Entering the unknown
So this is it, my first ever blog post. How I ended up here, I’m still not quite sure. I’ve certainly never been one to keep a diary or even jot my thoughts down, but now feels like the right time to share with people something I’m particularly passionate about. Maps! Well, maps and archaeology… with a bit of photography and 3D modelling thrown in for good measure.
A bit about me
I’m Chris and I’m an archaeologist from Lincolnshire – a ‘yellowbelly’ born and bred! I had a passion for the past from a young age but just found the way that history was taught at school painfully boring and a bit hands-off. I wanted to come up close and personal with the past, discovering how people have shaped the world we live in today, not sat behind a desk reading books. Archaeology seemed like the only way.
I spent several years in Sheffield, where I went to university to get myself an education. It was here that I was fortunate enough to meet some inspirational people and work on some truly fantastic archaeological sites.
Working at Durrington Walls, and then later at Stonehenge, was the turning point for me. To have the opportunity to excavate Neolithic houses where people would have lived 5,000 years ago was mind-blowing. This is what I wanted to do all day every day, and I was going to make it happen.
Rise through the ranks
After university I took to the world of commercial archaeology. Having the passion and drive was key here. If I hadn’t have had this I’d have probably given up a long time ago. Contracts would typically last between one and four weeks – meaning I was constantly on the hunt for work – the conditions were less than ideal at best, and the pay was somewhere around the minimum wage. Things have improved a bit now for diggers on ‘the circuit’ but we’ve still got a long way to go.
My big break came when working on gas pipelines in Yorkshire. The 60-70 hour weeks meant I could start saving a bit of cash and I managed to to land my first permanent contract. This meant a move to Lincoln (back to the shire) in 2007. ‘Head down and crack on’ was my approach, which proved to be quite effective. Seven years (and two companies) later I’d risen through the ranks from Site Assistant to Senior Project Officer; I’d gone from digging holes to directing large and complex excavations. And it was here, running large fieldwork projects, that I understood the importance of digital survey and how to harness the power of a Geographical Information System (GIS).
So, where am I now, you may ask. Well, other than being sat in front of a fire on my sofa surrounded by many curious cats and one very understanding partner, I’m now Head of Fieldwork for a company called DigVentures. I get to design and run fantastic community projects in the UK and abroad where I can share my knowledge and love for archaeology with as many people as possible. Best job in the world!
What I really want to do is share some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into what I’m passionate about. It’s intended for general consumption but at times will wander into the occasional technical ramble. If I’m honest, I don’t really mind who reads this as long as they go away feeling slightly better informed and with a greater appreciation of the past and how maps can bring it to life.
So much research and map-based analysis goes into producing technical ‘grey literature’ reports and publications, but a lot of this just results in a couple of nice images that most people will probably never see. What I do is get inside the maps and ask them questions; and it’s these questions that are in many cases just as important as the answers they produce.
Often you be surprised what maps can reveal, and for me the most powerful tool of all is the GIS. Layers upon layers of digital mapping. Some old, some new. This is what I want to share with you.