#253 Choosing a Field School

Figure 1. Screening with some help from local volunteers.

Bill White and I are recording a special episode of the CRM Archaeology Podcast all about Field Schools. What should be taught at a field school? What shouldn’t be there? What did you get out of your field school? Should you learn job hunting skills? Why type of field school should you go for?

We’ll be recording on Thursday, March 26, at 5pm PDT. Send an email to chris@archaeologypodcastnetwork.com if you want to call into the podcast and tell us your field school story. If you’re an undergraduate looking for a field school, call in and tell us what you’d like to learn or what you’re looking for. If you don’t know, we’ll try to help.

I’ve told my field school story before on the this blog, in my book, and on the podcast but I’ll talk about it again briefly. The field school was actually an Earthwatch program at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. We were digging trenches in deposits between basalt layers dated from 1.83 to 2.01 mya. Basically, the bottom of the Gorge. It was AWESOME. We dug, screened, identified extinct faunal remains, did a little pedestrian survey, cleaned and tagged artifacts in the onsite lab, and had presentations on the area and the archaeology. We also visited several Masai villages and a market. The experience was one of a kind and fueled my passion for paleoanthopology. Did it prepare me for a career in contract archaeology, though? Not even a little bit.

Choosing the Right School

First, you need to figure out what you want to do with your life. I know, easier said than done. I don’t mean be specific, though. I just mean, do you want to be a paleoanthropologist? Do you want to work in contract archaeology? Even better, do you want to work in a certain part of the country or world? Those are big, mostly easy, questions that you can probably answer right now. The next question, though, is even more difficult.

Attributes of a Field School

Figure 2. This image is NOT from a WCRM project. Just FYI.

Now that you know where you want to go, or at least the region, you have to figure out which school to go to. If they have a website with info, great! If they don’t, contact someone that teaches the school and ask them questions. I’m going to focus on contract archaeology now since that’s what I do.

If you’re interested in contract archaeology you are going to need some specific skills that will set you above your competition. Many people, like me, just fulfilled the basic requirements of a CRM job: a degree and a field school, oh, and a pulse. To set yourself above the rest you want to get some good training in but you have to know what that training is.

Here is a list of things that you should learn at a field school to be more marketable on your first job:

  • Tablet Recording
    • Everyone is going digital, learn it
  • Sub-meter GPS
    • we use these EVERYWHERE
  • Using a compass
    • yes, we still do that
  • Hand drawing a map
    • just a good skill to have
  • Reading a map
    • Know how to read a topographic map. It'll save you from some treacherous hikes in the west
  • Taking notes
    • not as easy as it sounds; you have to be succinct and descriptive all at the same time.
  • Soil description
    • no one told you that you’d need a geology minor, did they? Well, you do.
  • Using a screen
    • see my embarrassing episode on my first dig in my book.
  • Reading a Munsell book
    • colors are important to some people
  • How to find a job in the instructor’s profession
    • they should be training their replacements

This is just a start, but, it’s a fundamental list of what you should look for in a field school. If a field school director is not teaching one of these things, ask them why they aren’t.

The Two Purposes of a Field School

Figure 3. The waste rock and entrance corridor of an adit, a horizontal mine shaft.

Contrary to what some graduate students and professors might think, field school isn’t just for finishing your dissertation or working on that site you’ve been digging for 20 years. It’s for teaching. Chances are the field school has been funded by organizations who demand that you teach. So, teach! I’ve heard of a number of instances of people attending field schools and just moving buckets for the grad students or not being able to use the expensive equipment. Field school students aren’t there to be your grunts. They are there to learn and they are often paying over $6000US for the privilege.

Remember, if you want to tell your story or tell us what you’re looking for in a field school, see the note at the top of this post.

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

#248 Podcasting and Advertising

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If you're a regular listener of the CRM Archaeology Podcast you will start to notice some changes. I've mentioned the Archaeology Podcast Network before and the changes are related to us moving forward with that project. Here are the details.


We plan on revealing the Archaeology Podcast Network to the public during the week of December 1st. We have the domain, web hosting, and a website that we're working on. We'll be kicking off the network with five shows. They are:

At least four of the shows will be released on a regular schedule. It's my hope that the others will follow suit. We're always looking for other show ideas too. If you have an idea and want to host, or, just want to pass along the idea, email me at chris@archaeologypodcastnetwork.com. There are a lot of shows that could exist out there and we have only a few simple guidelines.


With our current list of shows, and the price I've settled on for hosting and editing, the current monthly cost of keeping this going is about $3000. Right now, everyone is working for free. They're taking time out of their schedules to bring our audience awesome archaeology programming that simply doesn't exist anywhere. In fact, these shows have NEVER existed. 

To aid in funding I could do what many other podcasts do and call on the usual suspects: Stamps.com, Netflix, Hulu, Audible, and several others. But, I want advertising that actually means something to our audience. I've contacted several major archaeology tool manufacturers and companies that benefit archaeologists. Some have responded and some have not. We need some big download numbers before some of them will talk to us. We did get one, though.

The Maya Research Program has already recorded some long-form ads that are interactive and engaging. The MRP has a field school that is perfect for learning the basics of archaeology so I really wanted them to come on and talk about it. Since they're funding for this quarter is already settled, they're planning to help sponsor us in Q1 2015. I wanted to go ahead and get some ads out there now, though, so people can start thinking about their program.

So, what advertisers would you like to see on the APN? We promise to only put on the minimum we need to operate and no more. None of us will get rich on podcasting, but, we need the funding to have the freedom to do this time consuming labor of love. We're all passionate about what we do and want to see it succeed.


There are donate and sponsor links over at the APN website. Right now, any money collected is being reserved for when we start normal operations of the APN and to cover some of the initial setup costs.

Let your employer know that this is a worthy resource and that you'd like to see them support it. For a small amount of money your employer can sponsor the APN for up to 6 months. We'll announce the sponsorship at the beginning and end of every show during the sponsorship period.

Thanks to all the people that have already donated! 

Contest: SAA2015

To help incentivize our listeners, I've decided to have a little contest, or, raffle of sorts. Donate EXACTLY $20.15 to the APN and you'll be entered into a drawing to have your conference fees paid for the Society of American Archaeology Annual Meetings in San Francisco next year! For each multiple of $20.15 you'll receive another entry. This contest has a $159 value! Hell, I'll even throw in a copy of my book, The Field Archaeologist's Survival Guide

We will run the contest until the end of January and announce the winner on the APN shows during the first week of February.

Now, get out there and tell your friends, colleagues, and employers about the Archaeology Podcast Network!

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

#241 The CRM Archaeology Podcast - Podcasting the Profession and Educating the Public

The Blogging and Social Media session for the 2015 Society for American Archaeology meetings in San Francisco is live on the submission website! I've invited a number of people and a few others are considering it. You don't have to be invited to join in, though. Just make sure your submission is related to media, blogging, social media, video, podcasting, or any other media before you submit a paper.

When you go to the submission system, click on the link for an invited session and type in session 910.

I submitted my paper today. Here is the title and abstract:

The CRM Archaeology Podcast: Podcasting the Profession and Educating the Public

Since the first podcasts were available on Apple’s iTunes in June of 2005, podcasting has become a powerful way for anyone to deliver information to the world from the comfort of their home. Podcasts can be informal conversations to expensive productions from major networks. Archaeology podcasting has seen shows come and go and has had a rocky past. The only podcast focused on issues related to CRM Archaeology has been recording since February of 2013 and has tackled everything from ethics on the job to issues specific to women in archaeology and in the workplace. We’ve found that podcasting is a great way to engage with thousands of professionals and the public alike. We don’t run conversations, we start them. Podcasting is a medium that is here to stay and the archaeological community should recognize it as a valuable and useful resource.

Get your submissions in today!

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in San Francisco!

#234 Archaeology Podcast Network

We've just recorded the 38th episode of the CRM Archaeology Podcast. Every time we record an episode we find that we don't have the time to really go in depth on any single topic. For that reason I want to start a number of other podcasts. The best way to do that is to form a network of podcasts.

Why a Network?

A network is a good way to do this because it becomes a one-stop-shop for all things archaeology. The shows will have a predictable style and format since they'll all have the same editing standards. 

We're looking at putting together a mobile application to go along with the network. All the shows would be available in the app for free. In the future, we want to include "Master Classes" on single topics. These would be 5-10 episode shows about an advanced topic. We'd have experts from the field assist with the course and there would be a nominal fee. Think of it as buying an audio book.

How can you help?

We need show ideas, hosts, panelists, and editors. We're trying to secure funding so, at least in the beginning, hosts and editors will be paid. Eventually we would like to compensate regular panelists as well.


We have a number of shows already in the works. They include:

  • Pioneers in CRM: a show about the beginning of CRM with interviews from the people that were there.
  • Jobs: a show all about jobs. We'd cover CVs, References, Cover Letters, job hunting, interviewing, etc. We'd have interviews from HR people and hiring managers, too.
  • Archaeo Technology: this show is about all the tech we use, or should use, in archaeology. We'll try out things we can and we might have some product reviews as well.
  • Pseudo-Archaeology: a show about all the quackery in archaeology.
  • Native American Issues in CRM: This isn't about the people we are studying, necessarily. It's a show by Native American CRM Archaeologists about the issues they face in this field.
  • Women in CRM: Similar to the four shows we've done on this topic, this show would be by women CRM Archaeologists about all the issues they face on a daily basis.
  • More to come!

We're taking ideas for full, regular, shows and for short run shows on quick topics. Comment or use the contact form if you have an idea, want to host, or can be a panelist.


If you want to host a show we only ask that the show come out on a regular schedule. If there aren't any current event time constraints, shows can be recorded a few at a time and just distributed on the schedule. For example, do you work 10 on 4 off? Record four or five shows on your 4-day and you won't have to worry about it for a while.

A general rule for many shows will be two hours prep time (notes, research, interview questions, setting up interviews) and one hour show time. Shows can be 30 min, too.


We need editors! Currently, I edit the CRM Archaeology Podcast in Garage Band on my MacBook Pro. We can use other programs, though, including Audacity and Adobe Audition. Editing is fairly simple, but, time consuming.

Editing will typically include removing useless parts of speech (um, ah), long pauses, and anything else that makes the person sound unprofessional. You'll also have to add the music track at the appropriate points. A general rule for editing is a 1:4 ratio. That means that for every hour of finished show there will be four hours of editing. Some shows will be quicker than that and very few will take longer than that. If we get funding, you'll be paid a flat rate per show based on that ratio. So, if you're quick and good you'll get more per hour.

Let's do this!

This is an idea who's time has come. We're looking for sponsors for the show and any funding that we can get. I'd love to think we can do this for free, but, getting people to commit on a schedule for all this work is really hard to do. So, keep an eye out for our crowd-funding campaign in the next couple months.

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

#232 More Companies, More Changes

This is my Day of Archaeology 2014 post. Click HERE to go to the DayofArch page and see hundreds of great posts about the day in the life of archaeologists across the globe.

First, a big thanks again to the organizers of this event! It’s a lot to put on something like this. Go and buy something from their store to support this for many years to come!

Welcome to my fourth Day of Archaeology post! Hard to believe this has been going on for four years now. Every year, so far, I’ve been at a different stage in my life. Nothing stays the same around here, ever! Here are my last posts: 1st year here and here2nd Year, and 3rd Year.


When I wrote my 2013 Day of Archaeology post my new CRM company was just seven months old. I had done a few projects, but, I was mostly focused on the arduous task of business development (BD). I’ve never been good at BD. It seems that no one actually teaches you how to do it. So, I never really learned the ins and outs. I do have some networking skills, which helps, but that’s not all BD is about.


I’ve got a few more contracts down, but, I seem to have put the CRM side of DIGTECH on the back burner. That’s not to say I would turn down a contract if I were approached, I just don’t have time to go seek them out right now. What I’m really focusing on is my other company, Field Tech Designs.


This is what I’ve been working on for much of today’s Day of Archaeology.


I’ve been subcontracted to do the excavation for a project in Lake County, CA and the fieldwork starts next week. It’s actually a pretty sweet gig. DIGTECH will do all the fieldwork, but, we aren’t doing any of the artifact analysis and report writing. While I do enjoy those phases of work, I don’t really have the time for it right now. So, this gets me out in the field, shovel in hand, and then allows me to get back to other tasks.

For the fieldwork, we’ll be using iPads rented from my other company, Field Tech Designs, to record the shovel tests and excavation units we’ll be digging. I’ve created custom forms for the shovel tests and spent a portion of today creating the excavation forms.

Working digitally will allow us to transmit the completed paperwork (should digital forms be called, electrowork? digiwork?) to the PI at his office 200 miles away every day. With cell service, we can transmit the forms as we finish them.


I’ve also spent some time coming up with the various pricing models we’re going to have for our tablet rental program. Over the last few months I’ve gotten the sense that some companies are a bit apprehensive about buying a fleet of tablets for their fieldwork. I don’t know if it’s the upfront cost of the tablets or the thought that they could easily break (which isn’t true). Either way, I thought that since they are used to renting things like Trimble GPS units anyway then a tablet rental would just make sense. Renting the tablets allows Field Tech Designs to assume the burden of keeping them maintained and updated while always giving the client the latest and greatest.


For the custom forms we are creating for our clients I always make a video detailing the use of the form and how to turn the digital data into a CSV file and then a Word Document. It’s pretty straight forward, but, if you’ve never done it there are a number of steps that just make more sense when you can see them.

Working on video editing this afternoon made me realize just how old my MacBook Pro is getting. I could really use an upgrade soon!


I spent some time thinking about, and taking notes on, some things we’re going to talk about in the podcast we’re recording on Saturday. The CRM Archaeology Podcast is up to episode 38 and we’re still going strong. We’ve released an episode every other Monday for the last year and a half and we never lack for things to talk about. That’s why I’ve come up with another idea…


I feel that the current podcast could really be split into a bunch of other shows. The shows would be essentially single topic shows that focus on really digging into whatever issue they are concerned with. I’m not going to go into too much detail right now, but, stay tuned for a lot more content about CRM Archaeology in the coming months.


The last thing I did today was some research for a new company. This new entity will have something to do with aerial drones but I’m not going to go into it right now. We’re in the research phase right now. Since the FAA here in the U.S. is still up in arms about using drones for commercial purposes, we have some time. I’m a licensed pilot, though, and that might go well for me if the regulations go the direction I think they are going to go based on some information I recently received from an FAA official here in Reno. Interesting times are ahead in the world of Drones.

So, working on tablets with Field Tech Designs, researching a new drone company, and trying to, sort of, find more work for DIGTECH so I can test out all my ideas…busy day. Unfortunately, nothing I did today directly made me any money. One thing you learn while you’re indulging your passions and chasing your dreams is that money isn’t always the reason to do things in life. If you keep doing what you love and work hard at it then the money will come.

Oh, I also turned my popular series of blog posts, the Shovelbums Guide, into a helpful guidebook for CRM Archaeologists at any level. The book was published by Left Coast Press in April and is called the, “Field Archaeologist’s Survival Guide: Getting a Job and Working in Cultural Resource Management”. You can find it on Amazon and at the Left Coast Website.

Enjoy the other posts for the 2014 Day of Archaeology!

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

#173 A Podcast for Recent Graduates

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This is just a quick note to all my readers to let you know that the next episode of the CRM Archaeology Podcast is up. We have an extensive discussion on how recent archaeology graduates can enter the world of CRM Archaeology. We discuss our experiences with finding our first jobs, CVs and resumes, job finding sites, interview questions, and much more.

If you know a recent graduate, or if your are a graduate student at a university, please share the podcast or this post. It's great information and it's something that all of us wish we'd had when we started in this field.

Thanks you.

Here's another link, just in case.

#164 Podcast Episode 4: Interview with Tom King


The next episode, Episode 004, of the CRM Archaeology Podcast is up! On this episode we discuss our plans for recording during the SAAs in Hawaii, talk about an industrial expansion about to take place on the ancient site of Star Carr in Scotland, and we have a fun interview with noted regulatory expert, archaeologist, and writer Tom King.

Thanks for listening and we'll see you in the field!