Working in the field is perhaps the most well-publicised aspect of being an archaeologist. We are all familiar with the images of the intrepid explorer: all kitted out in a fedora and cargo shorts, trowel in hand, and (on a particularly intrepid day) coated head-to-toe in dust. Less familiar, but still recognisable, is an image of the analysis undertaken after the excavation: brushes and magnifying glasses, ancient artefacts scattered across a wooden workbench. Today, however, we will briefly explore the role of a different kind of archaeologist. I will touch on the highlights of the last few months I have spent working at Tāmaki Paenga Hira, Auckland Museum, discuss a few of the more unique aspects of the work, and how archaeology ties into the museum sphere in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In February 2018 I joined the Collection Readiness project in the role of Collection Technician Archaeology Māori Material. The team that I work in consists of several technicians who are cataloguing the Human History and Archaeology collections in preparation to be moved to new locations within museum storage and the records uploaded to collections online. My role deals specifically with material from archaeological sites across New Zealand, spanning the entirety of human occupation. The assemblages largely consist of stone flake and tools, food waste such as bones and shells, and occasional bone, stone, or shell artefacts such as fish hooks (matau), bone awls, bird spear points (tara), and adzes (toki). As the Archaeology Collection, like so many others, was acquired by Tāmaki Paenga Hira over a long period of time, the state of object records vary vastly across the different sites. Some records have minimal detail, or are incomplete, and some objects do not have records at all. These are some of the problems that the Collection Readiness project was designed to rectifiy.