where the public can access information and description about archaeological sites so they won’t be tempted to visit them and possibly take something from them. If blog posts were written so the title came up in a Google search about a site, then perhaps an inquisitive person would read the post and be satisfied by the description. Perhaps not. I don’t know.

Really, I just want to start a conversation about descriptive site information and about getting that out to the public in a way that doesn’t damage the site or the wishes of the people who’s ancestors lived at the site. I’ve seen some great blog posts with awesome descriptions and pictures of sites. They were so good that I felt I was actually there, in some cases. If more companies and agencies would let their people blog about sites then maybe the public would be satisfied enough to not want to go find the site and potentially damage it.

What do you think? Am I way off base here? This question is part of what I’ll talk about in my presentation during the Blogging Archaeology session at the 2014 SAAs in Austin. Don’t forget to stop by Saturday morning!

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!

#201 #SAA2014 #BlogArch Carnival November

BlogArch Logo.jpg

From Doug's Archaeology Blog: At this year’s SAA conference there is going to be an amazing Blogging in Archaeology session [which I'm chairing, incidentally]. It has been a few years since there has been one. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend the session and I know a couple of other archaeology bloggers who can’t either. My way of contributing is to widen the participation by hosting a blogging carnival (what’s a blogging carnival, click here) on archaeology and blogging. This was done for the last blogging session by Colleen and this is inspired by her work.

Question 1: Why blogging? Why did you start a blog?

I've written about this before. Actually I probably wrote about it in my very first post, as I suspect most people do. I'm going to write about it again, however, because of the importance of the circumstances.

Prior to the SAAs in Sacramento in 2011 I wasn't a blogger and I didn't even read any blogs. Blogs were pretty much off my radar. Since I wasn't on Twitter either, that was likely the reason. I was always very interested in blogging, however. I'm one of those arrogant bastards that thinks everything he says is important and profound. It's true. Just ask me.

Actually, my first thoughts about writing recreationally  about archaeology started on my very first project. I'm the type of person that reads instructions, reads technical manuals, and follows recipes. The fact that there wasn't a book I could read that would tell me how to be a CRM archaeologist really annoyed me. After a couple jobs I thought I should write one. I even went so far as to send in a table of contents and sample chapter to the people at Rough Guides. They said it was too much of a "niche" market. These are the same publishers with a "Rough Guide to Opera". Right.

Fast forward to 2011. I have a fresh MS degree in Archaeological Resource Management and I'm at the SAAs. I was starting to get more interested in talking about archaeology and was intrigued by the Blogging Archaeology session organized by Coleen Morgan. What I saw not only humbled me, but, blew me away.

While I was waiting for the session to start I opened a Twitter account because of the Twitter information on the projector screen at the front of the room. I was amazed at the behind-the-scenes activity going on! I was also pissed that I wasn't part of it.

After hearing some awesome papers by awesome people I immediately went back to my hotel room and started a blog. I wrote my first post that day and tweeted it out. I had an initial surge in followers to my twitter handle and my blog, but they fell off and things equalized. Now, my blog is read by about 2000-4000 unique visitors a month (about 10,000 page views a month) and I have over 560 Twitter followers.

My blog is designed to help fellow archaeologists. Occasionally I'll talk about a specific project, but, that's usually not allowed in CRM so I stay away from it. Also, being fired twice for blogging will make you a little gun shy. It's one of the reasons I started my own company. Ef those bastards. I'll just blog about my own projects.

I have a series of posts under the title, "Shovelbums Guide" where I give helpful information to new and experienced archaeologists. Recently I started a "Word for Archaeologists" series too. Many of us in report writing need all the formatting help we can get.

So, to make a long answer even longer: I blog because I'm the most interesting man in the world and I want all of you to know how much I know. Or, I just like to help people and I want everyone to learn from my spectacularly colossal mistakes.

Why are you still blogging?

In short, I'm still blogging because I feel like I still have something to say. When every field tech is informed and treated fairly I'll stop. I don't think that's ever going to happen, though, so I think I'll keep this going for a while.

I've tried to blog on a schedule, but, unfortunately life and other commitments get in the way. If I were getting paid for this I'd be able to devote more time to it (see subscription levels to the right!). It's not all free work, though. My Shovelbums Guide series is being turned into a book by Left Coast Press (click on the image above) and will be out for #SAA2014. Or, around then, at least. Because of the payment system, though, I won't see a dime until June of 2015. When I do get a check, I doubt I'll be quitting my day job. Books are more of a labor of love than a way to pay the bills. Well, archaeology books, anyway.

The blog has also turned into a podcast that me and some other great archaeologists put out every two weeks. I'd like to do it every week but I don't think I can ask for that sort of commitment from the panelists. Again, you can't look a free gift horse in the mouth.

The CRM firm I started back in January will eventually pay someone to blog, podcast, and make videos. I have to get some work, first, though. My savings have pretty much dried up and this week I'm working part time at my wife's workplace. Her boss is cool and came up from starting the business too. She's the ideal to strive for. I won't deny that working there part time during the winter feels a little bit like giving up and failing, though. Stupid bills. I have a meeting this week that could change everything, though, so we'll see.

If I get to the point where I have project archaeologists I'll expect them to blog. I think it's a great way to coalesce your thoughts so the public can understand them, I also think it's a necessary part of our job. Recording history is only the first half. Your job isn't done until you tell someone about what you found and your conclusions.

OK. That's enough for now. Thanks, Doug, for organizing this!

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field!

#195 #SAA2014 - Blogging Archaeology, Again

The second Blogging Archaeology session is in the bag. Well, it’s in the digital file that the SAA people have for reviewing and printing into the programs. For those of you that don’t know, the first Blogging Archaeology Session (page 19) took place in 2011 at the Annual Meeting in Sacramento. I attended the session and my online life was forever changed...

#168 Two Years

I'm at the Society of American Archaeology Annual Meeting in Honolulu right now and today marks two years since I entered the blogosphere. It's not exactly two years but this is the day I count.

Two years ago, at the SAA meetings in Sacramento I went to the Blogging Archaeology session organized by Colleen Morgan. I was only slightly aware of blogs and I wasn't on Twitter. During the session I signed up for a Twitter account and was forever immersed in the conversation that happens behind the scenes of many activities and conferences around the world.

That evening I signed up for Squarespace and started this blog. This is my 168th blog post. I've written approximately 120,000 words and about 1,500 people read the blog every week. My Twitter account is 99% archaeologists and other scientists and has grown to over 450 followers (at least 15 new followers while at this conference!). I don't try to get more followers and just let it happen organically. I feel that getting followers just for the sake of doing it isn't very useful to me. Sure it looks good to some people, but, I want followers that actually want to hear what I have to say.

This blog has always been about my activities in CRM archaeology and has contained an educational element as well. Now that I have my own company the blog will likely begin to transition to more of an educational resource, but, I want to include posts about projects and things I'm working on in the Great Basin. If I ever get any employees I'd like them to start blogging here as well.

My hope is to get other archaeologists, and especially CRM archaeologists, to start blogging. One step to achieving that will hopefully happen in Austin next year for #SAA2014. I'm going to bring back the "Blogging Archaeology" session and I'd love it if bloggers from all over could come into and relay their experiences in the blogosphere and tell future bloggers what's worked for them, what hasn't, how blogging is good for archaeology and public outreach, and how blogging has affected them. They session could also include papers on effective use of social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and whatever new kid on the block comes around between now and then. I've never hosted a session before so I have some research to do. I think it's important that this type of session continue to be a part of the SAA Annual meetings.

Eventually I'd like to have a YouTube channel that contains instructional videos. These videos could be about everything from identifying a flake to the finer points of pedestrian survey. When a new field tech, or even an old one, searches for something related to doing archaeology I want one of DIGTECH's videos to be the first thing they see in the search results.

Thanks to all my readers and especially to the commenters. Comments keep me honest and they keep me going. I know it's difficult to comment sometimes because of the way you are reading this. Most people are not reading these posts on the website. They are using smartphone or tablet apps and different apps online. If there were a way to comment without going to the website then I would do it.

I'm working on a resource for new archaeologists in the field of CRM. It will cover everything from writing a CV, to your first interview, to living in the field. This book isn't about archaeology. It's about being an archaeologist and doing it in a way that keeps you happy and sane. Stay tuned for details.

Thanks for reading and I really do hope to see you in the field!