I’m Dr David Petts, an Associate Professor in the Department of Archaeology at Durham University. I’m a specialist in the archaeology of early medieval Britain, with a particular interest in the emergence of the early church and its impact on society in this period. I’m also working increasingly on the archaeology of the contemporary world (20th and 21st century). As I’ve spent a lot of time excavating on Holy Island/Lindisfarne I’m getting particularly interested in the archaeology of coastal landscapes and seascapes of all periods in Britain.
As a lecturer my work can be broadly divided into three broad categories – teaching (undergraduates and post-graduates, including supervising PhD students), research (I’m currently tying up a couple of papers for publication and planning a new book) and broader administrative tasks (I lead the Admissions team for our Department, and I’ve also been coordinating our Festival of Archaeology activity in the Department). You can a sense of the wider range of tasks our job involves in the diagram below.
Obviously, our precise work pattern varies each day and according to the time of year. As term has finished, the bulk of our teaching is done, although we are still supervising our PhD and Masters students. Yesterday I caught up with my PhD supervisee Christina Smith, by Zoom. She is doing some ground-breaking work on early medieval standing stone crosses and tackling the challenges of researching during a period when many museums and resources are shut or have limited access. I also spent time reading through a chapter sent to me by my PhD student Max Ratcliffe, who is just in the final stages of completing his thesis on lead tanks in Roman and early medieval Britain. I still need to catch up with some of my other students in the next couple of days. In the past, this would have been done face-to-face, but this year most of our supervisions have been via Zoom or Teams.
The last couple of days have also been taken up with the Festival of Archaeology. I’ve been organising our Departmental involvement in this annual national event. In practice, this has involved everything from building this website, chasing people for contributions, editing video submissions and uploading them on to Youtube – last night I also chaired a lecture by one of our recent PhD students, Emma Watson. I also spent some time preparing for a walking tour of Durham I’m doing with the Durham Archaeology Explorers club on Saturday. I had to pull together an activity sheet, and make sure our Risk Assessment had reached the relevant places in the University.
As with any job, there are always endless emails. Looking through my inbox from yesterday I can see that I was dealing with correspondence about a meeting with a commercial archaeological unit about how a video they are producing about their fieldwork can best be structured to support university students, liaising with colleagues in Wales about a possible research collaboration, chasing (and being chased) colleagues about changes in our teaching infranet which will need dealing with, arranging a meeting with the Chartered Institute for Archaeologist about professional accreditation of university degrees, and moving forward plans for exploring how our curriculum might be decolonised. There was also some chat with a colleague in Edinburgh about a forthcoming conference and scope for collaboration.
I also found a little time to do some research! We are producing a major interim report for the archaeological excavation we’ve been doing on Lindisfarne with my fantastic collaborators DigVentures, so I read a couple of journal papers on recent work on early medieval monastic sites.
Finally, I pulled together a proposal for a contribution to a book on teaching contemporary archaeology, and I’m psyching myself up to propose a paper at a conference on Mont St Michel – but it needs to be in French, which is an extra challenge! A busy day- but I’ve had busier – like a lot of school children, my son is currently social isolating at home, so there’s been the usual round of domestic chivvying, making sure he was set up for his internet lessons etc. Lots to look forward to in the coming days though- a trip up to Vindolanda next week- and then some leave, before the excitement of A levels results day and lots of work dealing with this.