New vocational qualifications

It’s good to see the government getting serious about vocational learning. I have a vested interest here as I was involved in the effort to create a Humanities and Social Sciences Diploma under the last government before it was abolished by the incoming coalition.

Archaeology is both an intellectual and technical discipline. One of my frustrations when I was at the Council for British Archaeology was dealing with enquiries from parents whose son or daughter was mad keen to become an archaeologist but was not going to go to university. Without a degree it is almost impossible to get into archaeology as a career now (unlike in the 1970s and 80s).

I’ve long felt there needs to be a technical pathway for entry into archaeology to make sure we are an open and accessible profession. At the moment we are highly elitist, open only to graduate and therefore overwhelmingly middle class.

This is what the BBC News website has to say about the new qualifications “Tech-levels will take as long to complete as A-Levels and will need to be endorsed by either a professional association or by five employers registered with Companies House. These qualifications will focus on hands-on practical training, leading to recognised occupations for example in engineering, computing, accounting or hospitality. In addition, Applied General Qualifications will take the same time to complete as AS-levels and will focus on broader study of a technical area, not directly linked to an occupation. These qualifications will need backing from three universities to count in performance tables.”

It would be good to see the IfA, SCFA and the CBA perhaps get together and seek to develop a Tech-level and Applied General for archaeology to sit alongside the current A Level and begin to make ourselves a more egalitarian and accessible discipline.

But then I am incurable optimist and dreamer!

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Mick Aston R.I.P.

Just got news that Mick Aston has died. I only met him a few times but he always came across as utterly dedicated to archaeology, and wholly without any airs and graces. He was a gentle man and a gentleman. His work at Shapwick was of the highest quality. His involvement in Time Team brought archaeology to new audiences. His dedication to adult education and community involvement in archaeology was an inspiration. His support for the Young Archaeologists’ Club was freely and gladly given. Archaeologists can often be elitist, egotistical, blinkered and selfish. That was never Mick. He stood for all the qualities that we need in archaeology – selfless, egalitarian, looking outwards at the bigger picture and dedicated to others. He leaves many good memories behind. He will be missed.

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TV archaeology: how it should be done

Stories from the Dark Earth, BBC 4, 20:00, 1st May 2013

Good to see Julian Richards back on our screens, showing how an archaeology documentary should be done. A good narrative, sober but engaging presentation and solid archaeology. Also good to see the story hinging on post-excavation analysis that too often gets forgotten. Julian has been away from TV for too long.

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Angry about TV archaeology

I’m angry. I was looking forward to a documentary on BBC4 about archaeological discoveries in Jerusalem that challenge accepted interpretations of the Jewish exodus from Israel. Now I see the BBC have pulled the programme and replaced it with a repeat documentary about Flinders Petrie, one of the founders of Egyptology. Archaeology has important things to say about the world we live in. Its role in political debate needs to be recognised and embraced. I wasn’t looking to see any bashing of one political point of view or another but an intelligent exploration of the political relevance of archaeology. Who pulled the programme and why? I can only assume it was for political reasons. Is the BBC so craven and cowardly as to lose its nerve?

It’s been simply announced as a change to the schedule to whet our appetite for an archaeology season on BBC4 billed as how archaeologists have revealed the past. Ha! Archaeology is not about the past. It is part of the present. The original programme on Jerusalem would have been a better introduction than any.

I need to do some shouting!!

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IfA conference again

Highlight of the conference today, a paper by John Schofield on assessing the personality of archaeologists and the to find feeling rather than thinking personality traits when engaging with the public. Possibly the first time Myers-Briggs has been mentioned at an archaeology conference.

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IfA conference

At the IfA conference in Birmingham. Some good papers. Highlight so far for me was a paper on the MORTARIA project on doing archaeology with offenders in prison by Caroline Pudney. Superb. Other highlight is more of Birmingham and being surprised at how nice bits of it are. Some beautiful old buildings and new cityscapes.

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Day of Archaeology 2103

Supporting Lorna Richardson’s wonderful Day of Archaeology this year.

Call for participants for 2013:

Have you ever wondered what other archaeologists really get up to? The Day of Archaeology project aims to provide a window into the daily lives of archaeologists from all over the world.  The project asks archaeologists working, studying or volunteering in the anywhere in the world to participate with us in a “Day of Archaeology” each year in the summer by recording their day and sharing it through text, images or video on the website:  The resulting Day of Archaeology project demonstrates the wide variety of work our profession undertakes day-to-day across the globe, and helps to raise public awareness of the relevance and importance of archaeology to the modern world. We want anyone with a personal, professional or voluntary interest in archaeology to get involved, and help highlight the reasons why archaeology is vital to protect the past and inform our futures.

The project is run completely for free by a team of volunteers who are all professional archaeologists, working at museums, universities and in commercial archaeology in the UK, Spain and North America.

Taking part in the project is completely free and requires little knowledge of blogging or internet technologies.
The whole Day of Archaeology project relies on goodwill and a passion for public engagement!

The first ever Day of Archaeology in 2011 was held on the 29th July 2011 and had over 400 contributing archaeologists, from those working in the field through to specialists working in laboratories and behind computers.  The second Day of Archaeology took place on the 29th July 2012, and over 300 archaeologists took part.

This year, in 2013, the Day of Archaeology will be held on Friday 26th July.  If you are interested in taking part, please register your details, or ask any questions by emailing us at  We hope you can join us!

With thanks,


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