At the 2015 SHA conference in Seattle, myself and the organising committee tried an experiment in video recording some of the panels and presentations. The goal is to share some of the remarkable research and thoughts that were presented at the conference with everyone who could not attend. Or maybe did attend but could not see every session/roundtable/presentation you wanted to because of conflicting schedules. Over the coming weeks we will be posting the videos and discussion about many of the exciting topics filmed, from how to publish as a student to work/life issues in professional archaeology.
The first set of videos we would like to share with you are those from the plenary. The topic of the SHA 2015 Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology plenary was ‘The West as an Edge: Defining and Exploring Current Approaches in Archaeology’. This explored the conference theme—boundary and periphery—and took the idea of “the west” in its myriad forms as its secondary theme. We hope you enjoy watching them discuss the topic as much as we did.
Symposium Chair: Carolyn White (University of Nevada, Reno)
Panelists: Chelsea Rose (Southern Oregon University)
James Delgado (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
Kelly Dixon (University of Montana)
Laurie Wilkie (University of California, Berkeley)
Margie Purser (Sonoma State University)
The Q & A.
If you like these videos be sure to check out this years conference, which is sure to be amazing. If you are interested in more conference videos be sure to check out Recording Archaeology and subscribe there to receive updates when more videos become available.
Developing new avenues of public archaeology is not always easy. Last year I highlighted my difficulties trying to connect a temporary or transplanted population to the archaeology of southwest Florida. By (tourist) season, I’ve made headway through persistence. Thanks to some amazing partnerships with regional museums, public library systems, and National and Florida State Parks, Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) and I have been able to reach a growing variety of people through lectures, children’s programming, tours, and heritage events. It’s supremely satisfying to chat with attendees who, even after 20 or more winters spent in the area, “didn’t even know ___.”
However, my elation grinds to a halt when they pose their inevitable follow up question: “Where can I help at a dig?” I am forced to admit that there aren’t any. We aren’t so lucky down here as wonderful St. Augustine where visitors might “stumble upon” an active, professional dig site. In fact, the number of field projects that have happened in my region’s five southwest Florida counties in the last four years couldn’t even fill up one hand. There are no regularly accessible labs either. A visitor might have to drive two or more hours to find a lab to visit or help out. How do I connect the people who’ve seen the lecture, read the panel, taken the tour, or visited the museum with an active, responsible way to do fieldwork nearby when no such opportunities exist locally? Fortunately, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. FPAN already has two popular workshops that empower the engaged public with vital aspects of archaeological work that require no excavation or artifact removal.
The Cemetery Resource Protection Training (CRPT) workshop, recently awarded the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2015 Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Preservation Education/Media, teaches participants how to manage, maintain, and record human burials and historic cemeteries. The Submerged Sites Education and Archaeological Stewardship (SSEAS) workshop teaches sport divers about submerged resources and how to monitor and record them scientifically. In both cases attendees are furthered charged with the task with going out into the world and recording and reporting additional cemetery or submerged resources to the Florida Master Site File (FMSF). Using these successful workshops as models might be my ticket to investing the more eager members of the public to our local resources and the field of archaeology in new and unexpected ways.
I think involving the public in the discourse of archaeology through a direct connection to the resources in the places they have been found is key. Public interest and hands-on participation create a bond that can lead to steps professionals don’t always get to: extensive advocacy, fundraising, the creation of watchdog groups, and lobbying. Plus, I’m not entirely sure the uninitiated public would be prepared for the difficulties of excavation under the hot south Florida sun anyway.
I am in the process of developing such a new workshop, but I need your help! So far, I’d like to discuss archaeological resource types and processes and highlight the laws that govern them. I’d like to teach participants basic pedestrian survey-style techniques as a way of identifying sites and recording archaeological remains for the FMSF. That way, under the supervision of archaeologists or resource managers, participants can help with the vital work of monitoring known (and sometimes infrequently visited) sites or add to/update the general knowledge of Florida’s resources without having to touch a shovel. Ideally, educated volunteers keeping a constant wary eye out for our resources by may relieve overtaxed resource managers of some of their burdens. I’d also like to include specific “modules” geared towards special interest groups. One idea is to perhaps model a lesson after the cautiously and eloquently designed Archaeological Partnership Program intended to educate avocational metal detectorists. My goal test audience will be park or museum volunteers- those already operating under the supervision of senior staff –and the first workshop will occur late this fall.
As is a concern with all training workshops, I do not want this to become “How to Pot Hunt 101.” Do you think I’m on the right track for my no-digs predicament? What other hands-on, no-dig/ no-lab ways have you done active archaeology with the public? Do you have any suggestions for additional modules? Let me know! If not, you’ll likely hear how I fared on my own next January in D.C.
- Engaging areas of interest (choosing courses, research directions)
- Pursuing funding/support
- Finding a field school/running a field school
Changes in academic status
- Choosing a graduate school or post-doc program
- Preparing for the job market
Preparing for Adjunct teaching- benefits and pitfalls
Participation in SHA
- Understanding benefits of participation and how to get involved
- Preparing presentations or organizing symposia
- Developing skillsets for a career in cultural resource management or other area of archaeological practice.
- Negotiating salaries and other workplace issues.
- Finding the right publication venues
- Preparing papers for submission; understanding style and writing guidelines
- Navigating the peer-review process
Good morning SHA members! For this week’s #SHA2016 conference post, Jade Luiz, graduate student at Boston University, discusses the upcoming #SHA2016 Ethics Bowl. Please read below to learn more!
As registration for the #SHA2016 Annual Meeting takes off, we hope that students consider all of the different events available to them, including the Ethics Bowl! The APTC student subcommittee, aided by the Ethics Committee, is gearing up for the third annual SHA Ethics Bowl at #SHA2016 in Washington, DC! Terrestrial and underwater archaeology students are invited to participate in this challenging and fun ethics event. Students will take on case studies relevant to ethical issues that they may encounter in their careers. Because issues in archaeological ethics are rarely static, “game-changer” cards will also be introduced during play to encourage participants to think on their feet and make changes to their plans mid-stream.
Students are welcome to form their own teams of up to four members of mixed graduate and undergraduate participants. Competitors will be given this year’s cases in advance so they can prepare their position. The issues posed range from underwater to terrestrial contexts and have been provided by members of the SHA Ethics committee. These issues are based on current challenges students may face in their careers (if they have not already). In addition, we want The Ethics Bowl to mirror real life as closely as we can—one always has to expect the unexpected. For this reason, a game-changing card will be introduced during play for each team. The cards contain new information about the case and provide complications players will need to negotiate. Quick thinking will be a plus! The spontaneous nature of these curve balls will make for some additional fun!
Planning is already underway to make the #SHA2016 Ethics Bowl the biggest and best yet! While the past grand prize has been registration for the following year’s annual meeting, this year the Register for Professional Archaeologists (RPA) is providing a grand prize of $500 to be shared among the members of the winning team with a second place prize of registration to the 2017 annual meeting in Fort Worth, TX! In addition, the ethics scenarios will be provided by the SHA Ethics Committee and the RPA, with volunteer judges from both organizations.
Teams will be scored on clarity, depth, focus, and judgment, in their responses. The bowl is intended to foster both good-natured competition and camaraderie between students from many different backgrounds and universities. Registration is now OPEN for the #SHA2016 Ethics Bowl, until October 20th, 2015!
The 2015 Ethics Bowl in Seattle, WA, was a success despite its small size. Competitors included both graduate and undergraduate students from East Carolina University, Wesleyan University, and University of Idaho. As our judges, we were honored to have Paul Johnston, Darby Stapp, and Sara Gonzalez, who asked probing questions of the participating teams. The 2015 case study posed the following issue to our competitors:
“For several years you have been working for a local museum in a region known for its underwater, colonial era shipwrecks. One day, a patron schedules an appointment with you to discuss a wreck that he has discovered while diving. The patron seems genuinely interested in the history of the area, and you feel like the meeting may end in an excellent research opportunity, but the patron removes a box from his bag which, as it turns out, is packed quite full of Spanish coins and other small, valuable objects. He explains that he took only the items he could easily carry from the wreck as he had not been expecting to find anything so intact, but that there were many well-preserved boxes of cargo and ship fixtures visible and apparently recently exposed. It becomes clear that the purpose of meeting with you is that he wants you, as an archaeologist, to value the items so that he might better estimate the economic wisdom of carrying out a large-scale salvage of the site. When you explain that you do not feel comfortable assigning value to artifacts, the patron becomes offended and suggests that he might get the information elsewhere. He is unwilling to share the location of the site if you do not agree to value the artifacts.”
In addition to the above problem, our teams also had to contend with the following game-changers:
“The patron informs you that he has already secured the full support and funding of a large salvage company for removing artifacts.”
“The patron refuses to guarantee that he will let you know where the site is if you assist him.”
Despite there being no ideal option for our participants in this scenario, they did really well making the best of an awful situation through in-depth exploration of the issues. In the end, the East Carolina State team took the day and each team member won free registration to the #SHA2016 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC!
Additionally, if you are interested in volunteering with this event, either in preparation for the annual meeting or the day of competition (or both!), please email Jade Luiz at email@example.com.
Keep an eye out for more information regarding upcoming student events and the #SHA2016 Ethics Bowl. We look forward to seeing you in Washington, DC!
A lot of news (and panic) is rapidly circulating among the preservation and archaeological communities as the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act – the DRIVE Act (S. 1647, sponsored by Sen. Inhofe (R-OK)) – makes its way through Congress. It passed the Senate on July 30 as an amendment to H.R. 22.
Drawing everyone’s ire is Section 11116 of H.R. 22 (formerly Section 1116 of the Senate’s DRIVE Act), which in part orders the Secretary of Transportation to “align, to the maximum extent practicable, with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4231 et seq.) and section 306108 of title 54 [Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act].” Commentaries on Section 11116 express deep concern that it will eliminate review under Department of Transportation Act Section 4(f), which mandates that the administering department at the federal DOT may not approve the use of a Section 4(f) property unless a determination is made that there is no prudent and feasible alternative to the use of the property and the action includes all possible planning to minimize harm, or that the use will have a de minimis (i.e., trifling or minimal) impact on the property.
National Trust President & CEO Stephanie Meeks published a widely circulated op-ed in The Hill’s Congress Blog on July 29, arguing that “Section 11116 … essentially guts the requirement that transportation projects take the least harmful alternative around a historic landmark, if avoiding it altogether isn’t ‘feasible and prudent.’”
Clarifying Section 11116
Section 11116 would not completely eliminate 4(f) reviews. Rather, it states that if the DOT determines there is no feasible and prudent alternative to avoid use of an historic site (that is, properties listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places), the Secretary shall inform applicable SHPOs and THPOs, the ACHP, and the Department of Interior of the determination and ask for their concurrence. If they all concur, then the DOT can satisfy the requirements of Section 4(f) through treatment of the historic site as stipulated in a Section 106 memorandum of agreement or programmatic agreement.
Currently, if the DOT uses a historic site or other protected property and the impact is not de minimis, the DOT prepares an individual Section 4(f) evaluation, which can be a time consuming process. (The Federal Highway Administration has five programmatic evaluations that it can apply to a project, if appropriate, which are basically streamlined individual evaluations.) The 4(f) evaluation requires the DOT to demonstrate that there are no feasible and prudent alternatives that avoid the use of the Section 4(f) property, and if there are no such alternatives, the DOT identifies measures to minimize harm to the property.
Under the proposed changes in Section 11116, if the parties agree that there is no feasible and prudent alternative that avoids impacts to an historic site, then the impacts on the site are not taken into account in the individual Section 4(f) evaluation process. Also, the proposed changes will have little impact upon archaeological resources, since 4(f) protection only rarely applies to archaeological sites. As the Federal Highway Administration’s and Federal Transit Administration’s Section 4(f) regulations explain, a National Register listed or eligible archaeological site is not protected under Section 4(f) if the site is important chiefly because of what can be learned by data recovery and has minimal value for preservation in place.
Finally, with the House in recess until after Labor Day, the Act has a minimal chance of progressing, particularly because lawmakers are unlikely to agree on how to pay for a long-term transportation bill. That being said, there is concern among state DOTs that involving Interior in this new review process might actually delay projects rather than streamline them, since Interior already takes months to approve Section 4(f) reviews. Accordingly, involving Interior in the concurrence process might further slow down project delivery, and grow the incentive to reduce protections for historic sites. Also, the Act would place the burden of consulting with the DOT to determine what is feasible and prudent on SHPOs, THPOs, and the ACHP, a task outside their NHPA-mandated responsibilities.
It appears that while there are ample grounds to oppose Section 11116, and to watch this and other transportation proposals closely for impacts on historic and archaeological resources, we should resist the urge to panic.
Here’s the latest in our series of entertaining interviews with a diverse array of your fellow SHA members. Meet a member for the first time or learn something about a colleague that you never knew before. This blog series also offers current members an opportunity to share their thoughts on why SHA membership is important (Camaraderie? Professional service? Exchange of ideas in conference rooms and beyond? You tell us!). If you would like to be an interviewee, please email the Membership Committee Social Media Liaisons Eleanor Breen(firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kim Pyszka (email@example.com).
Michelle Pigott is a graduate student at the University of West Florida. Her master’s thesis discusses culture change in two Apalachee Indian communities during the 18th century using detailed ceramic analyses.
What’s the most interesting artifact you’ve ever found? This summer the field school I was running as a graduate student field director discovered a partially complete miniature Apalachee brushed ceramic jar, nestled in the backfill of a historic post hole. This fall UWF’s Virtebra Lab run by Dr. Kristina Killgrove and fellow grad student Mariana Zechini, was able to 3D scan and print it: http://virtebra.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/42/
What is the first site you worked on? What is the last one (or current one)? The first site I worked on was a month-long field school through California State University, Dominguez Hills, at a late historic Chumash Indian village in the Los Padres National Forest in 2009. The most recent site I’ve worked on (field work ended in August, lab work is ongoing) is a mid-18th century Apalachee Indian Mission, San Joseph de Escambe, located north of Pensacola. It has been the main source of my material for my master’s thesis research and also has a great blog run by our PI, Dr. John Worth: http://pensacolacolonialfrontiers.blogspot.com/
What are you currently reading? Well my “for fun” book right now is Cibola Burn by James A. Corey, the fourth of a series of excellent hard sci-fi novels. Archaeologically speaking, I am reading The Native American World Beyond Apalachee: West Florida and the Chattahoochee Valley (John H. Hann, 2006) and French Colonial Archaeology in the Southeast and Caribbean (Kenneth G. Kelly and Meredith D. Hardy, editors, 2011), both of which are providing excellent background information for my master’s thesis research.
What did you want to be when you grew up? In my elementary school years I was fairly certain I would grow up to be a paleontologist, however, discovering a cache of old Egyptology coffee table books at eight years old left me obsessed with archaeology (I had pyramids painted on my bedrooms walls well into high school), and while my interests have shifted continents and time periods, I’ve never looked back!
Why are you a member of SHA? As a graduate student, being in SHA opens up so many opportunities to be in tune with current international research, as well as great networking. Plus it’s an awesome excuse to go and visit new cities for the annual meetings!
At what point in your career did you first join SHA? When I was in my second year of graduate school.
How many years have you been a member (approximately)? Two years (and planning on many more!)
Which article from Historical Archaeology has been the most influential to you? Well right now, as part of my thesis work, I’ve been reading up a lot on the theory of “creolization” and how it’s best used to discuss culture change in North American Native Indian communities. I’ve found three articles, “From Colonist to Creole: Archaeological Patterns of Spanish Colonization in the New World” by Charles Ewan (2000, 34(3):36-45), “The Intersections of Colonial Policy and Colonial Practice: Creolization on the Eighteenth-Century Louisiana/Texas Frontier” by Diana DiPaolo Loren (2000, 34(3):85-98), and “Creolization in Southwest Florida: Cuban Fishermen and “Spanish Indians,” ca. 1766-1841” by John Worth (2012, 46(1):142-160), to be especially helpful on this diverse topic.
Which benefit of belonging to SHA do you find the most beneficial? It’s definitely a tie between access to all the journal articles (online!) and being able to attend the annual meetings. A conference full of presentations just on historical archaeology? Yes please!
Good afternoon SHA members! We hope this post finds you taking a much needed break from the field or lab!
As you may know from our previous post, July 24th was the international Day of Archaeology (#dayofarch), virtually hosted by the Day of Archaeology Project! To reiterate, the Day of Archaeology Project encourages the archaeological community to celebrate and promote archaeology on a global scale, via social media.
For the past few years, D.C. has participated in #dayofarch, hosted by Archaeology in the Community (AITC). This year, the D.C. Day of Archaeology festival was held at the historic Dumbarton House, in Georgetown, and had a wonderful turnout of D.C., Maryland, and Virginia organizations, firms, and school departments. #dayofarch participants and volunteers set up displays, games, exercises as well as coordinated visits to the local Yarrow Mamout Archaeological Project, in order to celebrate and promote archaeology in the D.C. area. Please check out AITC’sFacebook for photos of the event!
If you are curious about other participants in #dayofarch, run a search on #dayofarch via Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram. Anyone who posted to the hashtag “#dayofarch” will pop up in a search on one of these social media outlets. Or, visit the Day of Archaeology Project website for all of the #dayofarch blog posts- from around the world-here!
And, if you are curious about past #dayofarch contributions, check out this awesome map, depicting the growth of the Project since 2011! Hover over your region/country/city of choice and see what contributions were posted!
Hope you join #dayofarch, next year!
On Monday, July 20th, the Montpelier Archaeology Department appeared on the National Geographic Channel’s Diggers television program. This program has been an issue of contention for archaeologists and metal detectorists alike, but efforts by SHA and other archaeological organizations to work with National Geographic and the National Geographic Channel have led to a show that melds archaeology and metal detecting together. As participants in these conversations, and as advocates for the collaboration of archaeology and metal detecting Montpelier decided to put ourselves forward as one of a handful of archaeological sites willing to have a show filmed at our site. In this blog, wanted to provide some tips and strategies we used to ensure the filming was successful (you can watch the entire episode below).
First and foremost, we found that the production team, from the exective producer down to the film crew, wanted to cooperate with the goals we had for filming. In terms of the actors, Ringy and KG are both very intelligent folks who are skilled metal detectorists with an earnest interest in material culture, sites, and bringing the joy of discovery to the public, all elements we have in common. And finally, the newly hired archaeologist, Dr. Marc Henshaw, is a fantastic guy with great experience who serves as an excellent liaison between the film team and the project. With this said, we found the following guidelines as essential for a successful production.
Establish and Maintain Ground Rules
Establish with the field film crew the ground rules. We had three areas we wanted to reinforce:
- that Ringy and KG would be shown as working within a larger team of archaeologists and metal detector participants–teamwork would be a tangible outome. We filmed this show during one of our Metal Detector Expedition Programs, and had the expectation that they would participate in the lectures, tours, and other elements of that program, including building relationships with our staff and participants. They did just that.
- that our crew would do their best to present the grid in a visible manner-in this case, we not only staked the grid with wooden stakes, but also pulled flagging tape between the stakes to have it prominently displayed.
- that Ringy and KG would only work in areas that we designated–no side trips anywhere outside the gridded area–we emphasized the only place we do metal detector survey is where we have a grid established–anywhere else is a strict break in protocol.
With these parameters clearly established, the film crew and the actors knew exactly what to expect—and this guided what the field producer looked for in terms of entertainment and improv from the guys–and in the end built methdology and teamwork into the shows storyline.
Prepare the Site
For preparation for the shoot, pick a site where you know you can get results in a short amount of time–that way you control the content of the project and the show. This is the reason we chose the stable–we knew we would recover artifacts related to tack material (horse shoes, nails, buckles, etc) and had a high chance of finding enough material culture to establish patterns. While the survey was real and the info we gained was new, we chose an area we had very high confidence in, and had poked around before.
Emphasize Context by Finishing
Make sure that you can process the finds to the point to show the importance of provenience: in the field, we made sure we were able to complete an entire 60′ x 60′ survey block and had time to shoot the points in with the transit, data enter the field catalogue of items, and plot these on maps by the end of the week. This was of critical importance since the assessment needs to happen while the film crew is still on site, in our case, this happened the Saturday morning following the final day (Friday) in the field. Having a plot map with the patterns already established meant the assessment was more than just a glorified artifact display, but presented the data behind all the work carried out to record location.
Communicate and Be Flexible
The Digger’s production crew clearly wanted to capture the elements we discussed—they just needed to get the results while they were in the field. Also, what is shot in the field has to well thought out enough to make sense to the editors in the office—these are two different teams, and the only communication that occurs between the field and office is the executive producer—so capturing quality shots, quotes, and messages in the field that flow together into a larger story is absolutely essential. In the end, know that getting results from about 3–4 days in the field that are suitable for a prime-time reality TV show entails a lot of work and preparation. Once the film crew arrives you have to be on top of your game with very little margin for error. For the production shoot we held at Montpelier, the staging of the work and results would have been impossible without having a trained and dedicated archaeological staff to assist through the process.
Over Emphasize Your Message
The final item to realize is that while the production team is allowing review of content during production, there it is almost impossible to shoot new material once the film crew is done with the shoot. As such, make sure your message is caught on film—both in anecdotal clips in the field and definitely in the assessment. Review this message with your staff, and make sure it is said over and over again, whenever anyone is on camera. We talked with our staff and Expedition members about what we wanted to message, so that they were prepared when the camera was in their face. In the case of the final assessment, it occurred to me during in the middle of shooting how to play Ringy and KG off one another to make the point regarding negative data. What this required was complete immersion in the final product—both in terms of us (as archaeologists) and the production team.
Prepare Yourself and Your Staff
This is critical. We could not have done all the work we did without having a sizeable staff that is well trained in metal detector survey, in addition to a full expedition program that included 9 additional metal detectorists and 6 visiting archaeologists. We have been working with metal detectorists for years through our public programs, and even employ two metal detector technicians on our staff. We had no concerns about using metal detecting as a survey tool, the efficacy of our methods, our ability to work with KG and Ringy once they arrived on site, or with how to excavate, record, bag, flag, tag, and catalogue objects: our methodology is tried and tested, and our staff executes it regularly. The only thing that was new to us were the TV cameras. We made sure to prepare our staff and expedition members for appropriate messaging, language, and other elements so that they were all ready to be on camera.
If you haven’t built relationships or worked with metal detectorists before, then the television program could be a lot of learning for you and your staff all at once. We’d strongly encourage you to attend one of our upcoming Metal Detector Expeditions to learn our methodology and also how to work with members of the metal detecting community, particularly if you are interested in doing the Diggers Program. We have designed these programs to provide a space for archaeologists and metal detector hobbiests to collaborate, and, more importantly, to learn how to collaborate. Having confidence in the methods and understanding the community you are working with will ensure that you can focus on getting your message through.
Working with the Diggers program was an incredibly rewarding experience, as have all our Expedition Programs. In truth, it has made our Expedition Programs better. For example, having results at the end of the week is not ever something we have done before: we believe the entire Expedition learned more about context by seeing the results of the survey at the end of the week then by us explaining what we would be using the data for in the future. From a larger perspective, it is our hope that participating in the Diggers show has allowed the public to also learn about what archaeology is, and what the collaboration between metal detectorists and archaeologists can look like when done through empathy, collaboration, and hard work.
Yes, the King and Ringy, that duo you love to hate will be kicking off the third season of Diggers, July 20th on The National Geographic Channel. What? They’re still in business!? All the other such shows – Savage Family Diggers,Dig Fellas, and Dig Wars, have all gone by the wayside. Curiously, Diggers has actually been a hit for the NGC. Even with that ratings success, things will be a bit different this season.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, the National Geographic Society wants to win back its brand and they have turned to professional archaeologists for help. In cooperation with Half Yard Productions, the producers ofDiggers, both the SHA and the SAA assembled panels to review the rough cuts of each of the episodes for season 3. These panels made comments, on what they saw and these were often incorporated into the final episodes. They also compensated the panels for their time and effort. The SHA panel put this money ($3000) into the student travel fund.
So, what has changed? First, they have eliminated the dollar value assessments of the artifacts that are recovered. This has been one of the main objections from the archaeological community and we told the production company that it was a deal breaker if it stayed. Still, this was a huge concession on their part since valuation of the finds is the “payoff” on popular shows such as Pawn Stars, Antiques Roadshow, and Storage Wars. We will see how much it is missed by the non-professional audience.
Second, they have hired a new on-screen archaeologist, Marc Henshaw. Marc has a PhD in Industrial Archeology and Heritage from Michigan Tech. He owns his own archaeological consulting firm, Nemacolin Archaeological Services and writes an archaeological blog www.archaeologydude.com where he shares his insights into the everyday life and mind of a professional archaeologist. Accordingly, he subscribes to a holistic stakeholder approach to archaeology. His blog proclaims “that if you can’t make the archaeological sites important to the community, they will never be worth anything to that community either from a heritage standpoint or a preservation standpoint.” Seems like the right guy for the show and there is a chemistry developing between he and metal detectorists.
Third, archaeology is becoming a bigger part of each episode. Marc gets a respectable amount of airtime serving as the straight man to the antics the diggers. He is often shown discussing the research strategy, recording provenience and relating the significance of the finds at the end of each program. There are frequent text reminders that they have permission to search on private property and it is made explicit that the artifacts remain with the landowners or local museum/historical society.
Finally, they have sought out real archaeologists to partner with when possible. This has proven to be no small feat as most archaeologists were understandably reluctant to have them or the disruption of their cameras, on their sites. Still they managed to work with a few archaeologists this season and these proved to be the best episodes. In fact, the season begins with the boys volunteering at Montpelier and being shown the cooperative ropes by our own Matt Reeves (who has shared about his public metal detecting programs here before). It is worth watching.
Is it a good show now? That depends upon what you want. It is entertaining, the backstories and graphics are good, and they visit some interesting places. The boys are still over-the-top silly, but apparently that is part of their charm. And honestly, many of the shows on PBS have bought into the cult of personality (e.g. History Detectives, This Old House, Secrets of the Dead). Diggers may not be your favorite show, but at least I don’t think you will hate it now. If you do, there’s always CSPAN.