Friday, October 4, 2013

10 Things You May Not Know About Archaeological Fieldwork

Congratulations to "Barbara C.", the winner in Rachel's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!

10 Things You May Not Know About Archaeological Fieldwork

So you already know that archaeologists don’t dig up dinosaurs and may have heardmost real archaeologists consider the character, Indiana Jones, a looter. And I probably don’t need to tell you that archaeologists think artifacts are cool for the information they provide, not because they may have other intrinsic value. So today I’m going to share with you some down and dirty facts about archaeology you may not already know…

1.  The majority of archaeologists in the U.S. work in the private sector, not for universities or museums.

2.      Fieldwork doesn’t only happen in the summer. While this may be true for academic projects, which can be scheduled for months—even years—ahead of time, fieldwork in the private sector is on a different timeline and happens in all seasons and all weather, and sometimes (when there is an inadvertent find) with only an hour’s notice.
a.       Related: working in the cold rain in December is not fun. But you probably guessed that.
b.      A pedestrian survey when the ground is covered with snow is useless. Again, you probably guessed that. But I had an (a) and in middle school I was taught that if you have an (a) you need a (b).

       3. We use paper called “Rite in the Rain” to take notes. It works. Try it. (But write with a pencil, not a pen.)

     4. Archaeologists sometimes dig with backhoes. Because trowels and shovels can be way too slow.

     5. We sometimes dig round holes. But they’re called probes. The square holes are called units. Yes, we race to see who is faster at probing. Speed in digging is a point of pride.

     6. Dirt gets so deeply embedded in our fingers during field projects it won’t wash out for a week or more. We call this permadirt.

 7. We really do get excited when we find privies (outhouses) and coprolites (fossilized feces). It’s a gross profession, really.

 8. Some archaeologists wear makeup and curl their hair when doing fieldwork. Okay, one, actually. And we made fun of her. But she got back at us by drinking all our beer.

     9.  It hurts when you forget to wear a hardhat and walk into a low hanging rock in a rockshelter. This may be obvious, but believe it or not, the rock wasn’t obvious. Because rockshelters are dark.
a.       Always wear a hard hat in a rockshelter.
b.      It helps if you also have a flashlight.

     10.  It is possible to have a run-in with a rattlesnake, a scorpion,a black widow spider, and be exposed to poison oak all on the same project in Eastern Washington.
a.       Coworkers don’t like it when you drop black widows on them. (It was an accident!)
b.      Avoid working in Eastern Washington if you are adverse to black widows and rattlesnakes. (The scorpion was tiny and not very scary.)

All of my books all are set within a world I know well, contract archaeology, and the heroine’s profession drives the suspense plot. In BODY OF EVIDENCE, my latest release, my heroine is a forensic archaeologist who works for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, the organization that travels the world to retrieve the remains of military personnel who have died in past conflicts.

I’m giving a copy of BODY OF EVIDENCE in ebook to one commenter.

Book Description:

“Top-notch page turner! The perfect mix of suspense and romance.” - Jill Barnett,New York Times bestselling author

And she thought facing a firing squad was bad…

When archaeologist Mara Garrett traveled to North Korea to retrieve the remains of GIs lost in combat, she never imagined she’d be arrested, convicted of spying, and sentenced to death. Her only hope is Curt Dominick, the powerful, ambitious, and infuriatingly sexy US attorney prosecuting her uncle, a former vice president of the United States.

What starts off as a rescue mission quickly morphs into a race across the Pacific. Someone is after Mara, and they’ll risk everything to stop her from reaching Washington DC. With betrayal around every corner, Curt and Mara have little reason to trust each other and every reason to deny the sparks between them that blaze hotter than the Hawaiian sun. Still, desire clashes with loyalty when they discover a conspiracy that threatens not only their lives but the national security of the United States.

Author Bio:

Four-time Golden Heart® finalist Rachel Grant worked for over a decade as a professional archaeologist and mines her experiences for storylines and settings, which are as diverse as excavating a cemetery underneath an historic art museum in San Francisco, survey and excavation of many prehistoric Native American sites in the Pacific Northwest, researching an historic concrete house in Virginia, and mapping a seventeenth century Spanish and Dutch fort on the island of Sint Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children.

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Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Oct. 5th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JRS GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.


  1. Archaeology seems fascinating and combining it as a backdrop for a suspenseful story seems a natural. So few stories are set in North Korea, which makes your book seem even more exciting.

    Thanks for the post!

    Jonettaallen77 at yahoo dot com

    1. Thanks, Jonetta! Researching North Korea was fascinating, depressing, and scary. I have a friend who is a JPAC archaeologist and he excavated in North Korea several years ago. He was incredibly helpful.

  2. I used to babysit for a little boy I think had permadirt! ;) I should look him up and see if he became and archaeologist.

    Rachel, you know I'm a HUGE fan of all your books - they've brought me adventure and romance wrapped in a really intelligent story.


    1. Thanks, Bria! I'm a huge fan of your books too!

  3. I worked with a gentleman from JPAC to help ID living family of MIA. Even future possible remains need stored DNA to match with. I wish I had been more successful. This book sounds intriguing, can't wait. JbMJCa mpBEll@

    1. That's wonderful that you worked with JPAC, Barbara. It's so important to find living family/descendants so they have DNA to confirm identification.

  4. How cool that you're an archaeologist -- a dream of mine in another life. I'll go order your book now!

  5. You do sound like a professional in this field. Also, your writing will reflect this which makes for an interesting read!
    Please enter me in your draw.


  6. As a young university student, I wanted to get into archeology but couldn't get all my courses to fit. Now, my daughter is going to be applying for archeology. Your stories sound like a wonderful combination of science and adventure. I look forward to reading them!

    1. Thanks, Shelley! Good luck to your daughter! And I'll confess that my parents were worried when I announced my intention to go into archaeology, but I was always able to support myself. And my husband is an archaeologist too - and he supports our family of 4. :)

  7. Interesting facts

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  8. Enjoyed your post. The information learned from archaeologists' finds is fascinating.

    jtcgc at yahoo dot com

  9. No matter what you say I still think of it as a 'romantic' pursuit. This was fabulous to read through thank you.


  10. Congrats on the new release! Thanks for sharing! It sounds fantastic ;)


  11. Just wanted to stop by to say I loved this action packed book. When's the next book out?

    1. Thanks so much, Judi, I'm so thrilled you loved Body! No promises, but if everything comes together quickly then the next Evidence book will be out early next year.

  12. looks like a great book!

  13. It was an interesting post and I can't imagine ever having a black widow accidently dropped on me.
    mce1011 AT aol DOT com

  14. What an interesting premise for a book... recovering POW / MIAs... in North Korea no less. The premise is so now and time appropriate with all that haa been in the news. I look forward to reading it.
    Julie O
    jo1963jo at gmail dor com