End of 2019 tweets on activism

I’m @pre_historic on Twitter and wrote a thread this morning in response to a lot of things to be honest. It’s been quite an intense few months of discussion and negotiation. Rachel and I have been working at a number of levels with different people (and sometimes the same people) as we pick our way through the issues and solutions. It’s been encouraging and also humbling.

I will write a new year post to start us into the next decade, but until then you can find my thread retweeted by @archaeowomen in our Twitter feed. Yes, I know, I imagine we could have done this years ago…..

Excavation and mental health

The dig season continues. For those of us that enjoy excavation and don’t do it as a matter of course through the year, research projects are joyous. We get to go out get dirty and meet up with old pals. For someone like me, who has been involved in research projects since my first student dig in 1999 and now run my own projects, it’s all pretty fun now. But I was reminded the other day how hard it can be for students. A couple of years ago we had some blog posts about food on excavation that dovetailed with some mental health matters and it reminded me I should say this again for those that need to hear it.

If you’re away from home, the crucible of living in a field and working with people 24/6 and having one day ‘off’ is hot. There’s almost no privacy at all – you can be overheard in the shower/toilet/tent. One year I was awake a lot of one night (long story) and the next morning before I’d had my first coffee, someone had already mentioned it to the site manager to see if I was ok!

So just a reminder. Sometimes people need space and quiet. If you’re in this position of feeling it’s hard, and unable to cope, there are two good strategies if you want to keep it private. Go to bed early, say you have a book to read, or go for a walk. We all need to decompress sometimes. If you see someone that could use some time, help them make space without judgement and without needing to know why. It’s the kind and courteous thing to do.

Stay safe and keep sane ūüôā


A summer of recovery

It’s been an emotionally tough 18 months for those of us working within equality, hence the posts tailing off.¬†It’s difficult to maintain perspective when women and some men are being triggered by #MeToo and most recently, Kavanaugh. If you were without media for a couple of months you may not have seen it so here’s one of the many links http://uk.businessinsider.com/brett-kavanaugh-sexual-assault-misconduct-allegations-2018-9

So on one hand, some men are apparently being sanctioned like Kevin Spacey removal from House of Cards¬†https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/house-of-cards-kevin-spacey-netflix-final-season-episodes-number-latest-news-updates-a8091686.html¬† but others get promoted. It has made me wonder how much traction and progress is being made by shining a light on past behaviours with women visibly suffering in the meantime. Words fail me when trying to summarise how I felt watching Dr Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, it was simply courage in action.

It was ten years ago, next month, when we officially launched BWA. At that time, the internet was just growing into popular use and the speed and breadth of communication has changed dramatically. For many years we have had online groups through facebook to talk, some public and some private, and I know that we all gain a lot through at least being heard.

Visibility helps but can be at great individual cost. Not everyone has to do that but communicating in safe spaces leads to some perspective. It also stimulates plans and progress. There are things to tell about ts this summer that are positive, I will check progress and post soon. But this is a long road not a short hop. Courage.

#AcademicMeToo? Winter is coming. Part 2

I realised I hadn’t posted this last night – I drafted it on 18/4 and then was overcome (again) and went on fieldwork. So I’m picking it up again but I want everyone to know that this is not without, what we’re terming, ’emotional labour’. It is hard work trying to be objective about these emotive issues, and try to provide some clarity when you feel upset that people are breaking their hearts over being discriminated against. Hopefully I’ll finish this up in Part 3

‘So forgive me. I’ve been talking about this for 15 years, and hearing stories, and the avalanche of archaeology/anthropology experiences collated by Doug here https://dougsarchaeology.wordpress.com/2018/04/14/91-stories-of-archaeology/ finally did me in on Sunday night. For others feeling the same way, there’s a nice blog on self care here¬†https://blueprintzine.com/2018/04/16/in-the-fight-against-sexual-violence-its-okay-to-step-away-from-triggering-content/

I talked with a wonderful pal and I feel ready to come back in – there will be Part 3 though.

In the last post I said we needed to recognise the variety of these experiences for (again mostly) women. There isn’t one-size-that-fits-all, apart from a general banner of exploitative and inappropriate. So let’s go over these.¬†I mentioned emotional manipulation, oversharing and extreme amounts of contact in Part 1. Many experiences are more overtly sexualised, with direct coercion and repeated pressure. Many start with open sexual discussions and in archaeology, this can come alongside and with ‘banter’. This sometimes starts with unwarranted comments on clothing choices/shoes/makeup etc.

While the BWA mainly work as a point of contact, there are many women (and some men) who are coming on board through different initiatives to instigate and promote a change in culture. For examples there’s the CiFA Equality and Diversity Group, the Inclusive Archaeology project, and of course Trowelblazers.’

#AcademicMeToo? Winter is coming. Part 1.

And so, it has started.

I’ve seen the rumblings over the past few months, and it isn’t that there hasn’t been a lot of movement, but from about three days ago we have started to have individual men being named and women revealing the same stories about their abusive nature. I don’t know if we will have women named too, perhaps so. But for the majority of the field of archaeology, that is male-dominated, I don’t see that comprising a substantial part of this.

What will we hear? The word that comes to me with the most power right now is exploitation. There is simply no denying that a staff-student inappropriate relationship is exploitative, serving the power of the junior person on a silver plate to the senior. Staff in these sorts of situations deceive and manipulate to a degree only really recently recognised in popular culture. And they do it knowingly.

This can be very different to the kinds of casting couch stories of the film industry. We’re talking about academics; intellectuals. Their desires can be carnal but are also about attention and validation. They suck student after student dry of emotion, often damaging them (and their careers) irreparably. They are clearly damaged men, dissatisfied and unable to function without the known ‘third leg’ for their advertised ‘wobbly’ partnership (most of these men are married or have long term partners).

For archaeology, this is a different story to the other one – the staff/student relationship gig where married men (again, I’m happy to be shown to be wrong here) foster exciting dig relationships that they have no intention of continuing after the couple of weeks in the field. So what to do?


Quick review of 2017

The few posts here belie the activity that has taken place for women in archaeology this year. Today seems a good day to give y’all a quick summary of the main points that come to mind, although it isn’t comprehensive.

For me, the year was book-ended with conversations about The Inclusive Archaeology Project https://inclusivearchaeology.wordpress.com/ Expect more to be happening with this through the spring.

Trowelblazers launched their amazing exhibition in February which is on tour – check their website and blog for details! http://trowelblazers.com/raising-horizons-is-go/

The Day of Archaeology sparked a lot of posts from women in the sector, and you might enjoy reading this from Cat Rees http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/archaeology-and-family-life-the-joy-of-the-summer-holidays/  Her view on the relationship between pregnancy and actually having children; and also on commercial archaeology fieldwork and that of research projects is very relevant. This also seems partly in response to #womendigging and also wider discussions of women in science that were current this summer. However in the midst of the Christmas break when many of you will be struggling with childcare issues, it seems a good time to flag it up.

Also, Cat and Kayt Hawkins were responsible for RESPECT Acting Against Harassment in Archaeology guide you can find here http://www.bajr.org/BAJRGuides/44.%20Harrasment/Sexual-Harassment-in-Archaeology.pdf I think that this is really excellent work. Again, David Connolly’s commitment and support for a better Archaeology seems unending.

Finally, my posts on here about women in the field and in the kitchen on digs prompted further posts on different blogs. I’m delighted that Julia Roberts wrote this https://harngroup.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/this-week-archaeowomen/ and the always excellent archaeologist and blogger Eleanor Scott wrote a great piece on the importance of food on excavation, and also started a series of posts with recipes that look delicious https://eleanorscottarchaeology.com/dig-food-blog/2017/7/20/excavation-challenges-food-fieldwork-and-difference

We seem to have come a long way since last December, partly due to wider world events that have given issues of sexual harassment and discrimination a platform. There is still much to be done. Today though, let’s acknowledge the women (and men) working everyday to make their workplaces better for all.

Very best wishes for an excellent 2018!



Was it was acceptable in the 90s…?

We’ve been hearing a lot about what used to be acceptable behaviour towards women in recent decades. Unless you’ve been living off planet, you will have heard people talking about their experiences of being sexually harassed, touched, coerced or raped in workplaces or workplace-associated environments. This spans offices to labs, conferences to hotels, from the entertainment industry to parliament. I want to tell you a story and it’s not a #MeToo

I haven’t always been an archaeologist, I used to work in insurance administration. As an arm of the financial services industry that was very male dominated in the late 80s and 90s, you would think if you listened to some people today that it was hotbed of sexual innuendo and groping. In fact, I’d have to say that my experiences there, even as a young woman, were better than they’ve been as an older woman in the last decade and a half. The introduction of maternity policies that encouraged staff retention made you feel valued, and the men I worked with thought it was great. They could finally admit that they also wanted women to be included in the workplace, and not just in the typing pool. Women were seen to add diversity and value to it all, and make it a much more fun place to be. In the early 90s I worked in Leeds. A few of us complained about men bringing their copies of The Sun into the staff kitchen, because we didn’t want to see Page 3. It was tackled, it stopped. It was not a problem to raise these issues. But I digress.

On January 22nd 1992, estate agent Stephanie Slater was abducted during a house viewing in a suburb of Birmingham. This was horrifically reminiscent of the disappearance of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh in London, 6 years earlier in July 1986. While she was never found and legally declared dead in 1993, Stephanie Slater was released by her captor Michael Sams, after 8 days. At this time I was office based, but many senior female staff were meeting business contacts alone; they were issued with rape alarms by the company. If I worked late my male colleagues proactively walked me back to my car, to ensure my safety. Only 6 months later, Rachel Nickell was murdered on Wimbledon Common.

So when people say ‘it used to be worse’, I reject that vehemently. I vividly remember this time. For that year 1992, and the year or so following, my male colleagues were afraid for us, their female colleagues. They stepped up and spoke out, made sure we got home safely after work drinks. Did not let creeps get too near to us in pubs. These men will now be in their late 50s and 60s or older, the same age as many of the men currently being accused of inappropriate behaviour. It’s not generational – and it wasn’t acceptable to disrespect women and their consent then and it isn’t now. However at that particular time, it was brought into very sharp relief how predatory some men can be. My male colleagues responded to that predation with determined and focused protection, and I think we all gained as a result. Creating and maintaining safe environments benefits us all.


If after reading this you fancy putting your hands in your pocket, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust does fabulous work https://www.suzylamplugh.org/ or alternatively you could aid the newly formed Alice Ruggles Trust here http://www.alicerugglestrust.org/

Alice was the daughter of an archaeologist who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in October 2016


‘I’m not here to cook – I’m here to dig!’ Part Two

I’ve been involved in big residential research field projects. By big, I don’t mean 50, I mean over 80 and at one point close to 200. I cut my teeth on excavations in Scotland and joined the Stonehenge Riverside Project when it started in 2004. Before that, my first training excavations had a wonderful site cook. She was able to fulfil a nurturing role, train the younger students to cook and instil a sense of team-work in all but the most truculent students. She had many years of experience organising the catering for the Windmill Hill project and the site director was enormously pleased to have her. She ‘also’ had a PhD in Archaeology.

She had agreed to do that role for two years, and after that stopped. It was only after she had gone that I realised how much she taught me. The role of site manager/caretaker/cook, is an absolute lynchpin within the fieldwork team. If that role is not filled properly, the wheels can come off a project very quickly. On a project with 20 students or less, most things can be fudged in a dig of 3 weeks or less. But more and/or for longer is effectively a campaign, a village, a temporary camp and living space. The dig is work and family, it is your life 24/7.

This side of archaeological projects (or any field projects) is almost always forgotten, as when done well it looks effortless. That is the last thing it is. I have never been a site cook, but I have stepped in and been a substitute in various situations, and during the 2008 wet summer in Wiltshire, was working almost full time on campsite matters, and going in the field to troubleshoot on some of the however many trenches over 8 field locations at other times. That season nearly broke us all, but the campsite part was particularly tough. Imagine filling a supermarket trolley with 40 loaves of bread and 40 pints of milk, checking out, unloading into the van and taking the trolley back in for another load. And then checking out, unloading and going in a third time. Daily. It was epic.

Aside from that, on projects I’ve noticed a student/participant multiplier. In my experience on excavation you can be reasonably certain that out of any group of 30, there is one person who is operating on the fringes of acceptable behaviour; there will be one trip to a doctor or A&E, and one person will have some sort of debilitating emotional crisis (illness of a family member/break up of relationship etc). It’s simply a matter of luck where the responsibility for dealing with this falls; the fieldwork crucible can be very hot. Sometimes students in the field are with their close friends and you may not know anything was wrong until the end of the dig. Sometimes people can accommodate those with nearly unacceptable behaviour and the group, if it has strong cohesion, can simply work around so-and-so who is a ‘bit funny’. However, it is a lottery. Sometimes things that would be fine in other places get blown out of proportion. Sometimes the group cohesion goes too far and people on the fringes can get bullied. I’ve been on excavations where a student has simply left without a word. If you have 2 x 30 people, this doubles. You see? By the time you get to 180 people, you have a statistical likelihood of 6 people being on the fringes, 6 trips to A&E and 6 people with crises. Sometimes of course, these issues affect staff too, even you. The person who steers the campsite through these potential pitfalls, is magnificent. In my experience, every site director has had complete and total support for the site cook, as their relationship is entirely dependent on mutual respect and understanding in an often, fast changing environment. It works best as a trusting, close-knit, intuitive team.

So I have mixed feelings about Sally Binford’s comment. In days gone by, when women were expected to be in the home, and that kind of work was not valued as a contribution, it must have been a call to arms. It was a rejection of the idea of a woman’s place being in the kitchen and home, and the fact that women could contribute intellectually in a ‘man’s’ workplace. Historically too, many archaeology couples did exactly that, the wives would support their husbands in the field. But you know what? Some still do. I know at least two couples where the highly trained clever wife takes on this role for her husband’s excavation as a team effort. Perhaps they enjoy it, or know that by doing so their lives will be better though not having a disgruntled husband (OH/partner etc) back after the season. I recently helped set up camp on my husband’s excavation because it was the right thing to do in the particular circumstances. I’m not less of archaeologist by doing so, am I? I also know of at least two men who are either site cook, or who regularly pick up the domestic issues on sites. I’ve worked with one man whose personal and pastoral focus to the learning process was simply awe inspiring, like a student-whisperer.

So – does Sally’s comment inadvertently devalue perhaps the most important role on an excavation, whether performed by a male or female? That, in fact, excavating and organising a workforce 8am-6pm requires fewer skills than the site cook, who creates a village, feeds and nurtures people away from their normal environments and helps them deal with their lives and learn new life skills for the other 14 hours of the day? The person who makes sure the whole site doesn’t get food poisoning/norovirus/impetigo. That provides biscuits/loo roll/plasters/a spare sleeping bag/waterproof trousers/tampons. Who can be discrete and get you to A&E/give you a day off/give you a tissue and an old Mills & Boon.

I’m torn. Sally was fighting to be in the field as an intellectual equal. I think that battle, while not always acknowledged (Part 1), has been won. But we don’t need to reject and demonise the nurturing role and incredible range of skills required to be ‘site cook’. Archaeological field projects require a massive investment and wide range of personal skills. All roles are critical and anyone who takes time out of their lives, and puts in the immense effort to care for distracted, smelly and dirty archaeologists while they dig, should be rewarded with a huge amounts of love and respect. I don’t think we need to reject the role of cook, rather accept that in the past acknowledging the pastoral and mundane part of fieldwork was neglected, and is as important as the ground-breaking research that it accompanies.

This is for the women who taught me so much about the shadow side of excavation – Julia, Jen and with a flourishing bow, Karen. They might only appear in publication acknowledgements but be in no doubt that none of it could have happened without them.


‘I’m not here to cook – I’m here to dig!’ Part One

Said by Sally Binford. This phrase, now on a T-shirt by the wonderful TrowelBlazers! and available to purchase here (https://www.redbubble.com/people/trowelblazers/portfolio/recent) really resonates the female experience for me on digs directly, obliquely and in a rather uncomfortable way too.

Despite close to twenty years of excavation experience, of which I have only missed two years entirely in the field and have had a sequence of rising roles, I am, almost annually, mistaken for the site director’s wife. Basically, there’s only a few senior archaeologists who excavate the British Neolithic, that visitors haven’t assumed I’ve been conjugal with. When asked ‘Are you married to X?’, one needs to have an armoury of phrases to hand. A first instinct might be ‘NO!’, or ‘Are you joking?!’ but clearly, one cannot say that if it’s in front of said man. This is never easy to negotiate as it’s often made in genuine curiosity that stems, I think, from a romantic view of archaeologists.

This romantic view of archaeologists is that they excavate in loving marital teams, like the Binfords or the Leakeys. That the love of the past and the marital love for each other transcends into something bigger in the field. That the chase and imminent pleasure of discovery is part of an archaeological marriage. It makes it exciting and different to the outsider who, when visiting a site, puts together the senior male with the nearest, fairly age appropriate, senior-looking female. I don’t know if any of the men have ever been asked if I am their wife, although I suspect not, because that’s not usually the kind of question men are asked. But having just written that it does make me wonder, and I might ask a few of the ones I know better.

However, in the not too distant past I had cause to visit a senior academic male to pick up some archaeological material. As he was due to be away, he had arranged for someone to give me the key to his office so I could collect it. The key provider (male), on both giving and receiving the key back, was clearly under the impression that I was having some sort of personal relationship with the academic, that again was rather uncomfortable (and quite funny – one would hope that if that were the case he’d have made the effort to be there!).

And of course this continual assumption of my loving nature smacks of the general structural misogyny in archaeology – that both from outside and inside the profession, certainly on research excavations and the academy – the automatic assumption of seeing women is that they’re in the process of fulfilling a domestic and nurturing, rather than intellectual, role.

Due to family commitments, I have retained a peripheral place in archaeology for years but we have some interesting data from our BWA surveys of 2008 and 2016. Women under 40 report instances of sexist behaviour and assumptions in the workplace, but this tails off dramatically as women get older. So women in their 50s and 60s are more likely to report ‘well, that used to happen in the 70s/80s/90s but not any longer’. The truth is, it doesn’t happen when you’re senior. Therefore younger women tend to hear it, and either you keep ploughing through, ignoring it and it eventually ends when you have a senior enough job, or you get tired of it/archaeology/want something different out of your life/more security and consequently leave the profession. So we have fewer senior women in archaeology than we should, given undergraduate numbers have been equal male:female for at least two decades.

So, the good news is, this does stop when you gain enough kudos and everyone knows who you are.

In the meantime, as I prepare for the field again, I’ll review my stock phrases – practice the ‘No – this is MY trench’ emphasis when someone assumes my male assistant supervisor is in charge; and my cold stare for particularly offensive comments. I have been know for the odd expletive too.

Yet – this isn’t the whole story of Sally’s phrase for me……


2016 Survey Results

You can access a pdf of the Survey Monkey results here all-results-oct-2016

One of the things we found most useful in both this and the 2008 survey is a detailed assessment of the comments, but this will take more time – the reason being that people really do have a lot to say!

General comments

The survey was criticized for both being too broad, and also not asking other questions particularly on sexual harassment and glass ceilings. There is a lot to disentangle in terms of what is holding the Profession back – unsurprisingly, short term contracts and moving around for jobs appears to be a very big component. Salaries are noted as being small and difficulties in affording childcare are mentioned – women see this as they are thinking about their future. What is also interesting is the huge breadth of archaeological work and the growth of the industry in terms of outreach, museums and consultancy that has happened since our last survey of 2008 (that admittedly had a much smaller response). It suggests that Archaeology is a dynamic and quickly evolving Profession that is sadly losing a lot of trained, committed and experienced people due to short term contracts and a need for mobility.

There is still an amount of sexual harassment and discrimination, although less proportionately than our last survey, probably due to an increase in survey completion. However, it is still happening, now. This isn’t something that ‘used’ to happen. On the positive side I think that it is not happening as much in the profession, as outside it – contractor staff being mentioned more than a few times. Facilities raised their heads again – toilets? seriously still talking about this?- and again PPE for women.

I realise that everyone will want more detail and it will come! Comments sometimes mention places that could be identified and this needs screening out. I also want to ensure that while overviews are given, they are properly representative of the wonderful people who gave up their time to do this. Thank you all, again.

BWA is a voluntary, non-funded group of women who are trying to highlight issues through these surveys that we hope, will stimulate people who can change things in the Profession to do exactly that. I’m working through these data and those of the 2008 and 2010 BWA surveys with Rachel Pope, writing an academic paper drawing all this together, that will hopefully be published in the next year.

All for now


If you want to cite the survey results, please use

Teather, A. and Pope, R. 2017. British Women Archaeologists’ Women and Equality Survey 2016. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.33073.79202