Where in the hell am I?

January 29, 2009

Mind the gap

Filed under: analysis, archaeology — Tags: , , , , , , — John @ 6:06 am

This week has been atypically crazy for me, particularly for being in the office. In some measure, it’s due to the fact that I leave late Thursday morning for East Texas, where I almost surely be until March. This means I have to tie up all my loose ends, such as a report covering the Louisiana work for the client.

But the real albatross is the artifact analysis for the Siren site report. We finished excavations at the site almost exactly three years ago, in mid-January 2006. Afterwards, we did our initial artifact cleaning, inventory, and basic sort. And then we waited. And waited. Just when we thought the client had finally approved our research design and our budget, TxDOT had their monetary crisis and the project was put on hold again. Of course, we also slashed our initial work and budget proposal by 1/3 trying to sneak in under the wire. So, sometime in September or October, everything finally went through. Of course, it’s now on an accelerated schedule AND there’s less hours and money but not really less work. Plus, it’s been almost three years since these things were looked at and sorted.

So jump to this week,when we’re almost out of hours for artifact analysis. This wouldn’t be so bad, as the deadline for having the work completed and tables and databases submitted is Friday. However, misplaced artifacts keep turning up. Things get sorted wrong, identified incorrectly, labeled incorrectly, put in the wrong box. It happens. But it’s almost like a cold case at this point trying to track things down, and in some cases they had essentially been written off. It’s not like 9 bifaces out of an assemblage of 900 is going to make a big difference. But my lovely wife, the assistant lab director, somehow managed to find a couple dozen assorted missing artifacts. Today. Around 3:30.

I don’t know exactly what the moral of the story is. As I said, things get misplaced, and sometimes they don’t get found. Deadlines are always crazy, and most archaeologists have weird, unpredictable schedules. All that said, it seems like the gap (there’s the titular reference for ya!) between the excavation, the initial sort and inventory, and the analysis contributed to the current frenzy. As it is, there’s a remarkable staffing continuity for this project, in that all but one of the lead archaeologists are still with the company, along with all but one of the techs who did the initial work. I can’t even imagine what this would have been like otherwise. The long gap between excavation and analysis/reporting is a major problem in the world of archaeology, and in fact I think that in many cases it’s much much worse in the academic realm. I don’t know if there’s a solution. At least I know that the lag for the next project is a year shorter, and the assemblage is smaller.

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