The latest participant in our series is Kris Lockyear, Lecturer in Archaeology at IoA, UCL and director of the Welwyn Archaeological Society in Hertfordshire.
Having worked in commercial archaeology before and between his degrees, taken at Durham, Southampton and UCL, Kris joined UCL as a researcher on the “Celtic Inscribed Stones Project” in 1996. It was a surprising job for someone specialising in Roman coins and eastern Europe, but Kris’ field skills, photographic knowledge and computing expertise were what was needed. In 1999 Kris became a Lecturer in Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, where he still works. He teaches courses on various aspects of the Roman world, as well as practical archaeology courses. In 2002 he returned to the county of his birth, Hertfordshire, and subsequently became director of the Welwyn Archaeological Society in 2009. Each year Kris contributes towards the US National Park Service course on Remote Sensing in Archaeology, as well as running his own projects in Romania and Hertfordshire.
The 10 Questions:
What sparked your interest in Archaeology?
Every four years my junior school used to visit St Albans and then put on an exhibition about the town. In my class we were looking at different periods of the town’s history, and I decided to work on the Roman period. From there on, I was hooked.
How did you get started?
I joined the Welwyn Archaeological Society in December 1975 at the age of 11 and went on my first excavation the following Easter. I worked with the Society from then on, and also spent my summers from 1980 to 1984 digging with Philip Barker at Wroxeter.
Who has most influenced your career?
That is a difficult question! Quite a few people have had a big influence on me, but a passing comment by Andrew Burnett in 1990, then Keeper of Coins and Medals at the British Museum, changed the course of my career enormously. He mentioned that the Dacian copies of Roman Republican denarii were an interesting and difficult problem. That comment led me to research in Romania where I have been almost every year since 1992.
Which has been your most exciting project to date?
Another difficult question! My project at Noviodunum, in eastern Romania, is probably the most exciting one so far. We were investigating a late Roman to late Byzantine fortress on the Danube and its hinterland. The excavations recovered huge quantities of material including a tonne and a half of medieval pottery and 200,000 fish bones! Over the ten years the project ran about 300 people worked on it to whom I am very grateful. I am now working on writing up the project and processing the Roman ceramic building materials.
What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?
If we can think of a piece of landscape as a ‘site’, I would pick the area between the villages of Watton-at-Stone and Datchworth in Hertfordshire. This small part of the county contains a Roman road, Iron Age enclosures, a Roman cremation cemetery, a bronze age “deposit”, a medieval chapel and associated earthworks amongst other things, and we are still discovering new stuff. It is also beautiful in an understated way. It is the first place I worked in 1976, and I have gone back to working there more recently. It also goes to show what a team of dedicated amateurs can discover given access, time and hard work.
What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?
The development of competitive tendering. Perhaps I should explain. I attended an Institute for Field Archaeologists conference in the 80s which included a session on the development of competitive tendering. In that session a representative of Ove Arup, a major developer, stood up and said he could not understand why archaeologists were going down this route. He went on to explain that they put tasks such as putting in drains out to tender, but they simply commissioned other aspects of developments from firms they trusted, for example the architects for a project. He, and his colleagues, had seen archaeology in the latter category rather than the former, and would have preferred to keep working in that way. As it is, competitive tendering has forced commercial units to cut costs, and therefore the quality of their work, and keep field archaeologists on pitifully low wages. Although the development of PPG16 and its successors has resulted in a huge increase in the amount of work undertaken, the cut-throat nature of much commercial archaeology has its negative impacts.
If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?
Working out some way of improving the funding available to field units so their staff can be paid a living wage. We lose so much expertise simply because people can no longer afford to keep working in archaeology.
If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?
I’d like to highlight the damage the current austerity measures are having on local museums, and how once we have lost them it will be extremely difficult to get them back.
If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?
I have no idea! Archaeology has been part of my life for so long I find it difficult to imagine what else I would do. I may have gone into computing, perhaps.
Away from the ’day job’, how do you relax?
I am a very keen amateur photographer and like to combine that with my love of walking in the English countryside.
Many thanks to Kris for his participation and prompt response to our invitation. We’re always looking for more willing subjects, so if you work in the Heritage or Archaelogy arenas and would like to be part of this series, please email us on info (at) heritageaction (dot) org (dot) uk
To see other entries in the series, use the Search box on the left, entering ‘Inside the Mind of…’ as the search term.