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Kent Jones Interviews - Guillermo Santamaria

Welcome to the first of our Kent Jones interviews. As with many people Kent is fascinated by world archaeology but loves the archaeology of the UK. He has been interested in how different countries do archaeology and how skills and expertise are shared between countries to better understand archaeology.
 
Here at Wessex Archaeology we are fortunate to have archaeologists working for us who have worked and trained internationally, which provides Kent the opportunity to speak to archaeologists about their experiences within the UK and abroad. The first of Kent’s interviews is with Guillermo (Will) Santamaria, a field archaeologist from Spain.
 

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Why do you prefer being called Will? Is it because some British people can’t pronounce Guillermo?
I know it is a bit tricky so I decided to ask people to call me William, which in fact I like more than my Spanish name. It also reminds me when I was a child. My grandparents always wanted to give me an English education so they sent me to a British school where everyone called me Will. 
 
Tell us a little about yourself and the training have you had?
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about me and my professional career. I was born in Madrid but I used to live in Galicia, a region in north-west Spain. Living there was like being in a small England as the weather, landscape and the archaeology are very similar. 
 
I don’t know why but I have always been interested in archaeology so when I turned 16 I went to my first excavation with a university research group that was carrying out an investigation on a Bronze Age settlement. Since then, every summer I spent part of the time digging around Spain. I once had the opportunity to travel to Israel where I spent a couple of months digging a Tell (a mound made of the accumulated remains from settlements). I must say that some of the experienced archaeologists I came across tried hard to dissuade me from doing archaeology, as the future was uncertain at that time. However, I finally ended up studying archaeology at the Uni in Madrid and Santiago de Compostela. At that time (I think nowadays things have changed) we didn’t receive much training as every course was theoretical so it was quite common that students tried to gain experience and money working for commercial units while they were studying.  After finishing my degree, I started working − I wouldn´t say intensely as jobs were limited − for different commercial units until I decided to start up my own small business. Nothing really big as I was just self-employed but sometimes I had my own clients on small projects or collaborated with large archaeological units. Things went from worse to worst when the financial crisis hit Spain. The lack of public and private investment on new developments and consequently archaeological interventions, wiped off the map most of the units and of course me. So, I had to pack everything and come to the only place that could offer good opportunities to continue archaeology...  
 
How does archaeology in Spain differ from archaeology in the UK?
As in the UK the earlier limited protection was extended, in the 90s, when each county implemented new laws that should be included in the local planning application, tending to protect and include new sites. 
 
According with these new laws, depending on the impact of development and proximity to archaeological sites different type of interventions would be required. These types of interventions differ slightly from the ones we do in the UK. To begin with, watching briefs are basically the same. When further investigations are required, to assess potential archaeology on site, we usually do a number of sondages (commonly 2 x 2 m) by hand depending on how big the area is. I think evaluations trenches done by machine are not a common practice in Spain − definitely not where I used to work in Galicia. If archaeology was found in the sondages, the next phase of work would be an open area excavation. In the same way as evaluation trench project could result in an excavation at the end. Although the strategy is different as everything should be 100% dug and the methodology followed single context recording used by MOLA. 
 
Will also went on to praise the UK’s approach to H&S, career development and the professional standards that are employed in the heritage sector.
 
Is there anything you miss about working in archaeology in Spain?
I miss being more in touch with the research part of archaeological intervention. Most of the time as part of the field team we just go to site, strip it, retrieve all the information we can and move to the next project. I would like to have more time to do some research and analyse the artefacts as I used to do in Spain.
 
What challenges have you faced working in the UK?
Working here there are many challenges. Not only the language barrier but each project is different and that keeps you interested.  
 
Interventions are different to the type of interventions I used to carry out in Spain. They are much larger, with more people involve, machinery, H&S issues, etc... so the pressure is higher and the level of responsibility too. 
 
Do you think working in archaeology in Spain and the UK has given you a better understanding of how people lived in the past?
What I come to realise is that people since the beginning of time have been doing the same things here and there. There are some variations on how society was organised and how it reflects on the archaeological remains but at the end the purpose is the same. It´s amazing discovering that same cultural patterns are repeated through the time in places as distant as Spain and UK. I would say that the north and north-west of Spain basically experienced the same cultural evolution as UK and Ireland. The south and south-east is a different world and had a lot of influences from Mediterranean cultures.
 
Despite the peculiarities of each region the prehistory and protohistory from an artefactual, occupational and social point of view are very similar. You can find the same artefacts, similar settlements and social organisation on each period here and north-west Spain. The way the Roman occupation changed the culture in England doesn´t differ at all with the way it did in Spain. The Iron Age is well represented in this country by hill forts as it is in the Spain and Portugal and during the Bronze Age henges, cromlechs, roundhouses, were erected, and although they are less monumental they are essentially the same as the 'British' ones. Similar archaeology can be seen across the Atlantic Area − starting from Portugal, through France and arriving in Ireland − when different cultures developed similar ways of life.
 
 
 

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