Sunday, 8 January 2012

"Independent Researcher" Doesn't Mean Independently Wealthy!

I don't remember why I unpublished this. Regardless, I'm reinstating it now for posterity. Originally published on January 8, 2012.

I need help. 
[Whoa, Big Fella! True, I prolly need all the help I can get. But that's another story, and one that's reserved for my analyst. So, back off!] 
I need to find a way that an 'independent researcher' such as I can obtain funding to participate in an archaeological excavation abroad. Unfortunately, 'independent researcher' doesn't translate as independently wealthy.
     I've received an invitation to take part in the 2012 excavations at Pod hradem Cave, near Brno, in the Czech Republic. Pod hradem was the source of a collection of fauna recovered in the 1950s, and on which I based my Ph.D. dissertation. Because the 1950's investigation was archaeological, the site had been excavated with square and level provenience. To the disappointment of the excavators, Karl Valoch and Rudolf Musil, there was a very feeble record of human or hominid activity. Some levels were bereft of archaeological traces and were, to all intents and purposes, palaeontological in nature. That suited my needs perfectly, because I was looking for evidence of non-random spatial patterning that could be attributed to large mammals other than hominids. The preponderance of skeletal remains were those of the cave bear (Ursus spelaeus). 
Ursus spelaeus
Some of you'll remember that I visited the project briefly in the summer of 2011. It was the first time I'd been to Pod hradem itself, and only my second time in that part of the world--known as the Moravské kras (or Moravian karst). I am one of only three active scholars [in the world] who has any knowledge of the cave and its contents. The project's leader, Ladislav (Lad) Nejman, was kind enough to invite me to visit and take part if I chose to. Lad is an Australian, but is fluent in the Czech language and a citizen of the Czech Republic, thanks to his emigré parents. Lad had apparently canvassed the Australian archaeological community to locate me. As it turned out at least one person remembered me from my brief academic career spent at the University of New England, in Armidale, NSW. 
Lad Nejman outside Pod hradem Cave
     I took two weeks off and joined the project, although I did no digging in the cave. By the time I arrived the project had turned to full-time processing of the hundreds of 10-L buckets of site sediments (minus the larger bedrock breakdown products) that had been transported down the precipitous slope by makeshift cable-car to the roadway, and from there to a small cabin that served as the laboratory. All of the excavated sediments were then 'floated' before being wet-sieved in the ice-cold Punkva River.

Backlog of site sediments waiting
to be processed
Without giving away the family jewels, let's just say that my expertise was useful and helpful, and Lad was as glad as I was that I'd been able to take part. In fact, I was so excited to have been invited that I took the time off without pay, and maxed out the credit card on airfare and accommodation. I can't do that again. If I'm able to get the time off to take part in this year's fieldwork, it'll be mostly without pay. I have rent and other bills to cover, and the plastic is still nudging the upper limit of my credit. [Probably sounds familiar to many of you!]
Wet sieving in the Punkva River

     So, I need to find a source  of funding if I'm to take part. Is there such a thing as funding for an independent researcher (read, one who has no academic position or formal affiliation with an institution of higher learning). I'm hoping that my facebook and Google friends, or my colleagues on will have some ideas (or anyone else, for that matter--you, perhaps).
     If you can help, please, either leave a comment below or email me. I'll be very appreciative of any information you can provide.
     It's back to work tomorrow. I'll be busy, so there might be no post. Stay tuned. Thanks for visiting!

1 comment:

  1. It's not exactly academic, but you could try a Kickstarter campaign. Typically they're for small business start-ups, but I've seen at least one person (Colleen Morgan of Middle Savagery) do one for an excavation, although she was funding her entire excavation with it. You write a proposal and set an amount and a deadline, and friends and strangers pledge small amounts. If you meet your goal, you get the money. Typically you're expected to provide some kind of kickback (for excavations, a local souvenir, archaeological drawing, or something along those lines would probably work.) Good luck, and I really enjoy your blog.


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