#270 Invest in Yourself

DIGTECH has been busy. In the last two years, DIGTECH did half a million dollars in business, employed 10 different people, started the Archaeology Podcast Network, started Professional Certifications for Scientists, and entered into a consulting relationship to design and develop Codifi CRM. Yes, busy indeed.

As DIGTECH's founder, and currently sole employee, I've always been primarily interested in the quality of life for field technicians and along the way make significant improvements in the field. DIGTECH has had a multi-pronged vision of the future that is starting to play out on a number of fronts. Like everything, though, I can't do it alone. If I had the money to hire the people to help me early on, I would have. In fact, if anyone knows a wealthy benefactor that want's to take a chance, but experience massive returns, let me know!

Before I go over the ways you can invest in yourself, consider this...There is a place in the Bitterroot Mountains where you can straddle the Missouri River. The Missouri River at over 2,400 miles long is the longest river in North America. And yet, at one place you can straddle the river. Right next to that stream is another stream. That stream ends in a pond not far away. By pour geological chance, the Missouri's origins trace through the right patterns of rock to continue unbroken for over 2,400 miles while this other stream ends in a pond.

Before you can invest in yourself, you have to decide what you want to be: The Massive Missouri, or the small stream that ends abruptly and without having much influence on it's surroundings. We all start from nothing - it's where we end up that defines us.

The Archaeology Podcast Network

Starting from near-Missouri River-like proportions in December of 2014, the APN has grown to over 20,000 monthly listeners, over 17 hours of monthly content, and 14 educational audio streams. All of our shows aim to teach you something related to archaeology. The APN staff and our hosts, one in the same on a more than a few shows, are passionate about not just archaeology but in telling people about archaeology. From Cultural Resource Management to pseudo-archaeology to archaeological anarchy, we want to teach you something, make you think, and start a conversation. Invest in yourself, listen to some podcasts, and join the conversation.

Professional Certifications for Scientists

So, shortly after I got into archaeology I started looking for a reference to learn from. I didn't need to know about features, artifacts, or excavation procedures. Don't get me wrong, I DID need to know those things but there are plenty of books and on-the-job training to get you through. There wasn't, however, a resource that could tell me how to screen dirt using a standing shaker screen; or how to trowel a floor in 5-cm levels; or how to live on the road without wanting to kill myself from depression. Because none of this existed I tried to write one.

I filled out an outline and wrote a sample chapter for the Rough Guide series. My vision was The Rough Guide to Shovelbums. Apparently Shovelbums are too rough even for them and the passed on the topic. I pretty much dropped it from that point. Didn't know what else to do. So, I continued to shovelbum across the southeast and northeast, learning from the best along the way.

A few years later I started to blog. Almost immediately I started the Shovelbums Guide Series. They were posts that I would have put in a book. Eventually I did: Field Archaeologist's Survival Guide: Getting a Job and Working in Cultural Resource Management (Left Coast Press 2014). It wasn't enough and the podcast network pretty much killed my blogging since everything I wanted to say was through those shows.

So, last year I started a 30,000 acre survey in Southern California. The people I had working for me were experienced and dedicated. I figured this was the perfect opportunity for collaboration on something like PCS. I was right.

With PCS we will raise the quality of life for all archaeologists and other field scientists across the board. We'll do it by providing training through short instructional videos and online tests. We'll provide certification for all levels of professionals and through that certification add more legitimacy to the field.

If you're reading this, head over to PCS and check out the videos. Watch them, learn from them, and invest in yourself.


A few years ago, I believe at the SAAs in Hawaii, I attended a session where Dr. Michael Ashley presented a recording system called Codifi. The presentation represented one of the most promising systems for archaeological site recording that I'd seen to date. Unfortunately, I didn't know Michael and wouldn't know him for a while.

Along the way, I started using TapForms to record sites. I've had a lot of success with TapForms over the years. The system does have it's problems, though. I have no control over the software, for one, so I have to work within it's limitations. Fortunately, I was introduced to Michael a short time after.

Following a couple years of following each other's progress, Michael and I started to realize that our futures and goals were aligned. I knew that Codifi was a better system than TapForms and Michael new that Codifi was capable of so much. We eventually started working together and now, Codifi CRM is taking shape.

Codifi CRM isn't just a recording software either - it's a system and a philosophy. With Codifi, you won't have to buy a tablet - we'll provide it. With Codifi, you won't have to deal with databases or coding - we'll do it. With Codifi, you won't have to do anything but focus on archaeology - we'll do the rest.

Yes, DIGTECH has been busy and I don't plan on giving up any time soon.


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!!