Logistics of field projects

Michael Forstadt (forstadt@HUSC.HARVARD.EDU)
Thu, 6 Apr 1995 20:56:58 -0400


It has been my experience that group morale (or lack thereof) is one of
the most important factors in determining the success or failure of an
archaeological project. A surprisingly large number of field projects
fall far short of expected goals due to lack of social cohension,
personality conflicts, tent-hopping-gone-awry <smirk>, and the like. Many
of these situations are unforseeable, but others can be prevented by
foresight and proper staff preparation.

One often overlooked logistical aspect of fieldschools -- or indeed of
any field project that makes use of volunteer labor -- is treatment of
students/volunteers by project staff. I was lucky that most of my first
field projects were staffed by individuals who treated less experienced
archaeologists and students as equal HUMANS, but who needed help learning
the techniques of archaeology. This is not always the case. Just as an
all-too-common example, a friend of mine recently returned from his first
field school -- run by a *large public university in Arizona* -- in which
the graduate student staff treated the student VOLUNTEERS as slave labor,
often relegating them to such menial tasks as cleaning up their (the grad
students') dogs' shit around camp and cleaning their (the grad students')
*private* toilet facility (to which the volunteers were denied access,
even when struck with food poisoning and in desperate need of the nearest
available loo). Not to mention having them work in torrential downpours
even when sick. This is not the worst of it, but I'll desist. By the way,
I wouldn't be surprised if a few of the people involved subscribe to this
list. If this characterization upsets you, then please defend your
management style publicly.

Fieldschools are not supposed to drive people away from the discipline,
but neither are they supposed to be ClubMed vacations. Well actually, I
was on a French project in the Near East once which put us up in
beachside condos and delivered each of us a case of beer twice a week, on
the house! I don't remember any morale problems on that project
(actually, I don't remember much at all) ;-) Just my humble opinion...

Mike Forstadt