I did almost 10 weeks of full coverage survey as fieldwork for my dissertation. Walking three abreast over the landscape looking for surface artifacts. Calling out when someone saw one — pottery, projectile point, worked stone. It was hot. Sometimes difficult terrain slowed things down, but all in all, those were fairly pleasant days.
At Tel Akko, as part of the Total Archaeology project, some of the students did shovel survey. Not something I would have even considered. Every 5 meters on a grid, two students dug a 40-centimeter by 40-centimeter hole, 40 centimeters deep. They collected the artifacts for later investigation and moved on to the next grid point. It was hot, it was dirty and it was hard work. The field, when they were done, looked like a giant game of Whack-a-Mole or an invasion by some small, burrowing extraterrestrials. All the pits were eventually recorded and filled in, and the survey team joined the rest of us in excavation. They mostly thought excavation was a breeze, out of the direct sun and in one place. I’m not sure they were totally right about excavation being easier, but it certainly is different.
One of the things that made the survey interesting was Jamie Quartermaine, an archeologist from Britain who was in charge. He probably has more energy than any two teenagers and a tendency to veer off on tangents. Much of the time he has tongue firmly planted in cheek and he is utterly delightful.