At Wessex Archaeology, we are proud of the international dimensions within our teams. The archaeological sector by nature is extremely diverse, with a culture of international knowledge- and skills-sharing across disciplines, organisations and borders. In our latest Day in the Life blog, we turn to one of our European employees, Chiara Sabato, who describes the adjustments she made coming from an Italian academic background into a commercial archaeological unit based in the UK.
I have lived in the United Kingdom for nearly a year now, and worked as an Archaeological Technician at Wessex Archaeology for much of this. This is an exciting new start for me and a welcome move into the commercial sphere.
The choice of country was not random at all; through the eyes of a southern European archaeologist, the UK has always been a symbol of innovation and progress. In Italy I took part in several excavations, but I have found that commercial archaeology in the UK is a completely different ball game. Although my country is rich in archaeology, as a discipline it is sometimes adherent to old theoretical approaches, while the the professional figure of the archaeologist tends (regretfully) to be undervalued. After committing years of study to the discipline, it is refreshing to see how archaeology is considered a profession in the UK. The possibilities to progress in my career and learn new approaches and techniques ultimately led to my decision to come to the UK.
The impact of moving into the commercial sector was significant, as much as the impact of the British weather. I had to quickly get used to the pace, as it is much faster than the academic digs I have been used to. The approach to excavation is also different, and I had to learn the strict rules around safety on site which adhere to high industry standards (we Italians are not famous for 'health and safety'!).
Currently, I’m working with the team on the Footprint Project at Bath Abbey. It has been a new and interesting experience for me in urban excavation. The site is perhaps one of the most stimulating that I have been involved in so far; I gain a huge amount of professional satisfaction from investigating the wide range of archaeology on offer – from digging a burial to interpreting Tudor masonry – and getting to grips with a history and material culture so different to that of my own country.
I continue to expand my knowledge daily, and have learn new archaeological methods for this environment. I have enjoyed developing my interest in surveying the most. I have used a total station in my past academic experience (surveying equipment used to measure angles in both the horizontal and vertical planes), but during the Bath Abbey excavation with Wessex Archaeology, I have increased my understanding of the numerous surveying methods that it is capable of. I have enjoyed this challenge so much that in the future I would love to continue my training, to explore all the aspects of surveying work. As a former student in fine arts, I’m also very interested in learning how archaeological illustration works in commercial archaeology.
I’m a great believer in the use of archaeological results for public benefit, and I really love that in the UK (and at Wessex Archaeology specifically) community engagement activities are commonplace. There is an active relationship with the public, which I have seen firsthand during the Bath Abbey project and is something that I would like to see grow across the globe. Fortunately, social media helps to throw down walls, and this was how I did a lot of my research when I was looking for news, information and job opportunities in the UK. The next step could be to create a greater exchange of knowledge between the international archaeological communities.
I cannot deny that the reality of Brexit makes me anxious, especially because I am in a role that I have always dreamed of. However, it is heartening to see that in the international realm of the archaeological industry, frontiers cannot be closed.