The latest archaeologist to come under our spotlight is Raksha Dave, another Time Team regular, and member of the team for the current series.

Brief Bio:

Raksha has been a professional archaeologist for 12 years and is currently the Project Manager for Dig Ventures and a Senior Archaeologist and presenter for Time Team.  Most of her field experience has been based in the commercial sector in London and has worked on numerous projects such as St Mary Spital and the Blossom’s Inn site, Gresham Street.  She is now in her 10th year working for Time Team as a Senior Archaeologist and has excavated and supervised various sites in the UK and abroad.

Raksha has also worked in the public sector in local government focusing on education and communities. Her interests firmly lie in participation, advocacy and education through archaeology.

The 10 Questions:

What sparked your interest in Archaeology? 

I was four and was absolutely fascinated by a dinosaur book I saw in a bookshop.  I vaguely remember harassing my poor mother into submission and making her buy it for me.  I still have it to this day.  From this, sprung forth an absolute obsession with anything historical, pre-historical and dare I say palaeontological.  Luckily I was not really taken by Geology so much when I studied it at A-Level, apart from the cool stuff like fossils and seismology.  I always knew I’d end up in archaeology; the romantic ideal of discovering something lost and amazing always appealed!

How did you get started?

I went through the traditional route of going to University to do my undergrad (UCL) and after a brief stint of being a receptionist – (which, by the way I really sucked at!) I decided that I couldn’t call myself an archaeologist unless I actually knew how to dig.  I had been on numerous research excavations before but I felt that I wouldn’t truly know my trade unless I spent time working in the commercial sector.  That’s the place where you can fine tune and hone your digging skills and may I also say find out whether field archaeology is for you or not. I was very lucky I got my break in 2000, 4 months after I graduated and started working for the Museum of London Archaeology Service (as was). Since then I’ve never really looked back.

Who has most influenced your career?

I would have to say my colleagues and lady luck.  I have been extremely lucky to have been in contact with some of the best in the commercial archaeology sector in London and opportunities that have suddenly appeared from nowhere like Time Team.  I cannot thank my original mentor Ken Pitt, Senior Archaeologist at MoLA, enough for teaching me that you should always ask if you don’t know what you’re doing and that you can always do better.  He’s very good at dishing out the tough love and making you think about what you’re doing. He’s also one of the best mattockers I know – you wouldn’t want to mess with Ken whilst he’s wielding one of those!

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

Gosh, how long is a piece of string?!  I am one of the lucky few and have to remind myself on a daily basis that I do not have an average archaeological career.  I was lucky to work on some of the most amazing sites in the City at the beginning of my career and have just completed a stint for MoLA working on more amazing deep-urban-strat sites.  Also being on Time Team for the past 10 years has also enabled me to work all over the UK and abroad on some of the most iconic or discover previously unknown sites in the world.  It’s not normal for one person to have worked on excavations ranging from the prehistoric to the second world war.  I have to remember not to be so blase about excavating Westminster Abbey or raising an A27 bomber from the marshes in Lancashire…. ahem! (*clears throat*) not to mention the forthcoming field season at Flag Fen!!  It’s all a bit showy-offy, major egos and smugness in people is so unattractive and unnecessary so I’ll just shut up!

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

I don’t have a specific favourite British archaeological site.  Over the years I have seen that every site has an interesting human story.  I am fascinated by the bigger picture and am lucky to see how certain regions and areas have influenced each other by the spread of material culture, religion or building styles.  The early Christian sites on the Western coast of the UK ranging from Isle of Man all the way to Mull for example are just fascinating.  The cross-pollination of ideas by human migration within a small time-frame is just astounding.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

I have no personal archaeological/heritage regrets at all – what a strange question!

If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?

There’s quite a lot I would change.  I think there are a lot of challenges and I’m still getting my head around the new planning guidance NPPF.  I think one of our most major challenges is how we are going to protect sites that are not traditionally seen as heritage assets such as the array of Post-Medieval sites that are machined away on a daily basis or simply neglected.

If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?

Well for a start 30 seconds isn’t enough time!  I am also a tad jaded when it comes to current British politics and have spent far too many years acting as advocate and lobbying certain politicians enough to know that if it isn’t on the party agenda then I will be wasting my breath!  It irks me to know that culture, heritage and the historic environment are not treated as the major assets to the UK that they truly are.  They have a valid place in our current economy which encourages tourism and community cohesion so why is it not valued by the policy makers?  I know a handful of eminent people who would be far more qualified to make the address.

If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?

Acting: I almost went to drama school before being persuaded to put the sensible hat on and thinking about getting a education – degrees were free in those days!

Away from the ‘day job’, how do you relax?

Running, drinking, seeing friends and loved-ones.  Usual stuff people do, like live!

Knowing how madly busy Raksha is at the moment, we can only extend our heartfelt thanks for her replies! 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

Earlier entries in this series: