book review

#267 Field Archaeologist Guide Reviews

This is just a quick post to relay some nice reviews I received for the ield Archaeologist's Survival Guide (Left Coast Press, 2014). 

Canadian Journal of Archaeology 39:148-151 (2015)

American Reference Books Annual (ARBA) Reviews

Webster, Chris. Field Archaeologist's Survival Guide: Getting a Job and Working in Cultural Resource Management. Walnut Creek, Calif., Left Coast Press, Inc., 2014. 157p. illus. index. $24.95; $24.95 (e-book). ISBN 13: 978-1-61132-928-5; 978-1-61132-930-8 (e-book).

            Are you a librarian at a college or university that offers archaeology courses?  Do you work in a college or university career office that maintains a collection of career resources?  Do you want to help your college students find their dream job?  If so, then consider adding this honest and straightforward guide to working in the field as an archaeologist to your collections.

            Chris Webster's Field Archaeologist's Survival Guide covers advice on working as an archaeologist, from which classes college students should take, how to choose participating in a field school, how to prepare curriculum vitae (CV), to how to cook meat on a shovel on a campfire.  Webster's guide begins with how to prepare for the working world as an archaeologist for college students and ends with what to do during the winter season when there is no outdoor fieldwork in the colder climates.  There are detailed chapters on how to develop a CV, resumes, and cover letters, including how to describe various types of military experience on a CV or a resume.  Webster provides advice on where to find job listings, how to respond to job advertisements, and how to send resumes and cover letters to companies that do not have current job openings listed.

            Supplying invaluable career advice not usually discussed in archaeology classes, Webster describes equipment, projects, lodging, and other logistical considerations.  Webster lists the type of equipment needed for archaeology and provides explanations as to why the gear is important.  Next, the author describes different types of archaeological projects and jobs in cultural resource management so prospective employees know what to expect if hired.  With real-world experience and a knack for storytelling, Webster gives a myriad of suggestions on types of lodging, such as living out of a van, camping, and staying in hotels.  He includes several recipes and recommendations on how to cook in hotel rooms.   

            Additionally, the author explains how to use information to be successful as an archaeologist, with the perspective of a seasoned archaeologist imparting wisdom not learned in the classroom to future archaeologists.  For example, he describes the University Transverse Mercator (UTM) grid, the township and range system, and the Smithsonian Trinomial System.  He also introduces drawing maps, lumber sizing, and the Munsell Book of Color adapted to soil samples. Becoming successful may pose challenges, however, and the author devotes an entire chapter to unemployment.  Although specific to the state of Nevada, he believes his information about the unemployment process can be applicable to other states.  

            The author closes with the reminder that becoming an archaeologist is really a dream job.  Telling a story about a wealthy investment banker he met, the author wrote that the banker said that he wished he had the job as the archaeologist.  Lastly, short but thorough appendixes correspond to the chapters and provide sample CVs, examples of cover letters, equipment and clothing checklists for fieldwork, sample interview questions to ask, and a checklist for what to do during the winter off-season.—Kay Shelton

#186 Book Review: Resume-Writing for Archaeologists

UPDATE:  Bill will have this book for free on Amazon from July 26 to July 30. Pick you your copy and put your review in the comments!

CRM Archaeologist, author, founder of Succinct Research, and podcaster on the CRM Archaeology Podcast, Bill White has a new book out! This is another great resource that every archaeologist should own. Even non-archaeologists will get some great information from this eBook.

The book is available on Amazon for about $5 as an eBook. Save it to your smartphone or tablet so you can access it whenever you need to. 

With a great layout and organization this book helps you recognize where you can improve your existing resume or can help you create one from scratch. Bill talks about, not only what makes a resume attractive to employers, but, also how to design your resume so it actually has a higher profile when job search software is used. There are certain buzz words and other words that you can put in your CV to ensure that the screening software your future employer is using puts your CV in the "call" list. 

Even if you've been a CRM archaeologist for many years you can still benefit from the information in this book. Download it and keep it as a reference for when you need your next job. 

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

#180 Book Review-Brian Fagan “Writing Archaeology”

2010 Fagan, Brian M.  Writing Archaeology: Telling Stories About the Past. Left Coast Press, 2nd  Ed. Walnut Creek, CA

I picked this book up at the Left Coast Press table back in October at the Great Basin Anthropology Conference in South Lake Tahoe, CA. After a few months I finally got around to reading it, and, I’m glad I did!

First, Fagan’s writing style is fun and conversational. I often felt like he was sitting in the room with me having a conversation about writing a book. It made the book really easy to read and actually a real joy to read as well. What makes it really good is that Fagan is a prolific writer and he uses his own experiences, both good and bad, as examples throughout the book.

There are several types of writing that Fagan discusses within the twelve chapters. The bulk of the first two thirds of the text is about writing a book. He then follows with chapters on turning a dissertation into something else (book, articles, etc), writing articles for journals, and finally electronic media (blogs, eBooks, etc.).

I probably got the most out of the first part of the book because I’m in the process of putting a couple books together right now. Fagan goes into great detail regarding the process of writing a book from conception and proposal to marketing. One of the sticking points that I took away was about creating a schedule and sticking to it. I’ve always tried to do that with my blog writing but it has never really stuck. I think just seeing it in writing from someone else has made me want to get back to it and keep a goal of about 1,000 words a day per project. It would help, of course, if I had an accepted book proposal and a few thousand dollars advance money to work on it. I’d find it easier to keep to a schedule if it were my job. Right now I make no money on really anything that I do. It’s all for the love of archaeology! Alright. Get a room!

The chapters on shepherding your manuscript through the publication process were very interesting. I had no idea how much it could change during the editing process and how much and editor can really help. Fagan mentioned several times that you have to find an editor that you can trust and realize that they probably have a better sense of who your audience is than you do. It’s OK when they change your words around and move a paragraph or two. As long as the overall message is the same and the research you’re presenting doesn’t change then let them make the structure something that the public can appreciate and understand.

I sort of skimmed over the dissertation chapter. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever turn my thesis into something else. The project was on a site in Georgia and I work in the Great Basin now. I wish someone would do something with it, though. I also skimmed through the “writing an academic article” chapter. It’s mostly a reference chapter and when I need to do that I’ll refer to it. 

The electronic media chapter was really an overview of what’s out there. Fagan made some good points but it’s clear that he doesn’t blog and doesn’t participate in social media. He’s not like other older scientists though because he says that it’s really where the publishing world is going. He acknowledges the changes that are being made in the digital world and says that the younger generations should embrace them. Agreed! If my book doesn’t get accepted by the publisher I sent it to them I’m certainly going to publish it as an eBook. I could probably get it out the door in about three months. It certainly is a fast paced world that we live in.

What books have you read lately that you really liked? Let me know in the comments.

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

#153 Book Review: Small Archaeology Project Management

A few months ago Bill had me, and others, read an advance copy of his new eBook, “Small Archaeology Project Management: How to Run Cultural Resource Management Projects Without Busting Your Budget”. Bill is a long-time CRM Archaeologist and the founder and Research Director of Succinct Research. His company conducts research for publications for cultural resource management, historic preservation, and heritage conservation service providers. They also help people land professional jobs by providing information on resume and CV writing and job hunting.

#45 The Magic of Reality - A Review

"The Magic of Reality" for iPad.  Text by Richard Dawkins (c) 2011; Illustrations by Dave McKean (c) 2011; iPad App Developed by Somethin' Else for Transworld Publishers.  Available on iTunes in the App Store for $14.99

This book is fascinating for at least two major reasons.  It is a phenomenal book that is both insightful and creative while being rational and scientific.  This book is also a great leap forward in the way we read and consume material by way of the iPad application.  By the way, the book is also available as a beautiful paper book and as an audio book.  Although, I would recommend reading this book by one of the two visual methods because that is the best way to get all there is out of this amazing resource.  This review will focus on the iPad app since that is the one I read.

First, let me discuss the app's success so far as an example of how the information is being received by the public.  The iPad app was released on September 23, 2011 and as of October 8, 2011 was listed third in a list of top paid iPad apps in the "Books" category.  The list is based on total number of downloads.

The "Magic of Reality" is listed on another list in the app store.  This is a list of Top Grossing iPad Apps, again in the "Books" category.  This list is based on the purchase price of the book and it is listed fourth.  Not too bad for only being out for a few weeks.  I'd also like to point out that Dawkins' book is three positions ahead of the Bible which, at least this version, has been out since 2009, six months after the iPad's debut.  Do not be confused by the Bible App's listed price of "Free".  There are several pricey in-app purchases that tend to advance it within this list's ranks.  Now, on to the review.

The book is split into twelve chapters.  They deal with everything from magic to the beginnings of life, the beginnings of the universe, aliens, earthquakes, miracles, and much more.  Each chapter begins with common myths surrounding the topic.  For example, chapter 2, called, "Who was the first person?" starts with several myths regarding the beginning of humans from different indigenous cultures around the world.  Accompanying the text are amazing pictures, graphics, and illustrations.  In the image below, the hands descend from the sky to light up the body with a beating heart.  Following the mythology of the topic, Dawkins gives a simplified, yet not dumbed-down, explanation of the subject using current scientific principles and excepted theories.  The book is certainly not written for scholars of these topics, rather it is written for people that have rudimentary knowledge of a few of the topics but not all.  However, the book covers more than most people have a familiarity with and can teach even the most scholarly among us at least something.

The moving images and illustrations are well drawn and keep you interested.

Often, an image is important to the text for several pages.  Using the format of an iPad app, the image can stay on the screen while a page turn simply moves new text onto the page.  The days of referring back several pages to a figure mentioned in the text are over.  Authors now have the freedom to adjust the format of the book to better suit their needs and to more adequately present the information to the reader.

The metaphors and illustrations that Dawkins chooses to use as tools for illustrating the principles of the chapters are easy to understand and clearly get the point across.

There are interactive pages within almost every chapter.  The image above is one such page.  After pressing the hand symbol you are asked to blow into the microphone on the iPad.  This has the effect of moving the iguanas on the debris flows onto the islands in the Galapagos where they experienced a divergent evolution.  This exercise allows the reader to visualize a method in which the iguanas arrived on the islands.

The Magic of Reality is simply amazing, both for its information and it's presentation.  Dawkins represents the achievements of science to explain much of what was mystery a short time ago and it represents an evolution in the way we will read books in the future.  I'm excited for other scientific books to come out in this format with this level of interactivity and highly recommend it to any student of science or anyone who wants to learn about how the world works.

Written in Sparks, Nevada


2008  The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology (iPad App), Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.   Developed by Handmark, Inc.

Archaic In America, this term refers in a generic sense to a simple hunter-gatherer lifestyle involving small bands of people pursuing a pattern of seasonal movements linked to the migrations and periodic abundance of animal and plant foods.