#279 Wildnote and CRM Archaeology

Here's another re-post from Wildnote - this time from the blog. It's a quick explanation of all the tools currently available for CRM Archaeologists.

CA DPRa Primary form export example.

CA DPRa Primary form export example.

Wildnote Delivers Ready-to-Use Cultural Resources Management Forms and Exports

Calling all Cultural Resources Managers and field staff (aka shovelbums): Wildnote has just released a suite of 48 CRM forms and exports that can ease your evolution into digital recording and reporting. We believe that just because you record the past, doesn’t mean you have to live in it! We are very fortunate to have digital data collection pioneer, Chris Webster, a CRM archaeologist with DIGTECH and the Archaeology Podcast Network on our staff guiding the development of these new CRM tools. He has put countless hours into designing and testing forms and quality assuring the state agency exports. The Photo Sheet and Photo Log alone will save you countless hours, and we even have a FCC 620/621 form.

Read the rest of the article here.

#278 Wildnote

About a year ago I started working for a company called Wildnote as an independent consultant. I saw something in their company's attitude and ethic - and of course in their technology. They were working on some great form building stuff for biology and wetlands and I thought the platform would be great for archaeology as well. 

Now it's 8 months later and I'm on the verge of becoming a full-time employee with this amazing company! Since I don't use this blog much anymore - the Archaeology Podcast Network is my outlet now - I'm not going to say much. What I will do, though, is link to a great case study that was recently published over at Wildnote.

If you have questions about the archaeological and business applications for Wildnote then email me at

Sign up for your free trial at


Digital Data Collection: CRM Comes of Age

Luke Carretta studies the past and dreams about the future. With 10 years’ experience as a Cultural Resource Management (CRM) archaeologist, Carretta currently serves as crew chief, project management assistant, and laboratory supervisor for Morton Archaeological Research Services in New York State. He believes the real value of archaeology lies in making the historical record available to other archaeologists, the public, and enthusiasts. He hopes others will follow in his footsteps.

Read the rest of the article here.

#271 Free Archaeology - Is it Really?

There has been a lot of talk on Facebook and Twitter lately and it relates back to the #FreeArchaeology discussion that started over a year ago. However, this is taking a slightly different turn than the one that I believe started in the UK.

The basics are, people are tired of being asked to do work after work. They’re tired of working for free and being asked to do too much — or at least more than they expect to do in a normal day.

The term is also called “work creep” by some. 

I’ve been there — I really have. I’ve worked the hard days and been asked to work just a little bit more to finish a transect or to finish a unit. I’ve been there when asked to compile my notes for the day or write up a summary of findings. I’ve been there when asked to finish a report and stay late in the office. I’ve been there when the field crews were dismissed after a 10-day but the trucks still needed to be cleaned, gear stowed, and paperwork filed. I’ve been there.

The differences involved in the examples above center around one thing — what was my position? For some, I was a field technician. For others I was a crew chief. Finally, I was a project manager. That’s the difference.

Field Technicians

In my opinion, as a business owner, field technicians should never be asked to do work outside of their normal working hours. Techs need to remember, though, that your commute is PART OF YOUR NORMAL WORKING HOURS. How many of you have slept in the truck TOO and FROM the field while your crew chief spends hours AFTER work fixing forms, editing, writing notes, whatever? If there is extra work to be done that CAN be done in the vehicle, my crews do it. I do it too because I don’t insist on driving.

That’s another thing - the crew chief shouldn’t drive. You have a job to do and you don’t need to drive. Have a crew member do that. On the way out you should be reviewing the work for the day, making sure you have assignments for everyone, and sometimes navigating and making sure you’re going to the right place.

On the way home, you should coordinate the end-of-day tasks with the crew. Get as much done as you can so you can focus on relaxing after work instead of working after work.

If you’re being asked to do extra work as a field technician then you should be concerned. However, we don’t have a job that is conducive to an 8-hour a day schedule. Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to stop recording a site or stop in the middle of a transect. The company should make up for it in some way, though. Whether that means going in late the next day, coming home early one day, or, quitting early on the last day, it needs to be done. Don’t be a dick and keep track of every minute though. When you do that, you’ll find your crew chief doing the same thing and I guarantee you don’t want that.

Crew Chiefs

This is a sticky one. Crew chiefs can be hourly or salaried. Just depends on the company. If you’re hourly, well, the same rules apply as to the field technician. That’s just the truth. Don’t count every minute, but, be willing to give a little for the job you love. 

Doing what you love

So, here is where I lose people. I see archaeology as being more like musicians and artists. You might not be able to make the money you want to make all the time, but, are you happy? Is money the only thing that makes you happy? If so, get out of archaeology NOW. Don’t walk - RUN. You’re unlikely to make lots and lots of money doing JUST archaeology. If you want to have a more comfortable life and still be an archaeologist then you’re going to have to hustle and do other things. That’s just a fact.

There are plenty of people out there that are happy being field technicians. Talk to some of these career field techs, though, and you’ll find that they likely have safety nets and other streams of income. Or, they have a couch they can sleep on whenever they call. Either way, there is an expectation that “stability” isn’t really going to be a thing.

Is all this bad? Is it a reason to get out of the field? Do you not feel like you’re getting paid what you’re worth? Those are all tough, personal questions that only you can answer. The point is, are you happy, overall, with your actual work? Do you enjoy travel, adventure, meeting new people, not being restricted to 1-week vacation every year, and a myriad of other great things?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be treated with respect or paid what you’re worth. What I’m saying is that you just need to have a fundamental understanding of what the field is right now and how to survive in it. Don’t have unrealistic expectations.

That being said, if you don’t like how you’re being treated or how much you’re being paid then CHANGE IT. YOU have the power to alter your own destiny. YOU have the power to change the field for the better. If you don’t know how to do that, you can start by helping out the Archaeology Podcast Network and Professional Certifications for Scientists. I’ve started both of these organizations (with help, of course) in an attempt to make it all better and to improve quality of life for all of us.

If that doesn’t suit you, then find something else to do. Perhaps get a Master’s degree. Having an MA/MS might not equate to a higher salary in field archaeology, but, it will open doors that were previously unavailable to you. For example, you can write a book, start a field school on public land, whatever. Think outside the box! The fact is, people with graduate degrees are taken more seriously by the public and other agencies than people without. I don’t make the rules, but I do understand them.

We’re talking about this on the CRMArch Podcast soon. Check it out and chime in.

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

#260 The Journey Continues - #DayofArch 2015

This is my Day of Archaeology 2015 post. Here are my past posts:

2014: More Companies, More Changes

2013: DayofArch2013: Continuing Changes

2012: Day of Archaeology 2012

2011: Part 1 and Part 2

Thanks again to the organizers for putting this on. Hopefully CRM in the US will start to have a bigger presence as the years roll on. For now, though, it's just a few of us. Here's the Day of Archaeology Page


Last year I had been part of the formation of a new company, Field Tech Designs, that was set up to create a tablet application for CRM and beyond. We went quite far with the developers on that, but, in November my backer and business partner backed out. I guess the cost and pace of app development was a bit too much. Who knows. Either way, I've moved on and I have a new collaboration with the Center for Digital Archaeology and they are making something that will be great when it comes out! More on that later.

I also mentioned the podcast in last year's post. Well, as of December, 2014, I started the Archaeology Podcast Network with a fellow podcaster, Tristan Boyle of the Anarchaeologist Podcast. Together, we've built the APN into quite the little network with a total of seven shows right now and more on the way. We're getting around 7000 downloads a month across the network and that number keeps rising. Creating podcasts for people to learn from and enjoy has really been the highlight of my archaeology career. I have a real passion for teaching and outreach and this is my creative outlet for that. Go check out the APN if you're interested and don't forget to leave some feedback on our iTunes page.

Finally, I mentioned that my book had just come out from Left Coast Press. The Field Archaeologist's Survival Guide did better than I expected for the first year, given the price and the small size of this field. My first royalties check came just in June and I took my wife out for a nice McDonald's dinner. Not super-sized, of course; I mean, it was no Harry Potter. All kidding aside, I knew I wouldn't make back what I put into the book. Our field just isn't big enough. That's not why I wrote it or why I went with a publisher. I just wanted the info to be out there and I thought it was a book that could help some people. I've achieved that goal, I think.


This year has been the year of DIGTECH! After two years of networking, proposal losing, small jobs, and living of the knitting income of my wife, I've got $400k in work this year and as of the Day of Archaeology I've paid out over $60,000 in payroll! That's a big deal for me. Not only have I had the satisfaction of winning a few contracts and getting to work on them, more importantly, I've been able to hire and support a few friends of mine and some new friends. That's the biggest satisfaction for me. When I think about my friends receiving a paycheck that says, "DIGTECH" on it and using that money to support and feed their families, I feel very honored and humbled. Being an employer is an awesome responsibility. I heard someone say once that you'll know you're a business owner when you go to sleep at night worrying about payroll. That's certainly the truth!

For this year's event I'm in the middle, well really the beginning, of a 30,000 acre survey. I've got four employees with three more coming in October. I just finished a proposal that I think this year's jobs will get me, too. I haven't really had the past performance to win much in the last few years, but, these two jobs should change everything.

We're recording fully digitally in the field, too. There are some issues with the system I'm using, but, we're adjusting and moving on. In fact, I talked about some of this at the San Diego Archaeological Society's monthly meeting on July 25th. It's the first time I've been invited to speak somewhere about these issues and it was a huge honor. 


I'm hoping that I'll have something really interesting to write about in 2016. Just a few weeks ago I moved on a project I've been thinking about for several years now. I've got people here that want to help out with it, knowing that it won't pay right now, but, will in the future, and they're willing to put in the time. We'll see. We've just started and I love the energy they have here in the beginning. I just hope that enthusiasm sticks around.

My Day

I guess I'll briefly talk about my actual day for a minute. Since this is a small company, I'm usually out in the field with the crew. If we go to one part of the project area we leave at 0530. For the more distant part we leave at 0415. That's to avoid much of the Mojave desert heat that we have to deal with. Leaving at 0415 gets us home by 1245. That's not too bad. Of course, that means dinner at 2pm and bed at 8pm, but, it's better than working in 105+ F. On the long drive days we spend 1:45 just getting to the project area. Then, we survey for two hours, take lunch around 0845, survey another two hours, and, go home. It feels like a really short day. 

The survey on the long drives is working out, though. We have a certain number of acres we're trying to hit every day and there isn't much out there in that part of the project. So, we cover a lot of ground in that short four hours. Luckily, the dense parts of the project, for archaeology that is, are near town.

That's it for this year. I hope to have an even better year next year and have a lot more to talk about.

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

#255 ArchaeoTech: ZeroLemon 10000mAh Battery

ZeroLemon Field Battery

ZeroLemon Field Battery

This is just a quick post to promote a sale I saw on Stack Social. It's for the 10000 mAh solar portable battery from ZeroLemon. As of the date on this post, you can get this battery for $26!!! First, let me explain the 10000mAh.

For a batter, you have several different measurements. The output is in either 1A or 2A (1 amp or 2 amp). This is like the size of the engine in your car. The bigger the engine, the faster it'll go. The 10000 mAh (milli amp hours) is like the gas tank. A 10000 mAh battery has more juice in it than a 6000 mAh battery. The 20000 mAh battery that I have has twice as much juice as the 10000 mAh one here.

Charge two devices at once!

Charge two devices at once!

How Far Will It Go?

As an example, the iPad Air has an 8,600 mAh battery. That means, if you have a 6000 mAh battery that it will only put a 3/4 charge on a completely dead iPad Air. My 20000 mAh battery will put 2.5 charges on my iPad Air. Most tablets are in this range for batteries, so, this 10,000 mAh battery is perfect for daily use.

The Solar Panel

These batteries come with a solar panel on the outside. Don't place much faith in that panel. If you're stranded in the middle of no where, then, it'll probably come in handy. However, it's too small to really charge the device too quickly and shouldn't be relied on.


This device is super rugged. I have no problem throwing it in my pack and getting out in the field. However, if you're working in a wet environment, you might want to bag it. The charging port and USB ports are wide open.

Mostly water resistant and rugged.

Stack Social

I get emails from Stack Social several times a week. I don't mind because they have AMAZING deals on new and existing tech and software. They're not the quickest for shipping, though. My ZeroLemon battery took about 3 weeks to deliver. However, for the savings, you can't beat it. 

Throw it in your pack and go.

Throw it in your pack and go.

Check out the deal below before it's gone and keep those devices charged!

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

#250 Tom King is Wrong

I drafted this post a few weeks ago and never got around to finishing it. Now it’s about to encompass a couple things that Tom King is wrong about.

Do we need archaeologists?

It all started with a podcast interview I recorded with Tom a couple months ago. The interview is for a podcast that isn’t quite ready yet so I have no link for it. We were talking about archaeology and archaeologists and the idea of professional licensing. I asked Tom why we don’t have licensing for archaeologists. He told me it’s because we don’t actually need archaeologists. We need plumbers and electricians so we have licensing for them. He apparently thinks we need nail and hair salons too since they also require licensing.

Was Tom King right? Do we not have a NEED for archaeologists? I guess it depends on your definition of “need”. If you take it to the absolute reductionist view of my friend, Dave, then we don’t really “need” anything beyond a cave to sleep in and some food to eat. However, most of us have more extensive needs.

We need archaeologists the way we need science, medicine, and space travel. These things help us live in this world in a better way than our ancestors did. They help us live healthier lives and learn from our past. Archaeology teaches us what has and has not worked in the past. It shows us what’s been tried and how we can proceed. More than that, archaeology is a record of human achievement. Whether we need that or not, again, depends on your definition. I think we do need archaeology and I think the world would be worse off if our heritage were not recorded for descendent generations to learn from.

Consider this, everything from farming to chemistry to physics to industrialization is recorded by archaeologists. ALL HUMAN ACHIEVEMENT is part of history and archaeologists record that history.

Do we need licensing?

The follow-on question is, of course, should we license archaeologists? What would that get us? What is the benefit to the public and what is the benefit to the archaeologist?

The public benefit is the secure knowledge that someone with sufficient training is recording their precious history. We’ve all heard of, and have possibly seen or been party to, those excavations where someone blew through a feature. We’ve seen people blow off sites while on survey. Would licensing prevent those things from happening? Maybe. With licensing would come the need to maintain that license. We would have to go through regular training and continuing education. We could bring in an ethical component too, and, harsh penalties for violating those ethics. It wouldn’t happen overnight, but, in the end I think there would be a huge benefit.

Archaeologists would benefit as well. Aside from the continuing training, archaeologists would likely get paid more and would have a higher credibility amongst the other field sciences. Maybe these things don’t mean much to some, but, from questions asked on the Profiles in CRM podcast it’s clear that pay and respect are high on most archaeologist’s lists.

Do you have to publish to be an archaeologist?

The other thing Tom King is wrong about is that you don’t have to publish to be an archaeologist. Let me explain.

I shared a link on my Facebook page to a podcast from Joe Schuldenrein:

On that episode Joe interviewed a couple of grad students and asked them about their program and what their plans are. The show was completely from a grad student perspective.

Along with the post on Facebook I commented that it was a good episode but ignored the fact that most archaeologists don’t have a graduate degree. Then Tom started commenting.

Basically, Tom said that the industry standard for getting hired at a museum or university is that you have to publish. Sure, I’ll buy that. The problem is that most archaeologists in the United States work in Cultural Resource Management (CRM). Most CRM archaeologists (Tom is cringing at that term right now) are field technicians. Most field technicians have a BA/BS in anthropology or archaeology. So, most archaeologists do not have graduate degrees.

I explained this and the conversation turned to whether field technicians are archaeologists at all. Just because they dig holes and walk lines doesn’t make them archaeologists, according to Tom. If they don’t do research and they don’t publish, then they just aren’t archaeologists.

Wow. What they hell do we call them, then?

What is an archaeologist?

An archaeologist is someone that studies the material remains of human activity. The papers and reports that are written about archaeological topics are based on data from the field. Those data are collected by field technicians. Field technicians need to be able to identify artifacts and sometimes assess the condition of sites. They need to have a knowledge of many different types of artifacts and features in order to do their jobs. Anyone can dig a hole, but, not everyone can determine the soil horizons they’re digging in and what they mean. Not everyone can look at a piece of glass and know that it’s from 1970 so we shouldn’t waste our time there. Of course these things just take training, but, it’s that training, on top of a degree, that makes a person an archaeologist.

Do you need a degree to be an archaeologist?

Yes. You want more? Fine. You need a degree because going through college gives you a perspective that people that don’t go through college just don’t have. Over the course of an anthropology or archaeology BA/BS you’ll be exposed to writing, research, and analysis. The quality of those activities is variable, but, you’re exposed nonetheless.

When I was a field technician I freely called myself a scientist. I encouraged others to do the same, even though they saw themselves as shovelbums. In fact, I want to do away with the label “shovelbum”. It’s derogatory and in no way describes the fantastic people that I’ve had the privilege of working with. At my CRM firm I don’t hire shovelbums. I hire archaeologists. Shovelbums can go look for work at Home Depot.

So Tom King is wrong, in my opinion. Archaeology IS important. We SHOULD be licensed. You DON’T have to publish to be an archaeologist.

Eviscerate me in the comments…

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