Franki Gillis '16

My career thus far has been a mix of heavy academics and hard manual labor which people often see as dichotomy of sorts, but it is actually the reality for most archaeologists. I am fortunate enough to work as a full-time commercial archaeologist in the UK and I love being able to discover our past firsthand. Each site is like a puzzle and as we dig, we find more pieces in order to make the full picture. Commercial archaeology, usually called Cultural Resource Management in the USA, is not a particularly well-known field. Most people don’t realize that archaeology is actually integral to the construction process. Many US states and the whole of the UK require that the ground be tested for any type of archaeological significance before commercial developments are allowed to begin.

I graduated Trinity with a full International Baccalaureate diploma in 2016 and then went to Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota where I received a BA in Classical Archaeology. From there, I pursued my MSc in Classics from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and graduated in 2021. After my masters, I was offered the amazing opportunity to stay in the UK on a post-graduate work visa and work as a commercial archeologist. I’m very glad I did, because now I have worked in the field of commercial archaeology for about three years. My work has primarily been in the UK, but I also did one season in Minnesota before my post-graduate studies. Working in commercial archaeology as a woman can be tough because many construction workers don’t take women seriously on site. I’ve had many conversations with my peers about workers on these construction sites assuming you are in the wrong place when you report for work. Trinity helped prepare me to be confident in myself and my abilities in the face of such adversity. Now, I can confidently say that many male site managers see me as an equal once the project is finished.

The field of Classics has always remained my true passion even though I also enjoy learning about smaller-scale local histories. As a commercial archaeologist for the past few years, I often have the chance to excavate Romano-British sites; however, these sites are usually rural and have little significance to the study of Classics as a whole. As a result, I continued to search for the opportunity to return to the research side of archaeology. And that search finally paid off. I will soon begin a new job at the Roman Fort of Magna in northern England, just south of Hadrian’s Wall. Magna is the ‘sister fort’ of the more famous Vindolanda which is perhaps best known for the Vindolanda Writing Tablets. As of now, Magna is a totally untouched grassland so I will be part of the team beginning excavations. We expect many amazing finds since the soil in this area is very anaerobic which allows for excellent conservation of artifacts. In addition to my role as a field archaeologist, I will also be the primary geoarchaeologist for the site. Part of our research goals is to see how climate change is affecting archaeological sites. Magna affords an excellent opportunity to study this topic since it is not yet excavated.

I am incredibly excited for this new position and know that I would not have been afforded such a wonderful opportunity without my past experiences - experiences that have made me who I am today. Trinity is one of those experiences. Trinity prepared me academically for both my undergraduate and postgraduate studies. And more importantly, Trinity taught me to be fearless, to pursue my passions, and to be my best self. Empowered by these teachings, I moved to a foreign country alone, work in a male-dominated field, and continue to pursue my ambitions in the field of Classics.