News & Blog

News & Blog (27)

Hey folks!

Now isn’t that a kick-ass presumptuous subject for an e-mail! ??? (<— Since I am quite NRHP eligible I can use whatever outdated emoji I want ;-) <-- or ascii for that matter!)
But like every clickbait worthy POS article online only after you are lured into opening it do you see the full title.
"The state of Archaeology, CRM, Architectural History… in the age of Covid, via my incredibly siloed view of the profession(s) through ShovelBums. Plus, the Mark of the Beast bodes a good omen for us!"
I put Architectural History in the title only because that always catches peoples eyes and makes them think it must be interesting because none of us really know what they do. I mean we all know the Architectural Historians write prodigiously, they can talk eloquently about a shocking number of subjects beyond their job title, and they always give that *polite* little nod when anyone else tries to identify any type of structure, yet is off by 2-3 years. But they are generally so quiet. They really must be up to something, but I digress. Though do be sure to buy them a drink when prevailing social conditions are suitable. You always want them on your side because they are just so darn useful. 
First off, my apologies. I actively thought last year when everything was in the tank that I should be a bit more proactive in engaging the community. Maybe host a periodic virtual Happy Hour just to shoot the shit. But A: My wife moved into my office with me and so the view of skulls and old tomes that look much more scholarly than I am is shit. B: I am just so grossly anti-social and vulgar I would probably offend the other person who showed up. Well, actually, aren't many of us grossly anti-social and vulgar? So it just would have been a bunch of sullen faced old farts in bad lighting with blurry webcams on aging 486 Pentium computers staring at each other grunting periodically, but not that you would know because they would have forgotten to turn on their audio at the right time. 
No. Really. No-one needs to see that. As a matter of a fact, I try to avoid drinking on weeknights, but that mental image might convince me otherwise…
So back to the point of all this. 
Where in the hell are we all right now?
I am not sure. 
I do *cautiously* fell optimistic about 2021. 
ShovelBums gives me a very very narrow view on the state of things. Why? Because I have always, and I mean always, stated ShovelBums is your tool of last resort. Back in the day (another advantage of being old is being able to say that with some gravitas) when jobs were found by phone calls, a direct result of your own personal network of peers. And as always, companies did - as they should - always give preference to people who had someone to vouch for them personally as their 1st degree of finding qualified people. But as we all know, we have an incredibly small profession, even including the Architectural Historians and the dozen or so qualified geomorphologists. And yet even with people vouching for others some fuckups made it through, hey, we are all human! LOL! So back then, if the personal networks failed to produce enough functional bodies then that is where Fax machines, and literally papers pinned to office bulletin boards came into play. Things are no different today. The fax, phone, and bulletin boards produced the exact same results as modern services do today. 
But the field has grown a lot since Jill-Karen, Cory, Pat, Chuck were the ones picking up the phone. It grew a lot because of them and many others utilizing their personal networks. So while our ability to communicate with an ever widening group of professional acquaintances has grown exponentially there is still the reality that we really are a very small niche profession. That is where ShovelBums comes in. It helps connect professionals with jobs and employers with great staff. And if a recipient isn’t the right person for the job, they likely know someone who is. Or to put it another way, staff personal networks are the 1st degree resource. ShovelBums covers degrees 2-6. {Random Factoid about the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon. I have a Bacon Number of 4. Me -> I worked with Elizabeth Craig who was taught to ride horses by -> Harrison Ford (tangent, Harrison got the scar on his chin from Elizabeth's horse kicking him, not from a bar fight) -> Ford was in Apocalypse Now with Laurence Fishburne -> Fishburne and Bacon were in Mystic River).
While ShovelBums is not the final metric to measure where in the hell we are at any given time. It is, like an out of stratigraphic context potsherd and other midden remnants in a plowed field, an indicator of what might lie beneath. Sometimes, sometimes..., an abundance of detritus on the surface might indicate an information rich feature below. 
So from this perspective is the best information I have that I can tell you my thoughts about where we are right now.
2020 was shaping up to be one of the best years ever for ShovelBums, the postings in January and February, which are not typically high volume months, were up almost double from what they were in 2019. Now of course there are myriad things that factor into this, and there is no doubt that the ongoing push into Energy was driving a lot of this. So many of these jobs were not for surveying sites like Grasshopper, I can confidently say that. But, there was work, and enough of it employers were using ShovelBums to help them out. 
….and then everything went into the shitter. That has been well covered.
But surprisingly 2020 wasn’t as stupendously terrible as I was expecting and by fall the postings numbers were actually looking pretty good (Note: In general, don’t look for jobs in December). Now there are a couple of ways to read these numbers though. Were the postings increases simply because it was hard to find staff because those who could stay hunkered down did so? Or was it from increased work opportunities? It is probably somewhere in the middle I would expect. 
As for 2021? Well the number of postings has started our strong. Both January and March saw the largest number of postings in several years. And not many of the postings are repostings for the same position (which when that happens is to me is an indicator of the CRM labor force being stretched thin, or maybe nobody wants to work in the northern US or Canada in the winter if they can avoid it).
Here is a chart (attached) of the number of postings on ShovelBums over the last few years. It is of course worth noting that all postings carry the same weight. Some posts are for individual full time Principal Investigators, some are cattle calls for dozens of professionals at different levels for numerous projects in multiples areas. And these differences underscore why ShovelBums is not a perfect bellwether for the state of Archaeology, CRM, Architectural History… But it is a metric of some value
Oh! And about ShovelBums and The Number of the Beast? 
The last job post for 2020, was job posting number 
How was that for a way to end 2020? LOL! 
I can not make this shit up. 
In conclusion. I do hope you are all as well as you are able to be during these challenging times. And I do genuinely hope that 2021 provides you the opportunity to find a fantastic job in your career and that companies can find the excellent staff they need to keep on doing their great work!
If you are in academia, or know someone teaching an intro class, please be sure to end the semester by suggesting students take the time to join up for ShovelBums so they can painlessly keep abreast of what their career options are in the field, what skills are in demand, and where the work is in high demand.
There is info on how to sign up here:
R. Joe


Friday, 01 May 2015 00:00

ShovelBums 16th anniversary. 2015

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ShovelBums 16th Anniversary


ShovelBums just turned 16 Years this week.

16 Years?


  • 16 Years?!?!
  • ~6,000 days. 
  • Nearly 17,000 active members.  
  • ~32,000+ positions filled.
  • WTF? Seriously?
  • Tens of thousands of sites located, documented, tested, excavated.
  • So many sites lost to history.
  • Millions of artifacts and features cataloged. 
  • Ungodly numbers of GPS points logged.
  • Kilometers of maps made.
  • Many more Kilometers of TP dropped in the blue lagoons and back filled STP's.
  • A whole hell of a lot of liquor and ice tea (that for you Galen B) consumed.
  • Drones rise in harmony with my beloved Kite Aerial Photography.
  • Kindergartners born then are graduating college and starting their career.
  • Great friends lost to time, space, and becoming what we study.
  • New friends found.
  • First trowels broken or lost after a lifetime of love and respect.
  • First trowels sharpened at field school.
  • Great people leave the profession.
  • New people join the profession.
  • Degrees earned.
  • Tenure for a few.
  • Companies grow
  • Everyone laughing or groaning when someone says "That belongs in a museum!".
  • Sunsets tonight on sites worldwide with people who have used ShovelBums



Damn damn damn.

That is pretty cool.

And here I am, R. Joe, riding on your coattails. 

Because none of this.

I mean NONE of this.

Would happen if it was not for you.

Thank you. Seriously.

You people fucking rock.


As always. My sincere thanks to James Colburn who has helped moderate these postings all these years to make sure you only see relevant postings. And to my friends the original Pocket_Gophers at the University of Arkansas who were the first to hear of my crazy idea for an archaeology jobs mailing list, the first to join, and the first to send out the word about ShovelBums to their as yet unnamed "social media" contacts. To my mom, who arguably, coined the term ShovelBums, in a humorous response of what to call my career when I was still on the road. And to my wife Kristy, who supports everything I do with ShovelBums and helped finance it in the early years.


If you have ever found a job or field school through ShovelBums and feel like buying me a beer (that was always the deal) you can use the link at


Thank you all again. I know it sounds kind of corny. But I mean it. The recognition I get when other arch's meet me when I rarely get to a conference and the positive things they say about ShovelBums makes me aware it has had an impact far beyond any I ever dared imagine. Last year two people completely unconnected to each other within about 20 minutes of each other both called me a folk-hero. I am not sure if that is a step down or up from being called famous (and one time even a god, a title I hang on to simply to annoy close peers who say my head is to big ;-) but since the titles are all unpaid, I'll take what I get and not complain.

I look forward to another year of facilitating your search for crews and jobs. And as always, if you have any suggestions, please do not hesitate to drop me a note.




R. Joe

RIP Leonard Nimoy March 26, 1931 – February 27, 2015
Spock: An inspiration to generations of scientists...

“...of all the souls I've encountered in my travels, his was the most human.” 

#LiveLongandProsperSpock. You always have, and always will be, my friend. #GoodbyeSpock #Vulcan #RIPSpock #Spock

You can share this video on twitter with this short URL






I am in the process of preparing the 2nd edition of the ShovelBums 2015 Comprehensive International Archaeology, Anthropology and CRM Field School Directory to be emailed out on Monday March 2nd. If your professor/administrator has not posted your programs field school yet now is the time to do it. And please encourage who ever is posting it to register on the site (that info is on the field school page) so they (or a flunky) can update it later :-)


About The ShovelBums 2015 Comprehensive International Archaeology, Anthropology and CRM Field School Directory:


If you are just getting started with your career in archaeology/anthropology it is important to realize that a field school is imperative to your future career!  A field school will not only open your mind first hand to the wonders of archaeology but it will also lay the ground work for building relationships that will span your whole career.  Case in point: At the SAA's in Memphis

As students face the resumption of classes and snow bound field workers are tasked with lab jobs to see them through the lean months we all face a similar challenge. How do we not loose our willpower with not only New Years Resolutions, but also when confronted with the day to day grind of voluminous database entry and excruciating artifact sorting and analysis?  I read a very interesting article today on this subject on i09 How to Make Your Willpower Stronger -- According to Science.

A brief summary of the article is in this list.  But do read the whole article it is really very interesting.

You have died of dysentery - Oregon Trail MSDOS


Dating back to the days when you could count the number of ShovelBums in the country on two hands after three bourbons comes the greatest treasure trove of MSDOS (that's Microsoft Disk Operating System kids) games ever.  You can play these *now* for free, in your browser, with no plugin needed.  So now it't time to hitch up your oxen (its ethnology in action!) , put on your fedora (this is why your office bound PI dresses the way they do), or pull out your Duke Nukem Laser Gun (because, well, its kinda fun):


paul revere time capsule, 1795

X-ray of time capsule


Paul Revere, Samuel Adams Time Capsule


The (modern) public is getting its first glimpse inside a time capsule dating to 1795 and believed placed by Samuel Adams and other Revolutionary War figures that will be opened live on Monday at 6pm and go on display Tuesday evening at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. 

Tomb of previously unknown 5th dynasty pharaonic queen found in EgyptNote the meter sticks :-) This picture is in a lot of news articles, but it is actually the tomb of Princess Shert Nebti in Abu Sir,

south of Cairo, dating from around 2,500 BC and discovered in 2012

Austrian Filmmaker stopped from continuing "archaeological" excavations of "Nazis’ ‘biggest secret weapons facility"

Waffen SS helmet found by Sulzer's crew.

Waffen SS helmet found by Sulzer's crew.

Austrian Filmaker Andreas Sulzer reports that he is close to exposing the largest secret weapons facility built by the Nazi's during WWII using slave labor from the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. But according to reports other than having Historian Rainer Karlsch on as an advisor there is no indication that he is using a professional Archaeologists to conduct these investigations. As a result Austrian authorities have shut down his excavation pending further permitting.  However Sulzer states that he believes they will be back excavating again in only a few weeks...

Thursday, 01 January 2015 00:00

January 1st, 2015. The first page of a new years book

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January 1st, 2015

Today is the 1st page of a new 365 page book that only you can write. Others might annotate it, but only you hold the pen that fills your pages. Behind you are the closed and bound volumes of years past that fill the shelves of the Library Of Your Life. Don't spend another year aimlessly flipping through those worn and tattered old books on your shelves wasting your days with "...if only...",  "...why didn't I?" and "I wish I would have started this then...".

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