AMDA and APP: Two Training Programs in Archaeological Metal Detecting

Guest post by Christopher Espenshade and Patrick Severts

Our goal here today is to introduce two training programs in best practices in metal detecting.  Many battlefield studies rely heavily on metal detecting as an investigative method, and metal detecting can be labor intensive.  The study of a battlefield can require many persondays of detecting; where will this expertise be found?  The authors have been involved in the creation of two classes designed to provide metal detecting personnel who can apply best practices in metal detecting to professional research.

AMDA Field Session, Winchester, Virginia, USA

AMDA Field Session, Winchester, Virginia, USA

Advanced Metal Detecting for the Archaeologist (AMDA) is a continuing education class aimed at professional archaeologists.  The class is certified by the Register of Professional Archaeologists (RPA).  We are clear in our belief that improving best practices in metal detecting will improve the quality of battlefield studies.

The second course, Archaeological Partnership Program (APP), is designed for avocational detectorists who would like to work in tandem with professional archaeologists.  Avocational detectorists have great skills, local knowledge, a keen interest, a commitment to history, and a desire to help preserve battlefields and similar military sites.  Through the training of a corps of avocational detectorists, APP is developing a resource that will help in the study and preservation of battlefields.

Taken together, AMDA and APP increase the skills of professional archaeologists and avocational detectorists, and reinforce the bridge between these two groups.  These training efforts will have positive results on quality of battlefield studies, the level of public engagement, and the development of local advocacy for battlefield preservation.

AMDA CLASS

The AMDA class was born in 2011, when several archaeologists recognized the need to teach best practices in metal detecting to professional archaeologists.  We saw that professional archaeologists were finally accepting that metal detecting was a valuable tool, but there was no good source for instruction in metal detecting.  AMDA began as a conference/class hybrid in October 2011 in Helen, Georgia.

Based on the response to the Helen event, and in conjunction with the new RPA program for certifying continuing professional education classes, the founders of AMDA chose to focus solely on instruction.  The founders included Sheldon Skaggs, Garrett Silliman, Patrick Severts, Doug Scott, Terry Powis, and Chris Espenshade.  After formalization of the instructor corps and course offerings, AMDA was certified by the Register of Professional Archaeologists.  We were proud to be the first continuing education course to receive this important certification.

The AMDA class recognizes that the three main factors affecting the efficacy of a metal detector investigation are: 1) competency of the operators; 2) appropriateness of the device to the task at hand; and 3) suitability of the research design.  The class includes eight hours of classroom instruction, where we present best practices.  The class notebooks also include a case study CD with examples of successful research efforts.

We also recognize that professional archaeologists need an opportunity for instructor-monitored, hands-on, practical field experience with a variety of currently available devices.  AMDA has created a partnership with several manufacturers and retailers who provide trial models at various price points.  Our fieldwork sessions are designed to contribute to the research needs of our local hosts, and we work on real problems on real sites.

AMDA Field Session, Charles Towne Landing, South Carolina, USA

AMDA Field Session, Charles Towne Landing, South Carolina, USA

We have presented the class five times:  August 2012 in Charleston, SC; April 2013 in Lagrange, Georgia; November 2013 in Winchester, VA; August 2014 in Stone Mountain, Georgia; and February 2015 in Brownsville, Texas.  We currently have a few spaces left for our upcoming class in Harrisburg, PA, April 4-26.  To date, 105 archaeologists have completed our training.  The course has seen a broad mix of graduate students, CRM consultants, and state and federal agency personnel.

APP CLASS

Avocational detectorists have long been a potential source of labor and expertise in battlefield studies.  Unfortunately, many professional archaeologists avoid engaging avocational detectorists.  These reasons for this avoidance include: certain professional archaeologists are suspicious of the ethics of avocational detectorists; professional archaeologists do not want to be seen as condoning relic hunting; and certain professional archaeologists do not feel that avocational detectorists understand how and why professional archaeologists do what we do.  We found ourselves sort of stuck with a paradox.  On the one hand, we (and the profession in general) long for avocational detectorists to embrace a preservation ethos and begin working closely with archaeologists, but on the other hand we have not provided them any guidance or training toward that goal (again, with the exception of Matthew Reeves’ Montpelier program).  The profession sacrifices our right to complain about relic hunters if we continue to ignore the training of avocational detectorists.  In the context of the current professional angst over the reality TV of metal detecting, we could not condone complaining about behaviors without trying to change said behaviors.  We knew from a number of projects and other contacts with avocational detectorists that this community held many with a strong interest in history and a willingness or desire to work with professional archaeologists.

In autumn of 2013, Chris Espenshade, Patrick Severts, Doug Scott, and Matthew Reeves began working with Minelab, a major manufacturer of detectors, to develop the APP course.

APP Field Session, Chicago, Illinois, USA

APP Field Session, Chicago, Illinois, USA

From the onset, we were aware of the risk, mentioned above, that we might be perceived as offering a class to improve the skills of looters (again, not all professional archaeologists appreciate the difference between relic hunters and avocational detectorists).    Instead of focusing on actual metal-detecting skills, we designed the course to emphasize how and why professional archaeologists do what they do.  We hope to make avocational detectorists understand and buy into the professional approach to metal detector research.

The class is offered only to avocational detectorists willing to sign and abide by this ethics pledge:

I will neither purchase nor sell artifacts.  I will not detect on any property without written permission of the land owner.  I will record all discovered sites within 30 days with the state site files.  I will keep records on the location of all materials I recover.  I will not excavate any targets below the topsoil/plowzone.  I will not disturb any human remains.  I will report sites threatened by development or other actions to the state archaeologist or state historic preservation office.  I will share data and knowledge with professional archaeologists.  I will partner, when feasible, with professional archaeologists to assist in the preservation and study of archaeological resources.  I will strive to be a responsible avocational detectorist.  I understand that violation of this pledge may result in my name and contact information being removed from the APP database of responsible avocational detectorists.

The class teaches avocational detectorists how professional archaeology differs from hobby collecting, and why professional archaeologists do things as they do.  We let students know how they might find opportunities to work with professionals.  We stress that there is an over-riding concern among both the professional archaeology community and the avocational detectorist community to stem the flow of site loss.  We emphasize that avocational detectorists and professional archaeologists can work together to study sites that would otherwise be lost (i.e., that fall outside Section 106 or similar protection).

We also recognized the risk that the APP class might be seen by certain skeptics as a pay-to-dig opportunity.  When a real archaeological site is used in training detectorists, the situation can be viewed as the participants paying for the opportunity to detect on a neat site.  To avoid this, APP classes are held only on test gardens (site proxies created only for the class, using modern replicas of key artifact classes).  None of the APP class work occurs on actual archaeological sites.

We also wrestled with the question of policing the behavior of our graduates.  These are not professional archaeologists and cannot be held to RPA/SHA/SAA ethical standards.  There is no threat that they will lose their registration or membership for ethical lapses.   We instead created an ethical standard for avocational detectorists who wish to undergo APP training and become part of the APP program.  Those graduates who take the pledge and abide by it will be placed on an internet data base of responsible avocational detectorists willing to work with professional archaeologists.  Many avocational detectorists are willing to spend a week or two of their vacation assisting on the study of an interesting battlefield.  If we learn that a graduate has broken their pledge, they will be removed from the database.

In creating the pledge, we recognized the need for a compromise between our strict professional ethics and the desire of avocational detectorists to be able to pursue their hobby in the absence of a professional archaeologist.  We felt that this is a reasonable compromise.

APP Class, Chicago, Illinois, USA

APP Class, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Our goals with APP are: 1) to create a legion of responsible avocational detectorists with an understanding of how and why professional archaeological projects are undertaken; 2) to provide a resource to professional archaeologists who might need assistance on their projects; and 3) to create partnerships between professional archaeologists and avocational detectorists to help preserve archaeological data.  With the backing of Minelab, the first class was presented in Chicago in September of 2014.  Registration filled quickly and the student feedback from the course was overwhelmingly very positive.  APP will be working closely with Minelab to present the class many times a year in different parts of the country.

APTC: Job Fishing in the Digital Sea

So, like many of us, I’ve been on the job market in the past year. I finished my PhD at the College of William & Mary (Hark upon the Gale!) and am trying to have that take me somewhere. To facilitate such, I have cultivated a number of online tools to notify me about job openings around the country (sorry, this is a US-oriented post).

To push the SHA’s effort, I’ll start with “our” resources. The SHA maintains a job board (click here), which I check frequently. Jobs are automatically removed after 90 days, so anything on there is fairly current. As we’re historical archaeologists, these are the most relevant to our specialties. The SAA maintains one, as well (click here). Like the SHAs, it’s a fairly standard enumeration of open positions, skewing academic, but their postings stay up there for longer. Beyond the job boards, there are some other, more sophisticated things to try.

The AAA job board operates, in some ways, like the SHA and SAA counterparts, but with more features. As a job-seeker, you can construct a profile for others to review, which is nice, but I get the feeling it doesn’t get used much. More useful, however, is the ability to set up automated alerts based on certain search terms. Every time a job gets posted on the AAA board with “historical archaeology” in the description, I get an e-mail alert with a link to the posting. It’s a very helpful function, and the e-mails usually arrive in the morning, right around when I’m spoon-deep in my cereal, so it’s a nice surprise with breakfast.

Archaeologyfieldwork.com is another go-to resource. It’s particularly helpful in that it comes in so many different formats. You can go to the page and use it like a standard job board. They also have a Twitter feed and a Facebook page, both of which will pop up in your various queues. A hearty tip-of-the-hat to Jennifer Palmer for making this such a valuable resource. My favorite way to access this resource, however, is an RSS feed. I, like many, bemoaned the demise of Google Reader, as it was my go-to resource for news reading. I’ve replaced it with Feedly, and loaded the page’s RSS channel (click here) as a feed, which updates regularly. AFW carries more agency and shovel bum gigs than do the aforementioned job boards. Shovelbums also does postings on CRM jobs, but in an older interface.

Also on Twitter, keep an eye on Get Anthropology Jobs (@GetAnthropoJobs), which carries a lot of adjunct and instructor positions, the helpfully-named Archaeology Postdocs (@archpostdocs), and ArchaeoJobs (@ArchaeoJobs), which is run out of Dublin and features more European content. I don’t subscribe to them directly, but have all of these in a private archaeology jobs list, which I can call up in Twitter or maintain as a separate stream in HootSuite, which lets you view more than the one Twitter feed at a time. I use HootSuite because I maintain my own Twitter feed (@cgdrexler) as well as that of my office (@aas_sau), and HootSuite keeps me from having to log-out and log-in constantly.

Also, on Feedly, I subscribe to updates to the Academic Jobs Wiki, archaeology jobs section (click here). As the name implies, it’s focused on academic jobs, but serves two purposes. First, like the job boards, it announces positions, though rarely something that doesn’t appear on the other boards. Well, belay that. It does carry more international postings than the US-oriented job boards already mentioned. What is, perhaps, more helpful is that, as it’s a wiki, people can anonymously post information on it about the progress of the search. Did the University of South Mumblesticks ask for phone interviews? They did? OK, I didn’t get a request, so that’s probably off the table for me. It lets the job-seeker start to mentally move on, and can provide some closure in an age when a lot of places don’t actually send out rejection letters.

On that last front, a friend of mine, Linda Ziegenbein, put together an Academic Job Rejection Letter Generator to provide full closure for those who are still waiting to hear from a lost cause. Lamentably, after a story appeared about it, the Generator received 10,000 hits in three days… wow.

OK, we have to wind up on a more positive note…

I know, I’ll highlight that the Arkansas Archeological Survey currently has three positions open. Two are for station assistants (one in Monticello, one in Arkadelphia), and one for a station archaeologist (in Magnolia). Check them out!

What resources and tools do you use as part of your job hunt? Leave us a comment below with your favorite resources, tips, and tricks!

Workshops at Quebec City, Part 3

This year’s conference has a large slate of workshops; something to answer any interest. In preparation for the conference, and to inspire your interest in coming and participating, the Academic and Professional Training Committee offers three posts introducing these workshops. This is the second of those three postings.

We hope you find something here that piques your interest, and we hope to see you in Quebec City!

Workshop 9: An Introduction to Cultural Property Protection of Historical and Post-Medieval Archaeological Sites during Military Operations
Hosted by Christopher McDaid
and Duane Quates
Sites of interest to SHA members, which frequently deal with the expansion of global capitalism, the expansion of the European powers, or the forced relocation of people, are not the kinds of sites that routinely appear on the World Heritage list, and often do not receive official heritage recognition. This workshop introduces the international framework for cultural property protection during military operations, and the ways in which recent sites challenge the system. Attendees will receive an overview of militaries’ heritage management programs, the international framework for cultural property protection, how scholars can communicate information to military planners effectively, and gives reviews of several case studies involving military operations and cultural property protection.

Workshop 10: Oral History
Hosted by Edward Gonzalez-Tennant
The recording of personal histories is increasingly viewed by researchers and members of the public as a vital source of information regarding the past. Everyone has a story to tell and oral history recognizes the importance of personal experiences in understanding our shared past. Historical archaeology has a long history of valuing personal testimony. Oral histories strengthen archaeological interpretations by speaking directly to issues of memory, identity, and sharing power. This workshop will introduce participants to standard methods of oral history. The workshop will begin with a discussion of interviewing techniques. We will provide pointers for collecting personal stories, and discuss the use of digital recorders in oral history. Then, an overview of the transcription process is briefly presented. The final hour will be reserved for the collection of oral history interviews.

Workshop 11: Documentary Filmmaking for Archaeologists
Hosted by Joseph W. Zarzynski and Peter J. Pepe
The documentary is an unequalled storytelling vehicle.  Advances in digital media and documentary filmmaking make it possible for archaeologists to collaborate with video production companies to create quality documentaries on a micro-budget. The workshop, taught by award-winning documentarians, will guide participants through the documentary filmmaking process. Learn about research, scriptwriting, pitching a proposal, funding, interview techniques, acquiring and storing images, animation, legal issues, video technology, editing, selecting music, film festivals, markets, distribution, and promotion. Whether your goal is to create a television feature, a DVD or VOD to sell, a video for museum exhibit, or just for Internet viewing, an understanding of “doc” filmmaking is required.

Workshop 12: Archaeological Illustration
Hosted by Jack Scott

Want your pen-and-ink drawings to look like the good ones? Pen and ink is all basically a matter of skill and technique which can be easily taught, and the results can be done faster, cheaper, and are considerably more attractive than the black-and-white illustrations done on computer. Workshop participants will learn about materials and techniques, page design and layout, maps, lettering, scientific illustration conventions, problems posed by different kinds of artifacts, working size, reproduction concerns, ethics, and dealing with authors and publishers. A reading list and pen and paper (tracing vellum) will be provided, but feel free to bring your own pens, tools, books and, of course, questions. Be ready to work!

If you have an idea for a workshop to be held at a later conference, or if you would like to organize one yourself, please contact Carl Drexler at cdrexler@uark.edu.