The third Student Development Workshop (SDW) was held between the 30th November and the 5th of December 2015, at Bushtrail Environmental Centre. The aim of this workshop was to give students the opportunity to engage with archaeology students from other universities or countries; participate in practical sessions which universities may not offer; and discuss publishing, postdoctoral support, career opportunities and fields of specialisation. They were also given the opportunity to present their research in front of their peers and established archaeologists. We are proud to indicate that this was our biggest student group thus far with 42 students, 4 council members and 15 different speakers (some facilitating more than one session). We also held our first round-table discussion where we discussed a whole range of student issues, together with a panel of knowledgeable archaeologists from universities, museums, the CRM field as well as the ASAPA chair, Catherine Namono.
Overall, we were thrilled with the outcome of the event and all our original aims were achieved. We believe that, guided by enriching workshop content made possibly by the incredibly generous support given by PAST, the students emerged as rejuvenated, exhilarated archaeological students ready to overcome the challenges that lay ahead, and geared to make a difference.
History of the workshop and council
The inaugural SDW was held in November 2013 near Parys in the Free State. The 5-day workshop addressed issues most relevant to young and aspiring archaeology professionals, and focussed primarily on students who were in their final year of undergraduate study or those enrolled at a postgraduate level. It was during this workshop that the ASAPA Student Council (ASAPASC) was established. The council was co-chaired by Tim Forssman and Matt Lotter; Lu-Marie Fraser as secretary; Jacqueline Jordaan as operations and Simone Brunton as treasurer. The 2013 SDW paved the way for future student support, which was accomplished via social media and the creation of a website. Regular newsletters have since been sent to keep the student body informed on relevant information, events, funding and postgraduate opportunities.
During December 2014, our second workshop was held at the Living Landscape Project centre near Clanwilliam in the Western Cape. It was attended by 22 students, along with our 5 council members. The workshop included talks on what to expect as a postgraduate, including topics such as funding opportunities and research proposals; human evolution and anatomy; wildlife conservation; as well as an outing to a local rock art site. The workshop concluded with a community outreach project together with the Children’s Book Network.
The 2015 Student Development Workshop
The 2015 SDW was held at Bushtrail Environmental Centre near Hekpoort in the Magaliesburg. The centre was originally started as a holiday camp and was approved as an Environmental Field Centre by School Journey Services in 1982. Bushtrail has student dorms that can facilitate a large number of students as well as cottages for any speakers that were staying over. Other facilities include a swimming pool, rugby field, obstacle course, campfire facilities, forest and a small tuckshop. The SDW was attended by 42 students, and 4 council members, from the Universities of Pretoria, Johannesburg, Witwatersrand, South Africa and the University of Botswana and the Midlands State University, Zimbabwe.
The students arrived on the 30th of November and were welcomed to the workshop following registration. Tim Forssman, Matt Lotter and Lu-Marie Fraser opened the workshop by discussing the aims of the student council and the motivation behind the SDW. The workshop schedule was discussed as well as the funders that made this workshop possible.
The next morning, Rosa Moll introduced the students to stone knapping by demonstrating the ins and outs of stone tool making. This was followed by a snake handling and awareness demonstration by Ultimate Creatures. After lunch the students split into two groups with one heading to the 4×4 station and the other group to gun awareness. The 4×4 session discussed everything that could go wrong while out in the field together with suggested ways to remedy these problems. The gun awareness session, hosted by Eagle Eye Shooting Centre, covered basic gun safety and handling and was one of the most talked about sessions of this workshop. Each student had the opportunity to shoot a rifle if they so wished. All of this was taught by Martin Senore, a South African Olympic team shooter. The day ended on a high note and just after dinner a movie was screened: The gods must be crazy.
The third day was packed full of interesting talks about botanical remains and archaeobotany (Shannon Hardwick, WITS), macro- and micro-wear studies (Justin Bradfield, UJ) and wildlife awareness (John Power, North West Provincial Government).
The highlight of the day was Wim Biemond who discussed beads and ceramics in conjunction with a practical session. During the bead session, students had to identify and document beads in groups under the instruction of Mr Biemond. During the ceramic session the production of ceramics, with special attention to decorative motifs and their analysis, was discussed. This was followed by a practical where students got to make their own ceramic pots and decorate them.
That night all students participated in a picture-quiz, in which they needed to identify specific archaeological sites, general archaeology knowledge and a bonus round on ‘fake’ archaeology. The winners, (pictured below), did a great job and were well-deserving of their title as 2015 SDW Quiz champions.
The fourth day of the workshop was packed full of informative sessions about human remains and ethics (Amanda Esterhuysen, WITS), as well as a session entitled ‘Your future’, where multiple presenters discussed different aspects of archaeological work and careers. These included Annie Antonites (UNISA) and Justin Bradfield (UJ) on life as a postdoctoral follow, Wouter Fourie (PGS) on the realities of CRM work, Frank Teichert (Ditsong) on what to expect of museum work, Heidi Fivaz (UNISA) on the application of artistic thought within archaeology, and Grant Hall (UP) discussing stable isotopes. After these sessions the students attended their first formal roundtable discussion. A lot of topics were discussed during this session including; the future of archaeology in southern Africa and the role of students; ASAPA and the Student Council’s role; expectations over supervisor-student experiences; post-doctoral support and security and publishing.
On the fifth day, students had the opportunity to present their papers and research during a student presentation session. This gave students the chance to practice their presentation skills. Evin Grody (UP), winner of the student presentation prize at the ASAPA conference in Harare, concluded the session with an informative session on how to compile an excellent presentation and present it with confidence. Evin, along with the ASAPA chair, Catherine Namono, decided on the best student speaker; Kelita Shadrach. After this session, archaeology software was demonstrated (Matt Lotter, WITS) and included a practical session wherein students created an archaeological site map on their laptops.
After lunch, an archaeologically-themed obstacle course awaited the students. The students were divided into 5 groups and each group had 30 minutes at each station. The stations included an actual obstacle course; setting up a dumpy level; a hike to find a GPS coordinate armed with a GPS; stratigraphy drawing; and a blindfolded artefact hunt with the help of team members.
The evening saw an awards ceremony during which the best student presentationbest archaeological obstacle course team and other fun awards such as ‘best pottery maker’ and ‘best snake handler’ was awarded. The ceremony also saw the election and appointment of the next student council. Lu-Marie Fraser stayed on from the previous council and was elected Chair. The rest of the council consists of: Peter Morrissey (treasurer) (WITS – Masters student), Mariette Harcombe (secretary) (UNISA – Phd candidate), Nthabiseng Mokoena (events organizer) (WITS – Masters student) and Rosa Moll (workshop coordinator) (WITS – Masters student). The final day concluded with an optional excursion to Sterkfontein (guided by Dominic Stratford, WITS).
First and foremost we would like to thank PAST for their generous financial contributions and unwavering support. Without PAST the event would not have been successful.
We also thank the ASAPA Council for their help and support throughout the planning phase of this workshop and over its course as well.
Additional thanks must also go to each and every speaker; especially for them taking the time to come and talk to the students and sharing their skill and passion.
A big thank you must also go to the Bustrails owner, Liz who worked constantly to keep everyone fed and happy, as well as made sure everyone was safe during the obstacle course.
Lastly we want to thank all the students who have participated in the SDWs.