Archaeology South-East


IoA Placement 2020-21: Alex Allen

13 August 2021

This August we’re bidding farewell to Alex, who has been doing a placement year with ASE over the last 12 months. Before he goes, we’ve asked him to share some stories and wisdom from his placement in a series of blog posts!

Alex excavating on site behind a wheelbarrow in the foreground. He wears glasses and has tied his mid-length blonde hair in a bun.

Hi, I’m Alex, and I’ve just finished a year-long placement at Archaeology South-East.

Firstly, let me tell you a little bit of background. My placement is part of the four-year BA Archaeology with Placement Year degree I’m currently undertaking at the UCL Institute of Archaeology. I’ve already completed two years of study at the Institute and have spent my third year with ASE, the commercial unit based within the IoA. In the Autumn I’ll return to London for my fourth and final year of studies.

The placement year gives students the opportunity to sample a myriad of aspects of development-led archaeology while working full time for a commercial unit. This includes getting the six months excavation experience often required by archaeological companies for a fieldwork position, but also shines a light on the whole archaeological process, from the start to the end of a project.

As part of my placement I’ve been mastering excavation methods and learning how to survey sites across the South East of England with my ASE colleagues. I’ve been excavating medieval settlements, Roman cemeteries, and multiperiod sites. Out in the field I was able to learn from senior archaeologists and management about how and why different excavation methods can be deployed across different sites.

Getting some on-site wisdom from senior archaeologist Simon Stevens (right)

I’ve also spent time with archaeologists in ASE’s Portslade offices. Here I was able to try the various aspects of archaeological office work, from tendering and project management to archiving, from finds washing to illustration. I have spent hours with finds specialists, learning how to identify animal bones, ceramic building material, fired clay, flint and pottery amongst others. ASE’s archaeobotanists took me through the process of studying charcoal and plant macros (seeds and grains) from archaeological sites. And I’ve even been dipping my toe into digital outreach, through writing these blog posts!

Working with ASE’s conservator Alastair Threlfall in the office.

This blog series will talk in more depth about my time with ASE and the skills I’ve gained. I’ll also be divulging nuggets of wisdom from my year in commercial archaeology. I hope that these personal reflections might help future placement students get the most out of their experience and enjoy it as much as I did!

This is the first in a series of blog posts about Alex’s placement year experience with ASE. Find out more about Alex and his degree in this podcast episode, and check the UCL website for further information about the BA Archaeology with Placement Year.

You can read about the experiences of our placement students from 2018-19 and 2019-21 in these blog posts:

A year in commercial archaeology: student placement complete!

IoA Placement 2019-20: Welcome Neehaarika!

IoA Placement 2019-20: Boxes, x-rays and conservation