5 Archaeology Must-Haves for 2018

Here are my five wishes for cultural resource management in 2018It’s time for us to begin our winter celebrations. In the Western world, Santa’s sleigh bells are ringing, the menorah is going up, kinara candles are about to be lit, and celebrations for the birth of the Prophet are in preparation. Other peoples are celebrating the winter (or summer) in their traditional style elsewhere in the world. A very small population will celebrate Ludachristmas in San Francisco. Regardless of how you’re celebrating, enjoy the season. This is a time to give thanks for aspects of our lives as deemed culturally appropriate. For many of us, its also time to ask for gifts.

This year, rather than asking for presents like I do every other year, I have five wishes to ask of all archaeologists in the United States for 2018.

A call to action in 2018

Unless you’ve been living under a bridge, you’re probably aware that this past year isn’t going to go down favorably in the record books for more than half of all American voters. Many of us consider 2017 as “the year that keeps getting worse.” We’re here in December and the deluge of fake bad news keeps on rolling. Hurricanes, disastrous fires, global warming, a polarized society, de facto segregation, #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, the housing bubble, and an ever-growing list of other calamities keep befalling us. Add our political situation on the heap and it looks like the world is buried beneath a smoldering dumpster fire that just won’t go out.

If you’re a cultural resource management archaeologist or archaeology student, now is the time to reflect on the past year. It is likely your CRM workload has diminished for the winter (for better or worse). Students are off from school (bet you thought it would never end). Now is the time to examine what happened in the previous year; to take account of what went well and what didn’t. We can use this review to help us set a course in the upcoming year.

In the past, I’ve written a holiday gear post just before Christmas. This year, we need something more than new field gear. I’ve decided to ask Santa for stuff that will help me become a better archaeologist and global citizen—a practitioner that looks forward to the future of our trade with optimism and confidence. I also came up with five things I want you to do for yourself in 2018. If you want to continue practicing CRM archaeology, you’re going to need to make adjustments in 2018. Our trade depends on what we do before the midterm elections.

Here are my 5 wishes must-haves for archaeology in 2018:

1) Political activism:

What’s happening— Even though it’s been stymied by big money, special interests, and –isms (most prominently racism and sexism), the American political system has galvanized to make a wholesale assault on any program designed to benefit our society. Our national legislature has embraced anti-environmentalism. The regulatory framework undergirding CRM is under assault. You can see a full summary of proposed anti-preservation actions in this to-the-point blog post written by Michelle Turner at MAPA Binghamton University [http://mapabing.org/2017/11/29/legislative-attacks-on-archaeology/]).

Why this matters for archaeology— Because these laws are the reason why we have cultural resource management. Unfortunately, environmental regulations, including those that facilitate heritage conservation, are under attack just when we need them the most. Our representatives have decided we don’t need the Antiquities Act because it protects valuable resource deposits that could be harvested and sold. Politicians are hacking away at the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because it also makes it more difficult to harvest resources. These laws force the “Oncelers of Industry,” who control our legislatures, to account for the damage they do to the environment.

The attack is not only on the environment. As I write, the proposed tax overhaul might get rid of historic preservation tax credits, a major motivator for property owners to rehabilitate historical buildings. Historic districts have been proven to improve local tax balance sheets more than new construction. They also provide other aesthetic and social benefits that communities value. The tax breaks facilitated by these laws are a major motivator for property owners to embrace historic preservation (#45 himself stands to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of dollars in historic preservation tax credits). Losing this provision would make preserving privately owned historical properties less attractive to owners.

What to do— CRM archaeologists must take political action. The American Cultural Resources Association (ACRA) has long been a lobbyist for CRM interests. The association has spoken about #45’s campaign against preservation. In 2017, ACRA hosted several webinars with instructions on how you can contact your representative and tell her what you think about this assault. A plethora of “text your representative” services have also sprouted up making it easier than ever to drop a line to your representative. While we haven’t fully organized, online forums and social media networks, like the ”Archaeologists for a Just Future” Facebook group, have become spaces where we can share information and network with each other. I hope these vehicles for collective action provide a way for all of us to fight for our industry.

In 2018, I wish all archaeologists would take action to advocate on behalf of historic preservation laws. Join Archaeologists for a Just Future. Attend an ACRA webinar and contact your representative. Let them know heritage is more important than fracking oil. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice our heritage just so billionaires can keep nineteenth century technologies alive.

2) Anti-racism and anti-harassment awareness training:

What’s Happening—Discrimination exists in the United States. #metoo has revealed the depth and breadth of sexual harassment in the United States. For generations, women kept quiet. Not anymore. Racism is at the heart of American society, which is one of the things #blacklivesmatter has been trying to tell the country (including archaeologists). This message has not been received as well, but the movement lives on (just like it has for about 500 years).

Why this matters for archaeology— It doesn’t matter if you don’t care about progressive issues and using your skills, knowledge, and expertise to address social justice. There’s nothing wrong if you don’t care about equality, diversity, and integrating untold narratives into what we know about the past.

If you do care about discrimination, you probably realize this is a systemic problem embedded in the social structures that bind our society together. Anthropology is complicit in the othering process, which is essential for racial identities that can lead to racism. We can only address discrimination by changing the structures that maintain our society. The first step starts in each of our individual minds.

What to do— Regardless of how we personally feel about these movements, we owe it to ourselves as anthropologists to try and understand what this is all about. Women are sick of getting harassed. Black people want to an end to structural racism. We should all want to increase social justice because we should all want our society to get better. None of this is going to happen if we don’t learn how we can change the system.

Listening is the first step. Learning is the second. Training facilitates learning. In 2018, I wish all archaeologists would get some anti-harassment or anti-racism training.

3) Start travel hacking:

What’s happening—You are spending money without reaping the benefits of frequent flyer and hotel loyalty rewards programs. You could be using these programs to supplement your income, cover travel expenses, or use to take a vacation “on the cheap.”

Why this matters for archaeology— Because most of us are missing out on benefits that could make our lives easier. CRM archaeologists do a fair amount of travel, which includes living in hotels for significant periods of time. Rewards programs are designed to give you points for your travel (which, in the case of CRMers, is part of our jobs). You have to travel for work, so it only makes sense to turn this necessity into free hotel stays and flights.

What to do— I’ve written about travel hacking (i.e. the art of getting loyalty points from airlines and hotel benefits credit cards) (http://www.succinctresearch.com/tag/travel-hacking-2/). My wife and I constantly use this technique to get very cheap flights. Every time we take a family trip, we have to buy four plane tickets because we have two kids. Airbnb has reduced our lodging costs but our transportation costs have doubled. In fact, I just used air miles to book a flight from SFO to New Orleans for the Society for Historical Archaeology conference. I believe it cost about $27. Our family of four took a trip from Oakland to San Diego. Airfare cost about $150 for all of us. If I can do it, so can you.

There are endless resources for aspiring travel hackers. Don’t rely on my modest experiences. Some hackers are world travelers that always fly first class and routinely take intercontinental vacations. You can join them. Here are some resources for you to get started:

Beginner’s Guide to Travel Hacking: Operated by one of my online idols Chris Guillebeau, this is where I initially got the idea to start travel hacking (https://chrisguillebeau.com/beginners-guide-to-travel-hacking/). I bought his eBook and started racking up flyer points. Here’s where he keeps his travel hacking toolkit (https://chrisguillebeau.com/travel-hacking-resources/).

Travel with Grant: Another haven for travel hacking information is Travel with Grant (http://travelwithgrant.boardingarea.com/). A couple years ago I reached out to Grant for advice on how I could afford to go to the Society for Historical Archeology, Society for American Archaeology conferences and a personal trip to Hawaii with my wife all in one calendar year on a graduate student salary. I was able to make all three trips in a calendar year without breaking the bank using advice from his website, personal information, and Guillebeau. Travel with Grant is worth checking out for anyone starting out with travel hacking.

FlyerTalk: This is the ultimate forum for travel hacking (https://www.flyertalk.com/). Nearly anything and everything a chap can learn about travel hacking can be found at FlyerTalk, but the site has so much information it can be overwhelming for beginners. I suggest you start with Guillebeau and Grant before wading into the waters on FlyerTalk. Or, use FlyerTalk for ideas and refine it with strategies from the other sites.

Travel hacking is becoming bigly important to young people across the United States. It’s a way to afford to see the world on a greatly reduced budget. CRMers have a career that lends itself to travel hacking more easily than many other professions. You spend significant time traveling and could quickly rack up loyalty points, especially with hotel loyalty programs. Why not collect points for travel you’re already doing?

In 2018, I wish all archaeologists would start collecting rewards points so they can cheaply travel the world.

4) Paperless site recording system:

What’s happening?—We are still recording archaeological data like they did in the 1800s. Archives are overflowing with paper. Meanwhile, almost everything in our lives is going digital and we’re missing important opportunities to do big data research that comes along with having access to relational databases. Finally, we can save money by recording things more efficiently with tablet-based recordation systems.

Why this matters to archaeology?— We are missing out on chances to save money and build robust archaeological analyses because we spend millions of tax-payer dollars on the data entry associated with digitizing field forms and can’t afford to do any more analysis than the absolute basics. Simply scanning the forms so they can be converted to data tables is a bear of a task. I’ve been raging about this since 2015. There is a better way.


What to do— Stop using paper forms. Buy a Galaxy tablet or iPad, an OtterBox, and start recording field data into your tablet. You can do it right away with no specialized software or app. Just upload Microsoft Word templates of your field documents to the tablet and start filling them out in the field rather than writing it on paper. You will still have to transcribe this data to tables, but it’s a start towards going paperless.

Companies across the country are adopting paperless recordation systems as we speak that will generate relational databases that can be used in archaeological analyses. The concept is in its toddler phase right now, so I’ve heard of dozens of different solutions. Soon it will be hard for non-paperless companies to compete with those who have gone paperless.

Don’t want to build a paperless system yourself? You don’t have to. Send an email to my friends at Digtech, LLC if you want to learn more about going paperless (http://www.digtech-llc.com/tech-concierge/). Or drop a line to my other friends at Codifi. They’d be excited to help you as well (https://www.codifi.com/).

I’ve solicited the folks at Codifi to build a tablet-based system for me to use here at the University of California. After half a decade of work on going paperless, the folks at Codifi look like they have a solution that I can actually use.


Is Codifi the answer? Depends. But you’ll never know if you keep schlepping paper around in the field. I wish every CRM archaeologist would join the paperless movement in 2018.

Hammer on anvil is how any side hustle begins5) A side hustle:

What’s happening?— Everybody would love to make more money but most of us rely on our jobs to pay all of our bills. The only problem is: This is getting more and more difficult. Archaeologists are not alone in this respect. Wages are barely rising. Housing, healthcare, and education costs are rapidly increasing. I believe we are entering a second Gilded Age. Every American who is not wealthy is caught between these rising costs and stagnant wages. The pressure is building and there does not appear to be an immediate solution (FYI: The first Gilded Age was ended by unionization that was brutally repressed for decades, the Great Depression, and World War II. Aside from unionizing, I hope it doesn’t take these measures to end the second Gilded Age.)

Why does this matter to archaeology?— Archaeologists recognize that few of us will get rich doing archaeology alone, but it’s getting harder and harder for archaeologists to stay in the middle class. Archaeologists and other knowledge workers also have to contend with student loans, which, as I’ve mentioned before, are a drag on the entire cultural resource management industry. Few of us can pay our bills doing CRM archaeology, let alone lead a financially thriving life.

Fortunately, we are students of humanity and (pre)history. We know what human beings do when faced with environmental uncertainty, change, and a growing population. We diversify.

For thousands of years, Homo sapiens lived by foraging, hunting, and fishing. We also tended to plants, an activity that would give rise to agriculture. The Neolithic Revolution (i.e. rise of agriculture in North America) was one way H. sapiens dealt with environmental change at the end of the Pleistocene. First, we supplemented transhumance and hunting/gathering/fishing with cultivating crops. In the beginning this was just another form of diversification. It became our way of life once we got better at it. Over the last 10,000 years, our societies have become almost entirely supported by a few key crops and domesticated animals. We’ve been able to support larger populations but, until the rise of sanitation and allopathic medicine, these populations were not as robust or healthy as H/G groups. Today, our sedentism and limited diet are overpowering any advances in medicine or sanitation.

Anyway, in order to survive, human beings are going to have to diversify again. Everything will have to change. This diversification will also mean diversifying what we consider work and how we derive monetary income. Fortunately, this change is already happening. Archaeologists now have ample examples of how they can diversify their income streams.

What to do?— Starting a side hustle is another topic I’ve covered on this blog with mixed reception. While most archaeologists understand they will have to figure out how to make more money, a stalwart faction is wholly wedded to the idea that all of your income should be provided by one source of labor. They blame companies for preventing them from bringing home enough income to thrive financially.

Failing to recognize that, in the 21st century we all need to generate multiple streams of income is one major reason why their companies aren’t making more money. Failing to listen to the ideas of folks with their boots on the ground is another major reason why CRM companies are not making more money.

Good ideas come from ambitious workers, not supervisors, because workers are closer to the mode of production. They are responsible for performing the tasks that generate revenue. This is where money is both made and saved. Any CRM company is only worth the sum of its employees; it’s in grave trouble if those workers don’t think they’re responsible for increasing the bottom line. Suggesting and cultivating new streams of income is part of every employee’s job.

Increasing revenue streams isn’t just for companies. You need to do the same thing in your personal life. If you’re familiar with my work, publishing eBooks is one of my side hustles. It’s not too lucrative but at least its something that gives back to the world while generating a small bit of income. In 2018, I plan on expanding my side hustle efforts in response to the insanely expensive part of the country in which I now live.

The internet is overflowing with glowing success stories of side hustles that replaced an individual’s main hustle. Like all fake news, these stories are: 1) not always replicable, 2) dependent upon a unique set of conditions, and 3) cannot be done by all people. Don’t trust everything you read on the internet about side hustles. Do spend some time thinking about what you can do to create a side hustle for yourself.

I just grabbed Chris Guillebeau’s new book “Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days.” As with all of Guillebeau’s work, this book cuts straight to the point. It gives you a clear path from idea to money-making hustle. He has also created a companion website (https://sidehustleschool.com/) and is currently on a tour where you can network with other side hustlers to network and exchange ideas (FYI: I signed up for his talk in San Jose in February. See you there Bay Area archaeos).

Guillebeau isn’t the only side hustle “guru” I’ve been watching over the years. Like I said, this is a topic I’ve talked about a number of times. I’ve even created a reference list for anyone interested in getting started hustling:


I wish all CRM archaeologists would start thinking about how they can generate multiple streams of income and start a side hustle in 2018.

My Five Holiday Wishes for Cultural Resource Management Archaeology in 2018

In 2018, I wish all archaeologists in the United States would:

I. Take political action,

II. Take action against discrimination and harassment,

III. Start travel hacking,

IV. Go paperless, and

V. Start a side hustle.

This blog post is about empowerment. Choose one of these things and get to work today so we can reap the rewards in 2018. We can either be victims or we can fight back. I don’t know about any other cultural resource management archaeologists, but I choose to fight.

Any questions? Write a comment below or send me an email.

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