Ben Turner

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Ben Turner

A profile of an NAA Assistant Supervisor

I first got into archaeology at the age of 16 when my parents took me and my brother on a trip to Mexico. We spent a lot of time exploring the ruins and fresh water caves and I found it absolutely fascinating. We toured most of the major touristy ruins, but also spent a lot of time off the beaten trail exploring lesser known areas. At the time I was studying Geology at sixth form with every intention of pursuing that as a future career. The time came to choose what I wanted to study at University and I realised a lot of the skills I learned in Geology actually crossed over with Archaeology. In the end I took the leap towards Archaeology over Geology and I have never looked back since.

I took a 4 year course at the University of Bradford studying a B.Sc in Archaeological Sciences with one year dedicated to a professional work placement. It was during my 1st year of my degree that I discovered my passion for fieldwork in particular. As part of my first year course I had to undertake a certain amount of fieldwork. We were given the choice of Pompeii or Old Scatness in Shetland, and for some reason I chose Shetland, but the experience was a revelation. In the end I did four weeks of fieldwork working with a team from the University of Bradford. It was here that I discovered my passion for fieldwork and decided that was the area I wanted my future to career to go in.

My 3rd year of university was dedicated to obtaining a nine month professional work placement. Luckily I managed to get a work placement in York working on a major development in the city centre at Hungate with my (now) wife. I spent my first three months supervising and teaching new trainees how to dig and record. As a result of that I was offered my first paid commercial job working on a new site at York University campus at Heslington East. I spent the next 11 months working on that site and when I finally left to return to my undergrad degree I had gained an invaluable 14 months of commercial experience. It was this that set me up once I graduated in 2009.

Since my graduation I have worked as a site assistant for a number of commercial companies all across the country from Yorkshire, Northumberland and Cambridge and across a wide array of sites from a Victorian paint factory to pre historic henge monuments. In 2011 I decided to expand my skillset (and to get out of the cold) by joining York Museums Trust and working as a collections technician. I spent the next 3 and a half years working with York's fabulous archaeology, social history, natural sciences and fine art collections. My main role involved documentation and cataloguing of objects and general logistical work, but I also branched out into exhibition work at York's famous Victorian mock-up street, Kirkgate and also at York Art Gallery documenting and handling very expensive fine art ahead of a major refurbishment. In 2013 I began a rationalisation project aimed at recording and rationalising York's huge bulk archaeology collections. This involved documenting the entirety of York's historical architectural stonework and bulk brick and tile collections in an offsite store.
In 2014 I decided to make the leap back into commercial field archaeology with my newly found museum knowledge. I had previously worked with NAA on the last stretch of the A1 project from Dishforth to Barton in 2010 and I decided to join up again for the latest work between Leeming and Barton. My time with NAA has been fantastic and I have recently been promoted from Site Assistant to Assistant Supervisor. This has brought with it a whole new learning curve running my own sites at places like Nenthead and Tendley Quarry in Cumbria. It has also given me a greater appreciation of all the work that goes into the post excavation analysis and report writing, which I had no previous experience of.

What I love about working in commercial archaeology is that no two days are ever the same. One day I could be conducting a landscape survey up on the moors somewhere looking at Roman roads, Iron Age settlements and post-medieval quarrying sites and the next day I could be across the other side of the county monitoring conservation work or supervising volunteers as part of a community archaeology project. The travelling aspect of commercial archaeology is also a big draw for me. One day I could be commuting through the Pennines into Weardale and the next I could be going through the Lake District. The commute into work is never a boring one!