I’ve headed my own research excavations since 1996. Now I’m preparing for four weeks of fieldwork during the upcoming season. I operate as an independent scholar in this context, and none of my excavations have been prompted by land development. Here’s what I need to get hold of before I can break the turf or metal-detect the plough soil on an archaeological site in Sweden.
- Contacts/notoriety. I couldn’t get much of what’s listed below without contacts/notoriety in the business.
- Funding. Most of my research money comes from small private foundations in annual instalments of about $3,600 (€3,200 = SEK 30,000). The most dependable ones have supported my work for 20 years and seem pretty confident that I’ll do something useful with the money.
- Land owner’s permission. I check the property name on the map, then I call the municipality’s land registry to find out who owns the land, and then I call the owner and ask. So far nobody’s said no, though one or two first wanted to know if they might be hit with any costs. They never are since they’re not the ones who head the digs.
- An organisation to apply for the excavation permit. A person can’t get a permit. Only organisations can. I always collaborate with the county museum. We make an agreement where they will apply for the permit, and I promise that no costs will hit them. This is an expression of generosity and trust on their part, motivated to some extent by scientific curiosity. Unlike highway contract archaeology, I tend to target the most interesting sites around that my colleagues have wondered about for years.
- County Archaeologist’s permission. I write a permit application, my colleagues at the museum tweak it a bit, and then they send it on to the county council. The County Archaeologist only gives us a permit if I’ve written up my previous fieldwork and if it seems likely that I will be able to pay for finds conservation.
- Labour. I work with volunteers: students, metal detectorists, the members of local historical societies, friends and family.
- Equipment. I borrow most of the fieldwork equipment from the county museum and other contract archaeology units.
- Housing. Unless the participants in the dig live near the site, I have to provide housing. Just after lunch today, for instance, I called the Östra Husby village grocery store and got the number of a man who lets a house not too far from Stensö Castle. He was surprised to hear that I need twelve beds, but adapted quickly and said that he’ll be happy to find the extra ones for me.