Topic ID #28586 - posted 5/7/2013 3:03 AM

hired laborers on archaeology projects - your thoughts?

Jennifer Palmer

This advert turned up in today's job search. I always find these advertisements to be interesting, and wonder how smoothly such projects progress in the field. I've had to field several crews comprised primarily or entirely of non-archaeologists through the years, and have always found it as bit of a struggle to train and supervise folks who have never done this before.

Imagine this: you have a job using your Professional Labor skills while working outdoors in the sunshine. [employment agency] has work for you with a local Archaeological company.

As a Temporary Laborer for our client in the St. Davids/Niagara Falls area, your strong safety orientation and skills are critical to the smooth flow of its daily operations. You will be required to dig topsoil out of the ground and then screen it for artifacts. You could be moving up to 400-500 shovels of earth and screening that earth a day. You will also be required to dog out or cut roots.

You enjoy working outdoors and with your hands. You believe a job well done is the only way you do it. You know the value of following directions and being a team player. You can lift up to 50 lbs repetitively and are not afraid to get dirty.

Post ID#20145 - replied 5/7/2013 4:43 AM


Sounds like a company penny pinching and thinking they can just cut corners.  Did it mention how much they would be paid?  Also, what's up with the positive reenforcement crap at the end?

You ARE an exceptional and hard working laborer. Join us, and be our b*&%h, because we believe in you!

Post ID#20146 - replied 5/7/2013 5:04 AM


If they get away with this, all you Techs out there are in BIG trouble...

Post ID#20147 - replied 5/7/2013 5:44 AM


There used to be a guy out here who had his own company (one person operation).  During the field season he would usually hire one person with archaeology experience and for testing and excavation projects he would head down to the local Job Service and hire unemployed locals with no background whatsoever in this field.  All he wanted was laborers.  He paid those people minimum wage or a bit over it at times.  It was virtually impossible to bid competitively on a project if he too was bidding on it.  Thankfully he is retired now.  I always thought his use of "laborers" was unethical but his reports were always accepted by the lead agencies despite them knowing of his field methods.

Post ID#20148 - replied 5/7/2013 6:23 AM


I can't believe that would be acceptable anywhere in the US.

I don't necessarily have an objection to using laborers to push wheelbarrows, carry buckets, clear brush, set up tents, etc. but they really shouldn't be doing anything that involves touching artifacts or actual excavation.  I always cringe when those who think it's acceptable to have day laborers excavate use the standard defense of "that's how it's done in most of the world".

Having a day laborer dig a hole and pick out artifacts isn't archaeology, it's relic hunting.  The really sad thing is that field techs are so poorly paid that even if the laborer is paid minimum wage, by the time the temp agency takes their cut, the CRM firm is probably saving less than $1.00/hr by doing this.

This kind of behavior only results in lower quality work, forces wages downward, and puts legitimate CRM firms out of business.

Post ID#20150 - replied 5/7/2013 7:33 AM


ACRA has toyed with these ideas for the last 5-10 years.  Alot of CRM firm owners (especially larger ones) are very much in favor of a low-skilled workforce with degreed supervisors.  Even though we are the worst paid professionals in the country, the owners believe we are too highly paid.  

If they can get away with it; they will.  At the very least they will use it as an excuse to keep salary growth below the inflation rate (which is exactly what they've done over the years, particularly on the east coast).

I teched for a major CRM firm with offices in multiple States that hired folks right out of jail with no experience whatsoever.  I had to room with this individual and was paid the same (I had an MA).  When his eccentricities (I will not describe them here as they were VERY graphic) became too much to bear I asked for a different roommate.  I was fired.  On top of that, the day I asked for a new roommate and was let go -- this man stole everything I owned out of the room, took his monday morning cash per diem .... and fled.

Post ID#20151 - replied 5/8/2013 1:31 AM

Jennifer Palmer

I've been seeing these types of adverts pop up a few times a year in the U.S. When I've had to field crews of non-archaeologists in the past, it's been on a small scale and was generally not the company policy. I am curious if some of the adverts are indicative of firms who work this way on a regular basis. The trend that I have been seeing in these ads suggests that this happens more when firms are running large, sedentary projects like data recoveries.

Post ID#20153 - replied 5/8/2013 12:31 PM


I think I'm gonna puke.

Post ID#20158 - replied 5/10/2013 6:22 AM


Jennifer - can you point me toward that ad. - As several have mentioned, it is not unusual to see a mix of trained and untrained folks on projects - there are some jobs that no real training is needed for - like hauling dirt.  However, there also needs to be enough trained folks to do the real archaeological work.   I would like to know who is hiring this way so we can look into it and insure that they having trained people doing the work they are needed for.   At least if they are on the NY side - I believe St. Davids is in Canada.


Post ID#20159 - replied 5/10/2013 6:58 AM

Jennifer Palmer

This is the link to the job posting:

The company is not named, and hiring appears to be coordinated by the employment agency.

Post ID#20160 - replied 5/10/2013 6:46 PM


Yep, use your finely tuned professional skills to haul buckets of dirt. Hey, wait a minute, that's our job!

The ad does say that the job is in Ontario, if the weird spelling of "labor" wasn't enough of a clue.

Post ID#20161 - replied 5/12/2013 5:44 PM


Speak for yourself, American. ;)

(I am, of course, being tongue-in-cheek here.)

Post ID#20163 - replied 5/13/2013 12:45 PM


This actually has been going on for many years. I worked on an excavation project in Phoenix, back in 2000, where the CRM firm - well known, and well thought of - had 5 or 6 people hired through a temp day labor company, doing the humping, but digging, too. As long as they were on a mixed crew it was more or less OK, but that was not always the case. And as I saw a job in CA today, offering a whopping $13.50 for experienced, degreed field tech, and a job in New York offering $12.00 for the same, it amazes me sometimes that anyone in their right mind, other than the independently wealthy, would want to get into professional archaeology in the first place, nowadays.

Post ID#20189 - replied 5/21/2013 12:27 PM


12 bucks to $13.50 an hour for an experienced degreed field tech?  Considering that up to two weeks ago I had been earning $11.80 an hour in a manufacturing plant, that seems to me a good starting salary.


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