It’s been a while since we’ve posted a blog, but fear not – we are back for the 2018 season! It’s always nice to take a bit of a break from work, and although the field-school might only run for a few weeks in the summer, planning and preparation goes on year-round.
There are only 61 days to go until we arrive back in Italy and the excitement is building! But, there’s still a lot to do before we start work. It’s easy to forget about all the things that go into running an archaeological field-school – when I attended my first dig as a student I was totally oblivious to what was going on behind the scenes to make sure everything ran smoothly. Six years later I now know just how much forward planning and organisation it takes!
Really, preparation for the next season begins before the previous one is even finished – working out what we have achieved and how it affects what we want to do in the future. Is there anything super exciting that we want to investigate further, or is there somewhere we’re getting no results and can move on from? Which equipment gave us the best results? Are there any other techniques we can use on the same area to try and achieve different results? The list of questions is endless.
The end of the season is also a great time to reflect on how the season went overall, not just in relation to our research but more basic things like how well the sleeping and meal arrangements worked, was the chore rota effective etc. We also like to check with the students if they have any particular comments on what they liked, or things they think could be improved. We’ve found it’s much better to do this while we’re still in country, as once you leave and get back to normal life your memories focus on the incredible fun you had but the fact that you had to send someone on an emergency run to the store for toilet roll (twice) seems to be forgotten…..
Immediately after our return home there’s a lot to do: processing data; writing up research; applying for conferences, grants, and journal publications. Student recruitment also begins early, so we have to update the handbook, create flyers and leaflets, and attend study abroad fairs to spread the word and encourage people to join us in Italy. In addition to the students, we also need to make sure we have enough staff members to cater for all the student and research needs and depending on what our plans are for the season, we may need people with new and different skills and specialisations.
With people comes paperwork! Health and safety declarations, dietary requirements, vaccination certificates, travel insurance, flights, and for many of our students, applying for their first passport! Then we have to tell the Italian government how many people will be coming, apply for permits, check with local landowners that we can conduct our survey on their land and ensure we know which fields will be harvested and when, so we can map out our plan of attack.
Once we’ve got the numbers we need to work out the finer details – where will everyone sleep, how do we feed everyone, how many cars will we need to hire, do we need to buy any new equipment? Fortunately, we have great contacts in Italy who can help us organise accommodation and who store a lot of our equipment for us when we’re away. There are also things we can do at home, like working out readings on archaeological techniques and equipment, journal questions and other activities for the students, weekend timetables, planning a few tasks that can effectively fill the students’ time if we have any unexpected free time (this can be anything from a machine breaking, to a team finishing their task early, or even just bad weather).
Finally, all of us have our own personal to do lists – buying new clothes (or digging out the old ones from the attic – no pun intended), checking you’ve got enough medication/contact lenses/favourite snacks to get you through the season abroad, purchasing foreign currency, and finding someone to look after the cat! (I’m not sure if it’s coincidence or if we’ve all been drawn to each other but we’re a fairly heavily pet orientated staff with 8 cats and 3 dogs between us!). Once all that is done, it’s time for the real work to begin! All this preparation ensures we have a fantastic field season, and we hope you enjoy reading about it in the upcoming months as much as we enjoy being there!