Tag Archives: job related

An Archaeology Cover Letter

Thanks to Miriam for asking about cover letters!

Make sure that you sound professional, don’t have spelling or grammar errors, and that you list these three things clearly: availability, driver’s license and regional experience.
Availability:  How soon are you available and how many days a week are you available? Are you willing to work on weekends? Are you available to travel?
Driver’s License:  Many CRM firms need their field techs to be able to drive company vehicles.  In order to drive the company vehicle you need a valid driver’s license.  If you have a good driving record (no recent tickets or accidents) you should definitely add that in as well.
Regional Experience:  If you have any experience working in the area that you are applying to jobs in, it would be good to highlight that in your cover letter.  I’ve been told by a few different people in management positions that regional experience is key.  It’s certainly easier to train people who already know something about the archaeology of the area.  I work in California, so firms are looking for experience in California or the Great Basin (which encompasses parts of Nevada, California, Utah and Oregon).
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I’m going to take this opportunity to suggest that one great way to get experience is by volunteering.  Passport in Time is a great volunteering opportunity.  It’s a national program, so hopefully they have something in your region.  Most projects get posted in the spring, but keep checking the site for updates!
Some other things to add to your cover letter are any special skills that you have.  GIS, faunal or osteological analysis, lithics analysis, ceramics, GPS experience, etc…  These skills should be in your CV, but the cover letter is a great opportunity to make it clear that you know what you’re talking about.  “I have experience with GIS, analyzing slope within survey coverages, exporting GeoPDFs, and preparing field data for a GPS.”
Take a look at my cover letter (feel free to point out any errors).  Let me know what you think, or use it as a guide for your own!
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Archaeology: What’s for Lunch?

What do you do about lunch in the field?  I like to pack light, so even on excavation (when lots of techs bring coolers full of a variety of foods) I want my food to fit in my backpack, with my trowel, pick, measuring tape, notebook and water.

Therefore, my food needs to be able to endure heat, be impermeable to dirt, and withstand being knocked about.  What are my favorite field foods?  Prepared goods from the grocery store!

I’m not a fan of saturated fat or high fructose corn syrup.  So what do I eat?

Trader Joe’s mostly.

Source: Archaeo Field Tech's Kitchen

1. Clif Bars are your best friend.  They pack the perfect amount of calories and nutrients to keep you going throughout the day.  Take advantage of your two 15 minute breaks with one of these guys.  I like White Chocolate Macadamia Nut, Peanut Toffee Buzz and Oatmeal Raisin.  Also- Luna bars- read CHOCOLATE.  I also love Luna bars for providing delicious chocolate flavors that are much lower in saturated fat than regular chocolate.  As a former chocolate addict, these bars are my savior.

2. Hard sourdough pretzels.  Super low in fat, lots of salt to help keep you hydrated!

3. Grape tomatoes- these require tupperware, although they also do remarkably well in plastic baggies if you want to destroy the environment that way. Grapes are also great this way.

4. Artichoke & Heart of Palm salad.  The way this one is packaged is genius- no leaky dressings! And no meat or cream to go bad in the heat.

5. Shelled edamame. Fantastic snack food, high in protein, low in fat.  Lots of energy in these guys.

6. Indian dishes packed like space food.  Fellow field tech Gregg pointed me in the direction of these awesome, flavor-packed dishes. They have been a field staple ever since.  These go great with #7- whole wheat flour tortillas.

Source: Archaeo Field Tech's Kitchen

7. Hand-made whole wheat flour tortillas. These aren’t always available, the regular whole wheat flour tortillas are a good substitute.

8. Mozzerella & kalamata olive salad. This one isn’t packed as well as the previous salad, but it won’t leak liquids- which is key. The problem with this one is really that it has cheese in it- which pushes that saturated fat content up pretty high. What do you do? Don’t eat the cheese!

9. Cooked vegetables in tupperware!  How do you cook vegetables in a motel room?  I recommend buying either frozen veggies and making use out of that microwave.  Frozen veggies are available at most (all?) grocery stores nation wide.

10. Chickenless Chicken- works great in wraps and sandwiches!  Keeps better than real chicken too!

I have it on good authority (from fellow field techs Tad & Jennifer) that  St. Dalfour’s canned goods are delicious and nutritious, and check it out- fork attached!  These require planning, because you have to order them online.

Source: Amazon.com

What foods don’t work?

1. Bananas.  There are too many sharp things in my backpack for a banana to survive the day. It ends up bruised, broken and mushy.

2. Peaches- for the same reason. Although they survive better if you wrap them in a paper towel and eat them early in the day.

3. Fast food.  This stuff is high in saturated fat and sodium, so if you plan on eating it all day you’ll end up feeling like shit. Sure it’s quick, easy to pick up on the way to the site, but it’s not going to provide the energy you need to do anything. You’ll most likely end up feeling sick all day.

4. Chicken salad/tuna salad/mayonnaise.  These are okay in the winter, when it’s cold and the world acts like a refrigerator. In the spring, summer and fall- no dice. They spoil.

5. Yogurt- turns to liquid, a consistency that I personally can’t stand.  Also- it can pop and get all over everything- see 1. Bananas.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional nutritionist.  I am a professional archaeologist.  I do not presume to know anything about nutrition or what will or will not work for you.

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New Lessons in Archaeology

As promised, yet a long time coming, Things I have Learned about bedrock mortars:

A bed rock mortar is a form of groundstone, used to grind things up (acorns, mice, paint, etc…).  Want to see a modern day version of this? Here is the one I have in my kitchen:

Source: My Kitchen

The key here is the interior- round and smooth, with a little exotic pepper residue from the last time I used it- gross. Back to mortars.

Source: waymarking.com

That’s a bedrock mortar. The interior kinda looks the same doesn’t it?  Do you see how it’s got horizontal rings in it? That’s one of the tells.

Here are a bunch of BRMs all on one rock together:

Source: archaeofieldtech

These were on the bank of a small stream. That’s another tell! That they’re near water. Most prehistoric sites are near water, but you knew that.

Source: archaeofieldtech

The above is NOT a bedrock mortar. It is also NOT a great photo. My apologies, I was hacking through low-bush-like oak trees at the time. And also, it was very hot.  This non-mortar is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, just outside Sequoia National Forest.

Source: USGS (disregard "Storm Track" OR- click and find out what they're talking about)

These non-mortars are formed by erosion.  Water pools in the lowest area on a granite boulder. This water then seeps down into the rock, freezes and causes the rock to break apart.  Also- these can be formed by aeolian (vocab word of the day) erosion- meaning WIND. For some reason, these non-mortars are called “solution cups” – that’s just for all you terminology geeks. I don’t know why they’re called that. I even asked around. No one knows. If you know, please tell me!

How do you tell a solution cup/non-mortar from a bedrock mortar? EASY.

1: Is it smooth anywhere? If your answer is YES, then it’s a bedrock mortar (in the cultural sense).

2: Does it have weird cracks? If your answer is YES, then it’s NOT a bedrock mortar (sorry!).

3: Is it perfectly round? If your answer is YES, then it could be EITHER (I tricked you. HAHA).

4: Is there other CULTURAL material nearby? If your answer is NO, then it could be EITHER (tricked you again).

That was not particularly helpful. Here is how I determine whether or not a nice round hole in some bedrock is cultural or not:

a) Feel. If it’s super smooth, it is probably cultural. This is the easiest way to tell. However, even if it’s not super smooth, it could still be cultural. Erosion could have acted on an already present mortar to make it less smooth.

b) Surroundings. If there’s cultural material on the ground or nearby, it’s more likely that you have a cultural feature.

c) Appearance. This is the least useful determinant. Generally I use this to tell from a distance (within my 10m transect) whether or not a hole in a chunk of bedrock is cultural. If it’s not super round, or if it is sitting on top of a huge crack, it’s probably not cultural. Still worth checking out though, because you NEVER KNOW!

Do you have any other ways of telling whether or not a nice looking cup in a slab of bedrock is cultural? Comment or Email me!

Rock art is going to have to wait. This post is long enough! If you made it this far- gold star for you! No seriously- email me. I’ll email you a gold star.

Bonus material:

So, I went to that flintknapping course I told you about this past Sunday- more about that soon. But, I thought I would share with you a revelation I had today while practicing flintknapping.

Source: archaeofieldtech

That’s what I made. More importantly, take a look at the flakes around it. Can’t see them? Take a gander at this photo:

Source: archaeofieldtech

My Revelation: Most of those flakes would fall right through my 1/8th inch screen. This is IMPORTANT because today I was screening what I knew MUST be a lithic reduction site, and I wasn’t getting that much stuff. Just some bland looking rhyolite pressure flakes.

Source: Uwharries Lithics Research Conference

I was very upset, I thought, “My eyes are going! It’s too hot for me to focus! I need water! Is it lunchtime yet?”

Back to the point of this bonus material, the Revelation.  There are probably more flakes in the unit than I will ever see, no matter how good my eyes are, because they are FALLING THROUGH THE SCREEN!

I wish I had a photo of the screen to show you… Oh well- here is someone else’s 1/8th in. screen:

Source: Dr. Emslie's Antartic Blog

Now, those of you who are not archaeologists might just be like, “Well why don’t you get screens with smaller holes?” That would be impractical due to the amount of dirt we have to go through in one day. If the screen was smaller, say 1/16th inch, it would take a lot longer for all that dirt to go through the screen.

For those of you who are archaeologists, and also flintknappers, or maybe had a lithics class at some point, you probably already knew this. WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?

Finally: I recommend that you all learn to flintknap, or at least try it, sometime soon. It’s fun! It’s painful. It’s amazing what you can create! Look forward to the post about the flintknapping course I took.

Oh and, here’s some extra bonus material:

Source: archaeofieldtech

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Where Did the State Archaeologists Go?

In Utah, three archaeologists were laid off due to budget cuts. Kevin Jones (state archaeologist), Ron Rood (assistant state archaeologist & possibly the outreach liason), and Derinna Kopp (physical anthropologist) were let go from the Antiquities Staff of the Utah State History Department.

The cuts were made by the Utah Department of Community and Culture, apparently as a part of Mike Hansen’s Strategic Plan to make the Utah state government more efficient. The Salt Lake Tribune states that these 3 positions were cut as part of a “‘menu’ of $550 million of possible budget cuts, including $154,300 in potential savings by cutting two positions in the historic preservation program.” — Loomis & Fahys

Source: Utah State History Dept. -- Archaeology Division

According to the article in the Salt Lake Tribune, these archaeologists were let go because they opposed the construction of a train station on top of an ancient (3000 year-old) archaeological site. The article later says that this issue was peacefully resolved, “But [Gov.] Herbert, a former president of the Utah Association of Realtors, won the praise of preservationists and tribes by ultimately signing a deal preserving 252 acres of the ancient American Indian village through a conservation easement granted to the nonprofit Utah Open Lands. UTA agreed to build its station and accompanying development farther north.”– Brandon Loomis & Judy Fahys, Salt Lake Tribune.  I recommend reading the comments section for some interesting perspectives on this issue, there are 342 of them.

In order to try to figure this out a little better, I visited the website for the Division of Utah State History. The archaeology staff is listed in two different places with two different lists, one list being much more populated than the other. In either case, the article states that only 2 people are left on the Antiquities staff, but my calculations put that number at at least 3 and possibly 7.

Being me (not a state archaeologist, as well as inquisitive, nosy, and skeptical), I wanted to try to figure out what all of these archaeologists in the Division of History do from the website. Alas, they did not have a nice transparent chart showing the organization of their division. I suppose I will have to find out some other way. Do you know how the Division of Utah State History works? If so, please let me know!

Update to the story: Controversy Didn’t Get the Archaeologists Fired – another Salt Lake Tribune article. Again- I recommend reading the comments section.

“JudgeGraft” writes about what the state archaeologists do, and it’s similar what John says in the comments here. Thanks John for explaining!

“The three archaeologists [Gov. Herbert] fired are the ones tasked with a primary concern for prehistoric resources. They are the ones that establish the standards for the work of archaeological professionals in the state. They assess the qualifications of permit applicants and assure their proposals are scientifically sound. They provide the last quality control check for thousands of reports coming in from around the state. They are the only ones with a broad, statewide perspective. They also are the ones who develop school programs so our kids can appreciate our heritage resources.” –JudgeGraft in Comments on Controversy Didn’t Get the Archaeologists Fired

Graft adds at the end, “Besides, how uncool is to fire a State Archaeologist named, Dr. Jones?”

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It’s an Oil Field!

Source: A Fellow Archaeologist, Melinda or Jo (I'm not sure!)

Recently I headed out to do some survey in the San Joaquin Valley, the fruit basket of the United States.  The valley also happens to be a prime location for oil, as you can see above. Those are brand-spankin’ new oil pumping units.

You may ask, “Why were you in an oil field?”

The short answer: Section 106 and CEQA and many other regulations that the United States and California have implemented in order to protect their cultural (historic and prehistoric) resources. That was not such a short answer… Here is a book to read all about Section 106 and those other laws. It’s written by Tom King who is an amazing writer.

I guess a shorter answer would be: I was looking for historic and/or prehistoric artifacts.  There were none. Often, in CRM, you don’t find anything, but we always have to look!

Source: archaeofieldtech

I took a photo of the ground for you- that’s where you look for artifacts. And here is a classic survey pose:

Source: archaeofieldtech

Walking with your head down. Staring at the ground, looking for interesting things. There was a ton of chert sitting on the ground out there, sort of interesting. It was non-cultural, and not very good quality- not knappable.

Source: paleoplanet

The darker brown points in this image are chert (the internet failed me- this is the best photo I came up with).  In this image they call this stuff agate. I’ve heard it called both chert and agate- they’re both classified as crypto-crystalline silicates (CCS). I will have to find the chert I saw and get some photos of it.

One final note about surveying in oil fields: you need an H2S monitor, otherwise you might DIE! Archaeology can be a dangerous business.

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