NGO Update

We suspended our plans to move towards an NGO this summer but I will be contacting those who expressed an interest in the next few days. Heads have been busy but email hands have not!

Meanwhile, there is still time if anyone wants to get in touch,

All best



BWA logobloatFollowing my post at the end of last year, we have come to a decision. Our research, support and advocacy can’t continue for free. The time is right to formalise by constituting a non-governmental organisation (NGO).

Call for Expressions of Interest

Are you passionate about UK archaeology and equality, diversity and inclusion? Do you think the profession can be better, more versatile and agile? Do you have experience of working across the sector and/or specific skills in negotiating change? We want to hear from you.

British Women Archaeologists was established by Anne Teather and Rachel Pope in 2008. Over twelve years we’ve worked really hard to gather data that reflects the underbelly of the archaeology profession – the gender imbalance in positions of power, widespread sexual harassment, and the lack of retention and promotion of women in archaeology. Despite our efforts to highlight how this is actively impacting on the quality of the profession, there has been little change. We are part of IDEAH*, working together with other advocacy groups on equality and diversity in archaeology, but we feel that efforts under this model will prove unsustainable in the long term. We need a formal structure that can attract funding and sponsorship.

We’re looking for expressions of interest to join us in constituting an NGO, to help us govern and deploy our talents in achieving a better and sustainable profession. We need people (whatever your gender) who are confident with people and grant applications, and who are happy to be both supported and challenged in their thinking. We’re looking to reach a consensus on matters through debate and discussion. We truly believe that we are better together, and can learn from each other in a fast and forward-thinking environment.

What we can offer is dynamic and highly motivated colleagues. The time commitment is likely to be sporadic rather than constant (maybe a couple of weeks a year, more at first), although timeliness will be key. We will need to be able to agree actions and then pull together in the same direction, sometimes at speed.

We are looking to constitute two groups – an advisory group and a board of directors, and we will set this up to be flexible so tenure will be for a set period of time. Again, there isn’t a proforma, and we don’t want that. It needs to reflect who we are. There is no money right now, but we’ll almost certainly primarily work together from our own homes via phone, Skype and email. We’re confident that there will be at least travel expenses in due course but these positions are unlikely ever to be salaried.

Look at Wise and The Lighthouse Club to get an idea of the kind of structures and activities we’re looking at. Our blog at has some posts and you can also find us on Twitter @archaeowomen

To respond to this expression of interest for the advisory group, please email with a paragraph or two by 31st March 2020. Please do not send full C.V.’s. Please indicate if you are also interested in being on our board.

If you don’t want to be involved in the running of the NGO, but would like to support us, we will absolutely delighted if you’d support us financially by donating to our CrowdFunder


*IDEAH  (Inclusion, Diversity and Equality in Archaeology and Heritage) comprises of CIfA’s Equality and Diversity Special Interest Group; Trowelblazers; Prospect Archaeologists, The Enabled Archaeology Foundation; BAJR Respect Campaign; Museum Detox; Mentoring Women in Archaeology and Heritage and the Seeing Red Campaign.

BWA logobloat

Change is happening, can we sustain it?

I think that when we look back at 2019, it will be the year that things changed in UK archaeology. While nothing seems to be very different, Rachel and I see a noticeable groundswell in support, and positive changes in attitude, toward broad equality issues in archaeology. A series of events in UK archaeology from August to November* catapulted these issues into conversations at both meeting tables and site huts. As I have been speaking about this for over a decade, my email, twitter and facebook messenger had literally days of relentless pinging. I had no time to blog, or frankly little time to think beyond being poised between ‘WTAF’ and ‘well, of course’. The undercurrent of misogyny in archaeology has been something BWA has been trying to highlight for a decade: the drip, drip, drip of the dismissal of women’s talents and contribution to archaeology that points directly to UK archaeology not being a women’s place.

The most common questions I’m now being asked are:

How do we investigate accusations? How do we implement sanctions?

 While this is understandable, and fair, I’m not sure this is the way we maintain momentum and move forward. If we prioritise the negative aspects, how can we encourage good practice for the profession as a whole? I am personally committed to the concept of rehabilitation. Everyone should have the opportunity to be educated as to why the position they’ve held is unfair or damaging; accept that their behaviour is not productive; and have the space and support to change.

This isn’t easy. To forgive is hard. To explain is time-consuming. But I meet many people who want to change and want to learn how to make archaeology fairer. So, in 2020 I’m going to focus my energy on solutions and forgiveness, not retribution. We need to build a better archaeology from the ground up, and not tear each other apart. Changing archaeology is just within our grasp, but we have to reach for it.



*If you didn’t catch the absolute sh*t-show here are the links to start you off.

Cambridge sexual harassment researcher ‘laughed at by men’


Society of Antiquaries in turmoil after vote to back sex abuser

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 🙂


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

So on one hand, some men are apparently being sanctioned like Kevin Spacey removal from House of Cards  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 finally did me in on Sunday night. For others feeling the same way, there’s a nice blog on self care here

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 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!

The Day of Archaeology sparked a lot of posts from women in the sector, and you might enjoy reading this from Cat Rees  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 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 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

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 or alternatively you could aid the newly formed Alice Ruggles Trust here

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