Institute of Archaeology



Archaeology and Wellbeing – digging into your mind, body, and soul, and what it can mean for your project, class or business | Mon Dec 16 13:30:00 | Room 739

The world, workplace, and media are more interested in wellbeing than ever before. Little wonder when wellbeing is most simply defined as a state of being comfortable, healthy or happy. Which is something we should all agree belongs in a much-loved, people-friendly discipline like archaeology? But wellbeing is a term that is all to often met with caution and misunderstanding, that can be seen as an unfathomable and unrealistic ambition, when faced with the realities of bottom lines, deadlines, and working with people.

This panel session will explore a range of ways wellbeing can support archaeology (its projects and its people), including ways it already does. It will also look at ways archaeology can support the delivery of wellbeing to the world at large. It will encourage the audience to think about what wellbeing means to them, and what Is reasonably achievable within the realms of what they are already doing, and what hey want to achieve. It will also consider what shouldn’t be attempted, because even if we're going to provide improved wellbeing for all, it doesn’t mean everyone needs to be doing everything to achieve this, especially in the face off clear archaeological aims.

Session timetable
13:30 | Session organisers


13:40 | Lisa Dunthorne, Counsellor / Occupational therapist, previously DMRC Headley Court

What is wellbeing? How archaeology and other such activities can positively affect wellbeing and wider mental health.

What is wellbeing and how can we find it? It can be found in many different activities and projects, and I have been lucky enough to experience a number of these as Professional Lead Advisor for OT at DMRC Headley Court over the years; many have been inspiring and successful. It encompasses important areas of life, principally Tasks, Mood, Social inclusion, Relationships and Culture. In this paper I will look at these areas in more detail and explore how archaeology can have a significant, and positive effect on a people’s wellbeing.

14:00 | Mark Evans, Chief Executive / Co-founder, Waterloo Uncovered

Waterloo Uncovered: An Archaeology project designed with wellbeing in mind.

Waterloo Uncovered is an archaeology project designed with wellbeing in mind. WU Chief Executive Mark Evans will discuss how wellbeing has been successfully worked into the project design, the benefits it has provided across the project, and the problems that have been overcome along the way.

Waterloo Uncovered has been excavating the Waterloo battlefield and supporting veterans and serving military personnel since 2015. Harnessing the unique power of archaeology to improve their wellbeing, education, employment opportunities, recovery from mental and physical injury, and transition into civilian life. As well as a willing and able source of diggers, the inclusion of veterans and serving military personnel in the project provides valuable first-hand military experience that helps archaeologist interpret archaeological finds from the battle they uncover together.

The 2019 excavation involved over 130 people; over half of whom had served, and following the success and worldwide media coverage of the 2019 excavation, WU plans to continue to grow its interdisciplinary archaeological investigations at the Waterloo battlefield until at least 2025. In doing so, supporting more serving military personnel and veterans, by including them in all aspects of the project.

14:20 | Cornelius Barton, Partner and Commercial Archaeologist, L–P: Archaeology

Wellbeing and commercial archaeology.

Wellbeing is a thing recognised almost universally as being important, easy to recognise but not always as easy to define, promote or measure. Starting with Plato and throughout history we have tried to define happiness and wellbeing, and since the industrial revolution the wellbeing of people in the workplace has been the subject of many studies.

In this paper I will give a very brief overview of the changing ideas of wellbeing at work, in individual lives and society, and examine how these ideas affect and are affected by commercial archaeology. The practice of archaeology itself is widely seen -at least by those of us involved in it-as a source of wellbeing, both for the people engaged in it and for society at large. Was this ever really the case, and is this perception still valid in an increasingly complex and competitive market? If not, how can we make it so? Are there any lessons we might teach the wider commercial world, or anything we could learn from it?

14:40 | Gaille Mackinnon, Lead Forensic Anthropologist and Archaeologist, Alecto Forensics

The impact of archaeology on mental health and wellbeing on people, and how to manage it.

As a Lead Forensic Anthropologist and Archaeologist with Alecto Forensics, Gaille Mackinnon has extensive experience in international investigations that encompass war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide and, within the UK, is involved in investigations of murder, suspicious death, disaster victim identification, and clandestine grave search and location.

The search, location, excavation and recovery of human remains can be a very emotive process in both forensic and archaeological contexts, particularly when violent death and traumatic injuries are evident upon the body(ies) of the deceased.

This paper will discuss how the identification and recovery of human remains may affect the archaeologist tasked with working on criminal investigations and archaeological projects, and consider how the risks to wellbeing and mental health of archaeologists in these contexts can be managed.

15:00 | BREAK
15:30 | Dr. Karina Croucher, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Bradford

Using funerary archaeology to support wellbeing and build resilience: Continuing Bonds; Dying to Talk and BReaTHe (Building Resilience Through Heritage)

Using funerary archaeology to support wellbeing and build resilience: Continuing Bonds; Dying to Talk and BReaTHe (Building Resilience Through Heritage)

In this session, three projects will be briefly introduced which seek to use archaeology and heritage to promote wellbeing. The Continuing Bonds and Dying to Talk projects each use funerary archaeology as a prompt to talking about death and bereavement, topics which can been difficult to broach and are subject to many societal ‘taboos’. It is widely recognised (by the NHS and World Health Organisation, among others) that normalising talk about dying can aid those at the end of life and their families, encouraging discussions about intentions and advance planning. Funerary archaeology can be a safe way in to discussing death, intrigued by practices which are different from own, conversations are sparked which quickly lead to sharing of experiences, fears and wishes. The projects help to normalise talk of the dead, building resilience.

The BReaTHe project uses similar principles, with archaeology and heritage (tangible and intangible, along with digital heritage) used for social wellbeing and cohesion, particularly in host and refugee communities.

These projects highlight the role that archaeology and heritage can play for wellbeing, social cohesion and building resilience.

15:50 | Charlotte Frearson, Student Recruitment & Experience Officer/Fieldwork & Placement Coordinator/Careers Tutor (with her therapy dog Indy), UCL Institute of Archaeology

TAG’s take on wellbeing. UCL Institute of Archaeology Student and Staff wellbeing in the university environment.

TAG’s take on wellbeing. UCL Institute of Archaeology Student and Staff wellbeing in the university environment.

Working in a University Archaeology Department for over 11 years has given me a great insight into the changes and challenges in Wellbeing for both students and staff (especially in London). The pressure on University departments to support both mental and physical wellbeing has never been greater. How have we in the UCL Institute of Archaeology (IoA) dealt with this pressure: A greater emphasis on student support from staff (both academic and support) and other students & on staff support from their colleagues and a (well meaning) therapy dog to add to the suite of support on offer both within the department and across UCL. A greater reliance on support from UCL (counselling / student mediation etc.). What can we in the IoA do better / change (wellbeing on fieldwork / work life balance for staff) with the changing student & staff cohorts (also: some student testimonials)?

We have brought some of the initiatives born in the IoA (Equality, Diversity & Inclusion forum) to TAG 2019 (Therapy Dog / Games Room etc.) and have built on these – but, to discuss, what more should be done at conferences, on fieldwork and in everyday University Life to enhance wellbeing for all humans?

16:10 | Session organisers


17:00 | END