Name: Dr David Petts
Research institution: Department of Archaeology, Durham University
Research career length: 10 years
Research Council: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Location: Durham, England
Brief summary of research: Archaeology of Northern England Early Medieval Europe, Early Christianity
A-levels: English, Geography and History
BA Archaeology, University of York
MA in Archaeology, University of Reading
PhD in Archaeology, University of Reading
Following undergraduate degree, one year as a field archaeologist
After PhD spent time working in a non-archaeological office junior job
Two years as editor for an archaeological charity
Researcher for a commercial archaeological business
Post with a county council working on a Heritage Lottery Funded archaeology outreach post
Two years working at Durham County Council on a policy project before taking up my first academic post at the University of Chester before moving to Durham
Archaeologist David Petts is passionate about his work. Through his research, David and his academic colleagues help us to understand the past and provide us with a way of managing our heritage.
I am keen to try to understand how life was lived in previous times, with a particular interest in how cultures and societies changed, especially with reference to religious belief. My research sets out to find more about the archaeology of Northern England, particularly the North East region. My interests lie in the early medieval period and the archaeology of the early Christian church. I have also become involved in exploring how archaeologists are brought in to excavate land as it gets developed and built upon.
My work comprises carrying out research, whilst running a major archaeological field school on the Roman fort at Binchester. I teach and assess students’ work, and have become increasingly involved in communicating my work with the public. Over a typical year, term time is mainly dominated by teaching, with the summer offering a chance to carry out fieldwork projects - currently including a big excavation.
After completing my PhD, I spent time working in a non-archaeological 'office junior' role, which gave me some useful transferable skills and allowed me to get my first proper 'archaeological' job, working as an editor of excavation reports. I did this for two years, but realised that this was not what I wanted to be doing in the longer term, so I applied to work as a researcher for a commercial archaeological business. After a year, I took up a post with a county council working on a Heritage Lottery funded archaeology outreach post. This was followed by two years working at the same place on a policy project, before taking up my first academic post, which I held for a year before moving to Durham.
You have to be very passionate about the subject to put up with the less-than-exciting aspects of the work. My passion came early, as I was a child obsessed with the Romans and Vikings.
My career has been driven by a determination to stay working in a subject I love. It's a competitive field so this has meant being prepared to move around the country. I was aware that to work in academic research, required evidence of a good publication record, so even when working in other areas of archaeology, I carried out research and published my findings, which placed me in a good position when the right job came up.
The most fulfilling aspects of my work are following particular interests from vague ideas or hunches, and developing these into a piece of completed work. I’ve come to realise that life is so much more than making money, and we live in a world where history is always with us.