As I have begun supervising my own trench (or more accurately, two trenches), I have had to do a lot of learning on the job. I knew some of what I was supposed to do from being an assistant supervisor and from observing the supervisors around me, but there are some things that I did not have the chance to try out. The biggest one of these is doing the actual interpretation of the trench and deciding what to do next and what approach to use. I have had to rely on other supervisors a lot to figure these things out as I go.
The biggest mentor to me by far in this has been Katherine, who I was the assistant to in the first three weeks. Katherine is a post-doc at FSU, and is in charge of overseeing all of the digging in the part of the dig I am working in. She has lots of field experience, and is able to recognize many things that I find on sight, which reduces the time I have to spend figuring out what they are. The thing she really excels at, however, is determining what steps should be taken next in a trench. The principle of excavating is to take things out in reverse chronological order- that is, you excavate whatever fell most recently first. Katherine is very good at breaking this down for me and walking me through it so I know what to excavate next. The nice thing is that she doesn’t just tell me what to do next, but explains it to me in such a way that I understand why I should do that next, so I am able to learn what sorts of thought processes I should be using as I analyze my trench.
Having Katherine as a mentor has helped me handle being thrown into supervising two trenches at once without much warning, and I feel more confident every day as I use her tips on how to tackle problems whenever I encounter them.
Featured image: our dig dog napping under the sieve.