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Management Tips for Archaeology Crew Chiefs: How to Effectively Prepare Before Taking on the Leadership Role

But cultural resources management (often called “public archaeology” or “CRM” for short), can be a rewarding career, especially for those brave enough to take on middle management positions. For those planning on leading a crew into the field, following these tips can help a crew chief become an effective leader.

Know the Project Details in Advance

Going into the field to conduct a survey or excavation without knowing what is expected can lead to disaster. Most of the time, pre-field meetings with supervisors – from both employer and client – will be held to explain the scope of the work involved and client expectations. Before leaving for the field, seek advice from a supervisor should any uncertainties about the project remain.

Keep a folder or binder that contains information about the project scope; client and company contact information; emergency contact information; information about the field crew; and state or federal regulations for the type of work that will be conducted.


Be Prepared for Emergencies in the Field

Archaeology is exciting and rewarding work, but can often be dangerous. Archaeological field crews may be required to work in inclement weather and hazardous terrain far from civilization. Keep a container in the vehicle that includes at least the following items:

  • A first aid kit
  • Extra water
  • Duct tape
  • Tool kit
  • Tarps
  • Radios (preferably with a weather band) and extra batteries

If possible, request a four-wheel drive vehicle with adequate space for both personnel and equipment. And most importantly, have an emergency plan in place in case the worst-case scenario occurs.

Obtain Proper Field Gear before Departing

Before leaving the office, make a checklist of all the supplies needed for the particular project. For a standard linear or area survey, the following items will likely be needed:

  • Field box with project-related field paperwork
  • Maps of the project area
  • A scope of work as agreed upon by both employer and client
  • Shovels, box screens, flagging tape, pin flags, artifact bags, pencils, markers, and field paperwork
  • Water cooler
  • Safety equipment as required by the client (e.g., hard hats)

Establish Good Lines of Communication

If the project area is remote, be sure to have a way to stay in contact with either the office or a nearby crew via cell phone or radio. Many survey areas may not have cell phone service, so a specific plan of action may be necessary in case contact is lost with the field crew or office.

As always, keep in close contact with the office. Daily communication is preferred – either by email or phone – so that the office knows where the field crew is and how the survey is progressing.

Putting Leadership Skills into Practice

Becoming an effective crew chief in archaeology requires much more than knowledge alone; it requires solid groundwork before the field work begins. A little preparation can go a long way in cultural resources management.

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