Student Blog — It takes a team to dig a village (or in our case, a house)…

Caedda has some great observations about teamwork and how fieldwork is a collective practice. — Kate

With the field school coming to a close, I have been thinking about some of the things that we have learned over this month.  Out of the many practical skills we have learned and the knowledge we have gained, realizing just how important simply working well together is on a dig, was one of the coolest things I learned through the field school.

Most work places try to promote the idea of teamwork. They run seminars and host office events to try to create some resemblance of a community. And getting along in a workplace is important regardless of the job, but I have never worked in a place where these elements are so vital as they are during a dig.

This became evident right at the beginning. Our first day in the field we were learning the skill of traverse mapping. Personally, I was as nervous as I could have been. But after instructions were given out, we were left to figure it all out. This was the first time I realized that none of us would have figured it out as quickly as we did if we hadn’t done it as a team. Some people understood the math (not me J), some people understood the whole concept, some were natural leaders, and others helped along the way. These maps were a headache, but we managed after we began building on the strengths of the people around us.

Once we began digging, we fell into a rhythm, digging together, learning to screen and looking for artifacts together, getting excited when someone found something, and most importantly- sweating together. Seriously, nothing bonds people more that digging in the dirt in unbearable heat together.

Everyone working together in pairs to get our test units done. Photo: Caedda Ballantyne
Everyone working together in pairs to get our test units done. Photo: Caedda Ballantyne

It was really cool to look around the site and see everything working like a machine. People would help each other seamlessly, we would share tools, share ideas, and work around each other like a dance (cheesy yes, but with all the stumps and rocks it really was a dance to move around the site).  James and Kate made sure that we rotated work stations and groups so that we all learned to work with each other and so by the end we all had the same experiences that we could share.

Another major stepping stone in our path to community, was our daily log routines. Every day we filled out a daily log which detailed everything we worked on and notes for tomorrow. But Kate also informed us that we should have details of what others were doing that day. Our breaks would begin with everyone asking and discussing what they were working on, what cool things they had found, or how frustrated they were with their context. This was wonderful because it helped us all to have a full picture of what each of us were working on and to stay connected and informed.

Mary, Sarah, Andrea, Bree, and Katie cleaning artifacts together. Photo: Caedda Ballantyne
Mary, Sarah, Andrea, Bree, and Katie cleaning artifacts together. Photo: Caedda Ballantyne

Without the community and teamwork that we had, our site would not have functioned as smooth or efficiently as it did.

On a more personal level, teamwork and community was vital as well. Digging alongside someone for hours on end would be hellish if you weren’t able to get along in some way. When you are digging, or cleaning artifacts together, there is really nothing else you can do but talk. And after a while, being able to reach a point where simply working alongside each other in companionable silence was great. We didn’t all have to be best friends, but learning to work together, to be cordial and considerate, was so important.

While thinking about how great the community was on our site, I remembered a story one of my first year TA’s told us, about a dig she worked on for a few years. She said that one year, a person was working on the dig and could not work well with the rest of the crew. She wasn’t unskilled or bad at the job, but she was simply not a team player and for that reason she was not hired again the next season.  Even Kate, when asked, told us about having to work alongside people who were less than agreeable and how hard that can make archaeological field work.

Danny and Brooke goofing around after our group finally figured out how to set up the theodolite. Photo: Caedda Ballantyne
Danny and Brooke goofing around after our group finally figured out how to set up the theodolite. Photo: Caedda Ballantyne

Honestly this work is hard, physically and mentally, and trekking across an island, moving giant rocks, or setting up confusing equipment would be brutal without the camaraderie and support from a team that functions smoothly.  Or as Sarah is fond of saying, “Teamwork makes the dream work!”

— Caedda Ballantyne

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