There are times in life when you’re standing beside someone who is begging for a shovel, just dying to bury themselves in one way or another.
Depending on the situation, you either take the shovel away and talk them away from the edge or you stand back and just let it happen.
Or in this woman’s case, you would have taken the shovel if you had been there in time, but since she wasn’t, letting people’s own misdeeds bury them seemed the best course of action.
She gives us this setup, letting us know that she’s in her third and final year as an archaeology student, and about a favorite professor who would figure prominently in the rest of the story.
Look at this giant hole you dug for yourself. Now watch as I bury you in it.
I was in my third and final year at uni, studying archaeology. Due to recurring and severe illness in the second semester of my second year, I had been unable to complete several core subjects, and had to repeat them. This included an archaeological field school, held in the mid-year holidays, where you would implement the techniques you had already learned. This field school was compulsory IF you wished to enroll in a particular subject, but not everyone studying was headed in that direction. I had successfully completed the previous year’s field school, but due to my illness, was unable to complete the associated course, so had to retake them both again.
This university has a number of campuses dotted around the country (and some overseas). The field school is offered to students on 2 campuses – the main campus, located North of Capricorn, and one of its offshoots, located even further North of Capricorn. The field schools are held in the area of the main campus, so those participating are required to travel to attend – for some, it’s across town. For others, it’s several hours in a car. Needless to say, those attending from the sister campus do not do so lightly, or cheaply.
My lecturer, whom we shall call Matt, was a bloody legend. He was a brilliant lecturer, has authored 2 books, and is still working in his field, albeit at a different university than the one in this story. He knew his s**t, was easy-going, friendly, would sit and share a jug of beer with you on a Friday arvo, and I only ever saw him angry once. This is important for later.
Also note that grading went as follows, in descending order:
HD (Pass with High Distinction): 85-100%
D (Pass with Distinction): 75-84%
C (Pass with Credit): 65-74%
P (Pass): 50-64%
PC (Pass Conceded): 48-49%
N (Fail): <50%
He even allowed her to negotiate being late to the course because of her transportation issues, no trouble.
What a guy.
Matt and his counterpart at the sister campus had been granted permission to conduct this particular year’s field school in a gully adjacent to an historic (and protected/listed) cemetery. This gully actually split the cemetery in two, and was used basically as a garbage midden. Due to the nature of the gully, there was only space permitted for a specified number of dig sites. Groups were to be allocated a site once they arrived on the first day, after they had decided on their members.
As I was living on-campus and had no car, I knew I’d be unable to arrive at the field school at the specified beginning times. I’d be half an hour late on the Friday and Monday mornings, and a full hour late on the weekend. I’d spoken to Matt about this, and as we knew each other quite well (and had shared jugs of beer quite often), he agreed that I would not be penalised for arriving late, but that I’d most likely be allocated a group to make up numbers, rather than choose my own. It couldn’t be helped, so I agreed. This is also important for later.
Then, what happened when she began her second go at the dig site.
It was not all rainbows and roses, but she figured it was fine and she could make it work.
Friday rolls around, I arrive at the site a half hour late, all good, and I’m introduced to my group. There are 4 of us; myself, the only female in the group, but experienced in how the field school is run due to my previous year; Gazza, an older, grizzled male geology student who was taking the course just as a matter of interest; Bazza, a young male geology student who, by all other indications, was heading towards a lucrative career in the mining sector; and Dazza, another young male geology student, good friends with Bazza, also heading towards a lucrative career in the mining sector.
All 3 of my counterparts were from the sister campus, so had travelled at some expense to attend. They’d already been allocated a dig-site, and when introduced, Matt tells them I’ve got field school experience, so to utilise my knowledge. Bazza and Dazza smile and nod, giving me a friendly wave. Gazza grunts, but a little later, while surveying our area, we get to chatting. He’s a nice enough bloke, just a bit miffed he’s been put in a group with a bunch of ‘young s*%ts’, and was worried he’d be carrying us or keeping us in line. Nah mate, I’m here to get s**t done, get the data I’ll need for next semester, and hopefully enjoy myself as much as I had the previous year.
Now, let me tell you, Lara Croft and Indiana Jones have royally f**ked the perception of the greater public when it comes to archaeology (no, Jurassic Park doesn’t count, as they’re palaeontologists, dealing with animal remains; archaeology/archaeologists deal with human remains). A lot of what happens on an archaeological dig is repetitive and monotonous; you survey your area using surveying equipment, sketch and take photos of your allocated site before measuring out your 1 metre by 1 metre dig pit. You take more pictures/sketches of the as-yet untouched pit, as well as taking an initial soil sample. You scrape off a ‘spit’ of earth (this is a layer of a predetermined depth; in this case, 5cm), and once done, you test the pH levels of the soil you’ve removed, documenting EVERYTHING that you’ve scraped up (yep, more photos and sketches), before taking more photos/sketches of the pit and anything that may be lodged in there before scraping off another ‘spit’.
If you hit an object, you remove the soil from around it, but don’t actually remove the object until you are removing the layer of soil from beneath it. It must remain in-situ to preserve the data. Boring, I know, but is also very important for later. Also important to note is soil composition in relation to how deep you can safely dig your pit before extending the boundaries to prevent soil contamination or the walls collapsing.
Our dig site had quite loose, sandy soil, so it was announced that every 50cm down, we would have to extend the sides of the pit by 50cm on each side. It wasn’t anticipated that we’d get much beyond 1 metre down, definitely not further than 1.5 metres, so we’d only need to expand once, possibly twice. This was how they had divvied up the entire site to fit us all in.
It became very clear very quickly that neither Bazza or Dazza had anticipated how monotonous the next 4 days were going to be. Both Gazza and I had to repeatedly call them over to assist us with surveying, and when it came to the soil scraping, they were excited at first, but then became bored as we had to yet again record every minute detail. As I was the only one who had thought to bring my camera along (one that require actual film, as this was before inexpensive digital cameras, smart phones were at least 10 years away, and I was a povvo uni student), I was the one responsible for taking photos. This included ‘candid’ shots of the entire field school, other groups, the lecturers, and our dig site.
Things pretty much went to hell after day 1, and that day wasn’t even the best to begin with, you know?
Day One of the field school ends, and we all head back to wherever for the night, to kick back, relax, and prepare for another day of toil. The next morning (Saturday), I arrive at the field school 1 hour late (so at 10am), as per the bus schedule. Seeing as how I’d already had this okayed by Matt, I’m not anticipating any issue with my tardiness. I get to the cemetery, and seeing Matt, give him a cheery “Morning Matt, all good, yeah?” Matt turns and GLOWERS at me. I mean, if looks could kill, I’d be right at home in that cemetery with all the other dead people. You know how I mentioned earlier how easy-going and laid back Matt is, and I’ve only ever seen him angry once? Well, this was that time. Matt was pacing, teeth grinding, fists clenched. He. Was. PISSED.
“Just get to your group and get to work.” Matt practically snarled at me. I’m worried now, that he’s angry with me for being late, even though we’d previously squared it. I’m nervous and worried, because we’d had a really good rapport in the past, and now I’m thinking that I’ve done something that’s going to make my last semester at uni Hell on Earth.
“Have I done something wrong? I know I was late, but like I told you before the field school, this was the first bus I could get out here. I’m really sorry if that’s a problem.” Matt sighs and shook his head.
“No Wraeccaniht, it’s not you, you’ve done nothing wrong. I just can’t deal with it right now, so just go to your dig-site and get on with it. I’ll talk to you later.”
A literal s*%t show had gone down overnight, and some serious ramifications for everyone – even those group members who were not involved in the wrongdoing.
I head to my dig-site, and what I find there almost has me in tears. When we’d packed up the previous day, our pit was 1 metre by 1 metre square, with a depth of 30cm. I now stand before a 1 metre by 1 metre hole in the ground, dug down to a depth of approximately 3 metres. There are mounds of sandy dirt surrounding our pit, and I can see a multitude of objects that have been excavated just sitting there. Other groups are staring at us, but trying to look as though they aren’t staring. Nobody will speak to us either. Gazza is livid, the dude is almost apoplectic. Bazza and Gazza are both looking VERY pale, and like they want to puke. I’m all “What the ever loving f**k has happened here? Who the f**k did this?”
It turns out that after everyone had left the site on the Friday night, Bazza and Dazza, and another mate of theirs in another group, we’ll call him Kezza, got together and got on the piss. It was during this that they decided to ‘continue’ digging our pit, so they broke into the cemetery with a shovel, and proceeded to dig down until one of them passed out s*%tfaced at the bottom. Of a 1 metre by 1 metre hole, in loose, sandy soil. The fact that the dude managed to wake up and make it out of the hole without the entire thing collapsing in on him is a miracle in itself. Matt had been called out to the site at 3am by the police, who had been called because one of the residents in the area saw something dodgy going on.
Needless to say, Bazza, Dazza, and Kezza were all up s*%t creek in a barbed wire canoe with a rusty teaspoon for a paddle. They couldn’t leave until they’d sobered up, but had been told that, in no uncertain terms, after the field school finished that day, they were to pack up and f**k off. Matt and his counterpart would deal with booting them from the archaeological programme on the Tuesday, after the field school ended.
This left Gazza and I in a FUBAR situation. Luckily for him, Gazza was able to join the group that Kezza had been part of, especially since the group were all from the sister campus. I, on the other hand, was left hanging like an unwanted tampon string out of the gusset of a bikini. There were no other groups that could take me, and besides, something had to be done about the clusterf**k that was my dig-site. So, Saturday ended up with me trying to document whatever I could, and to keep Bazza and Dazza out of my hair, I gave them my camera and told them to take photographic documentation of every. Single. Piece. Of evidence that they had dug up.
They had to use the scale measurement and a title board that was supposed to identify the item by date, location, spit level, etc., so off they went with a miniature whiteboard, whiteboard marker, scale measurement, and my camera. This kept them occupied for most of the day, as there were in excess of 200 items that they’d unearthed in their drunken dig for buried whateverthef**ktheywerelookingfor. I ended up filling in that hole wishing with every shovelful of soil that Bazza and Dazza were still passed out drunk at the bottom, but such is life. Matt ended up tacking me onto another group in an ‘observational’ role, as the members of that group were all from my campus and would be in the same second semester class as me.
Not having the data to work with from the first semester, OP figured she was pretty much screwed as far as her grade, and accepted doing the roundup-type report.
Now, as I previously mentioned, the field school was linked to another class held during the second semester. This class essentially took all of the data and evidence that had been unearthed during the field school, and you examined, tested, collated, and then submitted a report based on those findings as your final assessment piece. Seeing as how I only had 1 day’s worth of actual data and evidence, I could not submit the field school report as required. As this was a core class, and I didn’t want to have to retake it for a third year, I approached Matt to talk about how we could rectify this into a situation where I would be able to pass and continue with my studies.
After some discussion, Matt agreed to allow me to do a field school critique, using what had happened to me as, essentially, a how-to on how NOT to conduct/participate in a field school. I had the data from the first day to use in the class, and then the photos and sketches taken by myself and the Dodgy Brothers (Bazza and Dazza) of the objects we’d ‘excavated’.
That said, she found a lot that made her angrier than ever, and despite much of being inappropriate, she declined to redact any of it.
After developing the film of the field school, I noticed some interesting things. The candid photos I took on the Friday included shots of Bazza and Dazza not only behaving inappropriately, but interfering with the equipment we were using, and therefore possibly contaminating the data we had legitimately acquired. They were also shown to be in areas that we weren’t allowed to be in, touching things that didn’t belong to them, and also damaging ornaments left on some of the historic graves closest to the dig-site.
Then, there were the photos that they had taken on the Saturday. They had apparently decided that, because I wasn’t overjoyed by the fact that they’d completely screwed me over by digging that hole, they’d make the only photographs of the artifacts they’d unearthed unusable by writing inappropriate comments and cursing/slurs towards me on the title board.
One of the ones that has stuck in my head was a large clay/ceramic clam decoration, on which they’d written “Oh I do love a day beside the sea side – WITH A HAIRY CLAM”. This was the only photo of the clam that had been taken (when we filled the pits back in, we had to re-inter the artifacts, so I couldn’t just take a new picture.
Also, over 200 pieces had been unearthed, remember?), and Matt had told me to use everything I’d gathered to write my report. So I used every. Single. Photo. Including the ones that said I was a c**t (not in the friendly way most Aussies use the term), and that alluded to wishing sexual violence on me. At the end of the semester, I submitted my report, knowing full well that the best I could hope for was a Pass, but that was enough to get me through to my final year.
After Matt – who totally stood up for OP and is obviously as awesome as she made him out to be – and the University saw that the shenanigans had continued and the bad students had zero regrets, booted them from school.
I found this out from Matt at the beginning of my final year at uni.So, it turns out that when Matt had booted the Dodgy Brothers from the archaeological programme, they had been allowed to continue on with their degree studying Geology, but that they were not allowed to have anything to do with archaeology, and were on very thin ice. When I submitted my report, and Matt saw the extent of what they had done (kindly documented by themselves on the most part), and just how badly they had screwed me over (Gazza was fine, as the group he’d been moved to had all the appropriate data, and had been able to submit a proper field report), he went ballistic.
He called a meeting with the Deans from both campuses, the Department of Tropical Environments and Societies (Geology Department), and the Department of Anthropology, Archaeology, and Society (Archaeology Department) for both campuses. He presented to them my field report, told them about how he’d been teaching me for the past 3 years, and had it not been for the illness affecting me during my second year, how I would have likely completed my degree at this point. He also spoke about my previous field school, my behaviour, and had I not been forced to withdraw due to my health, and based on previous work I’d submitted, I would have likely received a D or HD on my work. The fact that I averaged C and D during the time I was ill showed my academic prowess. The fact that the only grade he was able to give me for the report he currently had in his possession was a PC was a blow to my academic record that was wholly undeserved.
He said a lot of other things, but the end result was that Bazza and Dazza were not only expelled from the archaeological programme, they were now booted from the geological one as well. Furthermore, they were expelled and black-banned/blacklisted from the university itself, which meant they could never re-enroll, and any other universities they applied to would be able to see this and the reasons why. Essentially, they were blocked from being able to obtain any university degree in that area, and to enroll in any university for a different career, they would have to wade through oceans of bureaucratic red tape and jump through so many hoops they’d make the Duracell Bunny jealous.
A happy ending for OP, who has graduated and returned for grad school – even if she was soured on archaeology forever.
Unfortunately, this experience soured me on archaeology as a career path. Luckily for me, I was able to pick up a couple of extra courses in History and English, that I graduated with a BA with a Major in English Literature, and a minor in History and Archaeology. I went back to uni after a gap year and obtained my Grad. Dip. in Secondary Education.
TL;DR – Immature twats decide to screw over my entire second semester course load during a group project by getting sh**faced and contaminating evidence and data needed. I write a final report on what they did (with evidence) which results in them getting kicked out of uni and blacklisted, screwing up their career prospects.
I feel sorry for this girl, but I am proud of her for pushing through in the roughest of times.
What do you think? Would you have thought twice? Tell us why or why not in the comments!