Archaeological Fieldwork

CCCU/Culver Archaeological Project Field School 2016As the former Director of Fieldwork (from Sept 2014 to Dec 2017) for Archaeology programmes at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU), I coordinated and oversaw student fieldwork placements. These included a compulsory “Archaeological Fieldwork 1” course and an optional “Archaeological Fieldwork 2” course, both of which involved 4 weeks of full-time fieldwork on an archaeological project or in a museum or heritage management environment. We firmly believe that fieldwork (or equivalent museum/heritage management experience) is an essential component for degrees in archaeology, and these courses bear full modular credit (20 UK credits). Assessing fieldwork is notoriously difficult, and some departments have opted to drop compulsory fieldwork, or to offer it on a pass/fail basis. I am uneasy with these approaches, and am convinced that fieldwork is not only critical for degree-level studies in archaeology, but also provides a unique opportunity for many students (who may struggle with more traditional academic assessments) to realise their potential for success. A key innovation that I have implemented at CCCU is the move toward explicitly embedded employability within our fieldwork modules and how they are assessed: in addition to a practical evaluation of work carried out in the field, students follow their placement with a written application (CV and covering letter) and mock interview for a position with a commercial archaeology unit. Students have responded very positively to this assessment regime, and this has improved graduate employment levels both within and outside of archaeology.

The vast majority of our students complete their placements at our designated Roman period field school in East Sussex and offered in partnership with the Culver Archaeological Project, but I also coordinate placements with a variety of projects and organisations across the UK and internationally. In summer 2017 and 2018, we offered new applicants a one-week fully-funded fieldwork placement with the Culver Project in order to whet their appetites for future fieldwork and to give them valuable field experience in advance of their university studies.

Byzantine church on the acropolis summit, Tall Hisban (Jordan)In addition to a designated UK-based field school, CCCU offers and coordinates opportunities for students to carry out exciting fieldwork abroad. Beginning in summer 2018, I aim to bring a select group of students to Jordan to participate in archaeological fieldwork as part of my research project on classical and late antique Jordan, centred at the site of Tall Hisban within the Madaba Plains region between Amman and Madaba. Summer 2018 will see the beginning of renewed stratigraphic excavation of a Byzantine church under my direction, as an extension of the long-running Tall Hisban excavations under the broader direction of Prof. Øystein S. LaBianca (Andrews University, USA) and Prof. Bethany Walker (University of Bonn, Germany). The 2018 season will coincide with the project's 50th anniversary celebrations, which will enhance participant memories of this amazing experience.

As I take on my new role at Calvin College starting in late summer 2018, I will remain responsible for coordinating student fieldwork opportunities, especially through Calvin College's long-standing archaeological project at Umm el-Jimal in northern Jordan. We are currently planning a fieldwork season for May/June 2019.

Image Credits

  • Darrell J. Rohl, group photo of collaborative CCCU/Culver Archaeological Project Field School, July 2016.
  • Darrell J. Rohl, multi-period palimpsest (including Byzantine church remains) on the acropolis summit of Tall Hisban (Jordan), May 2016.

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This page was last updated on 18 May 2018.