My short bio: Working at one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe, Star Carr. I found a pendant with the earliest Mesolithic art in Britain.

My Proof:

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Comments: 146 • Responses: 59  • Date: 

MajesticEwok13 karma

Did it ever occur to you that you may have discovered the worlds most bad ass guitar pick?

You have an awesome job btw well done :)

ArchaeoTomB8 karma

It definitely looks that shape! Theres been SO many ideas thrown about in a group of us! mostly ridiculous haha

Thanks! I really think so too! I love doing archaeology

OgGorrilaKing9 karma

How many Undead do you fight off on a daily basis?

ArchaeoTomB14 karma

at least 27.. but thats the lifestyle I've chosen

adalhaidis7 karma

What book would recommend about early history of Britain, from Palaeolithic to Iron Age? Or at least about Palaeolithic to Neolithic?

ArchaeoTomB10 karma

The archaeology of Britain by John Hunter and Ian Ralston was my first book! It gives quite a good overview of all periods in Britain

toocoldhere4 karma

I hope Tom won't mind my joining in here. I'd also recommend Britain BC by Francis Pryor for a pretty decent overview of the prehistory of Britain

ArchaeoTomB4 karma

Absolutely.. This is a good one too!

hurston7 karma

What environmental do you do on site? Pollen? Snails? What were the surroundings like at the time? Is environmental as expensive as I'd imagine?

ArchaeoTomB3 karma

Im not 100% sure on the answer to this! There has been pollen analysis done on the site! The site is actually formed at a lake edge, which isn't there now! The artefacts are covered in peat which is why the bones and the like have preserved so well!

pericles_plato5 karma

I graduated 6 moths ago with an Antro degree here in the states. I've always heard y'all go really fast when excavating. We save practically every artifact, while y'all can pick and choose. Is this true? also, Just so I can compare the two different areas, What techniques were used in the dig? Like do y'all schnitt, slowly taking the level of a unit down,etc.

Sorry, I know little about British archaeology.

ArchaeoTomB5 karma

Thats okay! Im sorry! I also don't know much about North American Archaeology!

But we do dig stratigraphically yes :)!

We keep most artefacts really.. almost all but if some pieces are smaller than your thumbnail for example, like a piece of flint... then we weren't keeping those..

To what extent do you guys keep EVERYTHING?

pericles_plato3 karma

Well, we always bag pretty much everything. If there is thirty bricks we don't keep thirty bricks, only a sample of them. Depending on the project, boss, and the artifact we keep artifacts smaller than thumbnail. Like in one of my field school when I was in school we kept everything, literally everything. Though it was a Mississippian village excavation in North Carolina. There has been instances where there is too many artifacts to store.

ArchaeoTomB2 karma

Wow.. The majority of things are kept here.. but I've been speaking to a north american in my department here, and he says theres a lot more kept by you guys..

Its interesting how it al differs!

ReginaldLADOO4 karma

First off, you look like Emile Hirsch. Now to the questions.

What are the rules when finding ancient artifacts? Like if I go out on a private expedition and find something valuable can I auction them off or just keep them?

I'm sure it varies based on country and public/private land and stuff like that. But how does this type of thing work generally speaking?

ArchaeoTomB2 karma

haha! thanks, i think

Ah, So with the finds on excavations I've been on. We've recorded the location of the find and then given it a specific number to allow it to be logged. It'll then be bagged and taken away for analysis

By yourself, It does depend on the find.. Generally though, you are meant to report the find and then go from there. There also has to be an agreement between the land owner and finder

TheCasualMarxist3 karma

Hopefully you'll have an idea on this question: how hard is it to break into a very specific field of archaeology, or a specific type? I'm starting archaeology at university next year and want to specialise in marine archaeology down the line, either in the Mediterranean or the Indian Ocean, but I'm not sure how I would go about breaking away from more obvious forms of archaeology. And if I do manage to become specialised in marine archaeology (or any branch, for that matter) how hard would you say it is to break into the career market at such a specific level? Thanks for your thoughts!

ArchaeoTomB3 karma

I'll 100% give you an answer in an hour!

TheCasualMarxist2 karma

Awesome, thanks! I'll wait up for it then!

ArchaeoTomB3 karma

I hope it helps a little? If you have any more questions I can try and answer I'm happy to

TheCasualMarxist3 karma

Actually if you have time, there is one I've had on my mind for a while. Just as I was sending out my applications last year I panicked and began to wonder if I was making a sensible decision studying archaeology, what with unemployment rates and lack of broadly applicable skills (compared to, say, engineering). Also a lot of my friends have been joking about how I'm going to be studying a dead and irrelevant past. I'm still really excited to study archaeology, because it's a passion, but does it really have any use in modern society? I'd like to think it builds an important cultural understanding, but when it comes down to it, wouldn't it make more sense to have more engineers to take the world into the future rather than archaeologists to look into the past?

ArchaeoTomB4 karma

Okay.. I think firstly, even if you did a degree in archaeology, theres still a lot of transferable skills that come out of it, if you decided you didn't want to work in it anymore! You definitely can gain a lot of skills from doing it that can be applicable in multiple disciplines

I also understand your thoughts about needing engineers for example.. but you seem so passionate about it so who cares what they say!

There are ways in which it can be useful like understanding how diseases have manifested themselves in the past etc or how they've evolved...

But ultimately.. I just think its super cool! and theres already enough engineers!

TheCasualMarxist5 karma

Great, thanks! I definitely agree that archaeology is about as cool as anything can get (although my Council for British Archaeology membership card doesn't win me much cool factor) and it's always nice to be reminded of why it would be a bad idea to abandon it as a passion. My last diving instructor was a marine archaeologist who really encouraged me to go for it as a career, even though he hadn't had the easiest time getting employment. He put it brilliantly: "if you're a marine archaeologist, it's a win-win situation. Either you're doing what you love, or you work as a diving instructor in the tropics between jobs."

ArchaeoTomB3 karma

It would be a bad idea! You should definitely stick with it because when you do become a marine archaeologist.. EVERYONE will think thats cool hah!

But really he's right! Best of both worlds!

ArchaeoTomB2 karma

So firstly.. if you're starting this year thats super cool!! i hope you enjoy doing it so much!!

Secondly I don't know,, I think its easier because you have an idea straight away of what you want to do.. it means that you can attempt to move your work towards what you want to learn about, if that makes sense? Especially a dissertation.. it'd be very cool if you could come up with a project that directly relate to your area of interest! that'll go a long way to helping!!

I think if you're passionate enough.. and want to work hard enough! then I'm sure you can break into it!

TheCasualMarxist2 karma

Thanks for the answer, hopefully having a target will help quite a bit. One of the difficulties I think I'll find while studying is getting involved in marine archaeology - I don't know of any specific courses that involve theory or practical - but I'm going to try my damnedest to get into it.

ArchaeoTomB3 karma

There are definitely masters courses in marine archaeology around!

So I think the best thing could be to complete your degree and attempt to tailor it towards your interests? Then move on to becoming a specialist in that field

When I first started I didn't really have an idea of what I wanted to specialise in but I slowly figured it out.. and now I'm learning all about bones... and I think its super cool!

asecondstory3 karma

What's the weirdest thing to happen to you?

ArchaeoTomB5 karma

Weird is a hard one. Theres nothing exceptionally strange has happened. I think discovering the pendant was super unexpected.. I don't think it was on many peoples minds to find art at the site

asecondstory3 karma

What got you into archaeology in the first place?

ArchaeoTomB4 karma

I was always interested in archaeology really.. but I decided to do it after volunteering on an excavation. I just enjoyed it so much I decided that was all I wanted to do!

Tcpow3 karma

How does a person go about volunteering on an excavation? Are there prerequisites or is it open to anyone? I'm asking as a person getting a minor in archaeology and would like to work as one to some extent.

ArchaeoTomB6 karma

Theres usually volunteering opportunities! but it depends where you are.. a lot of digs ask to be paid for you to volunteer.. but there are a lot that don't ask for a fee and are happy for you to come and volunteer on.. Try looking for community archaeology digs..

When I first volunteered i had no previous experience and just wanted to see how I'd like it

Onboard752 karma

I did 7 years of volunteering in some excavation camps in France between the age of 16 till 23 . And yes, i advise to anyone to be part of such an adventure that any archeological dig is. they gave me some of my best memories . So now I can brag that I excavated the body of a woman from the 2nd century

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

Yes! They've definitely given me some of my best memories! They can be so much fun!

AlexanderReturneth1 karma

How old were you when you volunteered the first time? Had you not yet graduated from college?

ArchaeoTomB2 karma

I think I was maybe 15 or 16? I can't quite remember Probably 16

mwthecool3 karma

What inspired you to become an archaeologist? What is the life of an archaeologist like?

ArchaeoTomB3 karma

I think I was inspired really by enjoying excavation.. but I think I was inspired more by the passion of everyone else when I got to uni.. especially my lecturers,, i think they were into it so much!

Haha Fun! I love it.. although some of the days digging can be hard work! I spend a lot of time in the labs learning about bones at the moment,.. which is also super cool..

Qojdec2 karma

As somebody who has applied to come and study Archaeology at York next year why should I go there ?

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

Ah thats super cool! I Actually did my undergraduate at the university of Chester. But I know a lot of people that went to York and some of the lecturers there and they all loved being there! Its got a really good archeology department

Guitarchaeologist1 karma

I did my Undergrad at York a few years back. They had a great emphasis on field work in their degrees back then, hope they still do now. Is Prof. Nicky Milner still involved at Star Carr?

ArchaeoTomB3 karma

Yeah! Nicky is still running things! Ive worked with a few York students at star carr and they seem to love all the fieldwork they do!

llosa2 karma

How did you become an archaeologist - is it competitive to get into grad school and into academia?

ArchaeoTomB3 karma

I just decided I wanted to do it after volunteering on an excavation! Im in grad school now still! I think its quite competitive, but if you love it enough you can definitely do it! Is it something youd think about doing?

ciderczar2 karma

What is your favorite period of British history and why?

What sorts of artifacts would you most like to find?

ArchaeoTomB5 karma

I love anything prehistoric! palaeolithic to the neolithic are my favourite.. Just because the older the better right?

Im an Osteoarchaeologist, so really I'd like to find anything involving bones! haha I also reaaalllly love rock art!

its_real_I_swear2 karma

Who made it? Is it pre-Celtic? Is there such thing as pre-Celtic? What were their lives like?

ArchaeoTomB5 karma

Hunter Gatherers in the Mesolithic made it.. The term pre-celtic isn't an excellent term really.. as celtic is pretty broad.

But it is pre that yes!

their lives... thats also a hard question, its hard to be specific but they were hunter gatherers..

tiptree2 karma

Are you going to make a copy of the pendant now, wear it all the time and just walk around waiting for someone to ask you about it so you can give them the whole story of your amazing find? Because that's what I would've done.

ArchaeoTomB5 karma

I have already looked at getting one 3D printed.. I'm pretty sure ill get one done! I do think that would be SO cool.. Finding it definitely makes the question "whats the best thing you've found?" a LOT easier

SmolBenis2 karma

did you get paid to find that?

i'd assume you made a big profit?

Also how many other things have you found?

Whats the best thing about your job?

Sorry for the childish questions this interests me very much


ArchaeoTomB3 karma

I didn't, haha! i was working with the university i was at at the time!

Theres been quite a lot that I've found! I think my favourites are probably some animal bones from the same site as the pendant!

shivan211 karma

Which other prehistoric pieces of art do you like? What is your opinion e.g. of the venus of Vestonice?

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

I did some work on Cup marked sites which i really enjoyed! The best art I think I've seen though were in Passage tombs in Ireland, Newgrange was amazing to see and Loughcrew was perhaps the best art I've seen

Spongejong1 karma

Has any work changed your life personally, or had a life changing work?

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

Erm I don't know that I'd say life changing, maybe the first excavation that I did could be life changing in that it made me decide that this is defiantly what I wanted to do

shivan211 karma

Do you know any good texts about habitability of Britain in the prehistory? Since when is Britain inhabited?

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

Britain was first occupied by Early hominids around 800,000 years ago at Happisburgh in East Anglia.

Im not sure on the texts.. sorry!

Zheknov1 karma

What kind of jobs are there relating to archeology?

Also, what was your first reaction, when you unearthed the pendant?

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

Theres lots.. museum work, commercial work or academia.. It totally depends on what you'd like to do

My first reaction was super rubbish actually, because I didn't realise it was decorated.. I think I was more excited when we realised that!

theagentafter1 karma

Do they teach you about the Incas or any American culture in Britain? I've always wondered that

ArchaeoTomB2 karma

I haven't done any modules on them actually.. but that doesn't mean that I couldn't have! Theres opportunities to learn about them!

freenarative1 karma

What is your opinion on experimental archaeology?

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

It can be SO useful! I think its all very cool and most of the time, incredibly fun to do! I think you have to be careful you don't just rely on experimental evidence.. but in many cases.. experimental work is the only way to understand some things, and a lot of experimental work has gone so far as to change ideas on certain subjects.. I think its really cool

shrimpcreole1 karma

What sort of work are you hoping to do after grad school?

ArchaeoTomB3 karma

Initially, I think id like to just excavate a little more.. But ultimately Id love to get into lecturing!

UnAmusedCynic1 karma

How was the item found? By itself, or among other things? Any possible evidence of a cord or something it would have been strung on/attached to?

ArchaeoTomB2 karma

Immediately next to it? There wasn't much but close by there was a whole lot of animal bones and wooden artefacts found!

The preservation wasn't good enough to preserve any cord I don't think..but judging by the perfectly round hole in it.. It would have had something through it!

catharticwhoosh1 karma

Correct me if I'm wrong, but 11,000 years ago the British Isles was still connected to the mainland via Doggerland and there was a big freeze. Is it likely these hunter gatherers were nomads, or would they have sheltered in place? Additionally, have there been any human remains discovered from the site from which DNA might be extracted to trace their lineage?

ArchaeoTomB3 karma

It was! Its likely that they were nomadic

Unfortunately.. theres no human bone.. haha it would be ridiculously amazing if there had been though!

m--o_o--n1 karma

Awesome find man!

Where's your favourite dig site? I got to participate in a few digs around the Scottish Borders and it seems everywhere you drop a test pit, you are pulling up something.

ArchaeoTomB2 karma

I think Star Carr... I realise thats boring as its the site the pendant was found on..

But its completely my favourite site,, the archaeology was totally amazing there and I don't know if ill ever see anything nearly as cool as it! Like the pendant was cool but there were headdresses made from red deer skulls coming up and stuff! SO amazing

Im actually going working in the Hebrides in the summer.. Im SO excited about that..

What have you been digging?

Pokabou1 karma

Thanks for doing the AMA! I was wondering why you took up archaeology? Have you always liked it? Thanks!

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

Thats cool!

I have always loved it! My mum actually sent me a picture of a christmas list she found that id written when I was super young and top of the list was an 'archaeology kit'

But then when I was trying to decide what Uni course to do,, I decided to volunteer on an excavation.. and i just realised that it was SO cool... and decided that id do that at uni!

Pokabou1 karma

Follow up question: how long do you spend at an excavation? Is it usually long or does it vary? Also, how often do you find anything of note at an excavation? Once again, thanks for doing the AMA!

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

It can completely vary depending on so many things..!

Of note like the pendant.. is very rare! but theres quite often something thats pretty cool! But finds like the pendant are ridiculously cool!

Harilor1 karma

Congrats on a great find. Star Carr has been worked on for a long time (remember it as a case study back when I was an undergrad ~"94), was the pendant found in a new area of the site, or a unit that was previously not taken to sterile? What is the average depth of deposit there?

ArchaeoTomB3 karma

So the deposits in that part of the site were about 1.2m but some deposits in the centre but they're about 7-8m deep in the centre of the lake

ArchaeoTomB2 karma


Yeah its been dug an awful lot.. The part it was found, if i remember right, it was in between two of Graeme Clarks (original excavator) trenches.. In a space that was maybe less than 2 metres across.. Its quite difficult to remember now.. but I think I'm right in saying that

Average depth is SO hard aha.. Ill see if I can find out for you

Harilor1 karma

Ha, figures. Was it found insitu or in screen? I'm always nagged by the though that the eureka item is sitting just cm beyond the unit wall...

ArchaeoTomB2 karma

In situ! The amount of things that were found in that small part left was unreal! Highest density of finds ever!

Ill forever wonder what if we go a little bit further now!

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

So the deposits in that part of the site were about 1.2m but some deposits in the centre but they're about 7-8m deep in the centre of the lake

automatedalice2681 karma

You're a cutie too!

Seriously, I read the article recently, and I'am intrigued by the scripture on the stone (I'm a linguist myself). Any theories on the scripture yet?

ArchaeoTomB2 karma

Haha Thankyou!

Aha but really.. theres theories flying round.. nothing concrete yet.. and its probably doubtful there ever will be! But the best one I've heard is depicting a leaf or tree.. I mean I can sort of see those things? Its quite difficult to interpret them though

automatedalice2681 karma

I was thinking more like a kind of signifying line pointing to the owner of this amulet, or gods. Maybe indications of clan, age, location, or ... It's a wild guess, but the hole can indicate that the lines are horizontal, with small vertical 'scratches' (which can be meaningful as well).

Have fun with your research though!

ArchaeoTomB2 karma

Theres definitely a lot to think about with the markings.. whether it'll ever be narrowed down to something though is difficult i think due to their nature.. being lines instead of a drawing.. if that makes sense?

whitehusky1 karma

It looked to me (as someone with absolutely no background in this stuff at all, lol) like the markings in the lower left were counting something, with several groups of 5 hash marks.

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

Yes! I can definitely see the groups of markings! It does look like tally marks almost? I love hearing peoples opinions on the meanings of the marks :)!!!

breadnation1 karma

What would you suggest to somebody who is really interested in archeology, and becoming an archeologist? i love this stuff and have always been extremely interested in pursuing career in it. Thanks!

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

Do it! Haha.. When i went to uni.. i was still a little uncertain that it was exactly what I wanted to do.. But I couldn't be happier doing it now! I think if you have a passion for it! Go for it

Would there be something specific which is making you think not to do it?

breadnation1 karma

Not specifically, but I would be worried about what feels of archeology I would go into, or if that field was even... I don't know? Relevant at the time I guess? I hope to do either Scandinavian or Greco-Roman.

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

Ah.. yeah. I think the uncertainty should go once you get into learning about it.. you'll find something that you find super interesting!

Both of those fields are cool!

breadnation1 karma

Thanks for your input, I really really appreciate it! I haven't had the chance to discuss anything about it with anyone with experience before, and it kind of puts into perspective when I should start to either be concerned or make up my mind. Thanks again!

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

No problem! Its a pleasure! especially to hear from people interested in doing archaeology!

BluePineapple191 karma

Have you ever done any paleontology work?

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

No! It is something that interests me.. but i doubt ill ever do anything with it

BluePineapple191 karma

Why don't you think so???

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

I do think its interesting but I've never done anything with it.. and I do love what I do already.. I think ultimately id just like to continue that?

Snowbank_Lake1 karma

While I was studying geology in grad school, there were a few archaeology students in the program (incorporating geology into their study, like how tools made of certain rocks seemed to migrate, showing the extent of trading among natives). It really made me think when someone reminded us that we're often making our best guess about what a symbol represents... we don't know the context, and could interpret it the wrong way. Do you keep this in the back of your mind when working? Have you ever encountered something that made you think "It may have been a _____, but I could be totally wrong too..."

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

I think you need to keep it in mind definitely! I think on site its pretty easy to keep this in mind especially, because theres a lot of discussion.. its cool to listen to other peoples opinions! I think even with the pendant is has been so cool to hear what everyone else can see and thinks!

braindamigedppl1 karma

I think I might have missed out on the AMA but I'm going to try anyway...

I studied anthropology in school with my ultimate goal of wanting to become an archeologist. A semester before I graduated I became pregnant and felt like I should look for other career choices. I still LOVE reading all things archeology and would love to get back in the game but am afraid of looking like I know nothing.

So I guess my question is, how much knowledge is expected of you if you volunteer at a site? I feel like I know so little compared to people who are active in the field and I'm intimidated to put myself out there.

Also, how much schooling is normally needed to make a career out of archeology?

Thank you so much for a wonderful AMA. I really enjoyed how I could feel the excitement coming off of your answers. Happy digging!

ArchaeoTomB2 karma

And thank you for asking! Its so nice to be able to speak to everyone and I'm glad you can understand that!

ArchaeoTomB2 karma

No! Hah I'm still here!

If you're looking to volunteer, my experiences.. having volunteered and helped volunteers.. are always good! When i first volunteered they expected nothing and were happy to explain what to do, and why would that need doing!

Ive always said that if people are interested in archaeology then they should find somewhere to volunteer because I've always thought it was great and it was what inspired me to do archaeology!

Akrur1 karma

Indiana Jones and Uncharted; how true are they?

ArchaeoTomB2 karma


No haha,.. they're pretty wrong

Mcfinley1 karma

So who do YOU think built Stonehenge?

ArchaeoTomB2 karma


lox81 karma

What would be the next amazing thing you hope to find?

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

I kinda want it to be something that I have idea was going to happen, something equally as unexpected! I want it to be something which just immediately surprises everyone

lox81 karma

Do you travel all over the world in search of these treasures? What is the most amazing place you have gone?

ArchaeoTomB1 karma

I definitely could have! Theres definitely treasures but I'm particularly interested in British archaeology... so thats where I've excavated

mclunchboxx0 karma

Why'd you do it bro?

ArchaeoTomB3 karma

I just love finding things!