This morning, I received an e-mail from a young woman interested in archaeology who wished to find out more about the field. She wrote to the museum hoping to get in touch with a local archaeologist, someone she could shadow and observe in action. Evidently, the message was forwarded to me. While I could potentially help, I thought it would be rather boring for someone to observe me create PowerPoint presentations and write up project budgets (that’s what I’m doing these days). It’s really not as exciting as sorting arrowheads and doing data entry… something that might be possible if you volunteer at theOffice of State Archaeology. This is what I suggested to this young woman.
Although you might think there aren’t that many archaeologists in your area, there are probably several working for state, provincial or federal governments in a town near you. We’re not all employed by universities and museums! (Heck, the US Department of Defence employs archaeologists! Read this for details.) Every American state should have an OSA that focuses on the cultural heritage within its boundaries. The same goes for provincial archaeology offices (look under Ministry of Culture) in Canadian provinces and for Parks Canada, who manages and protects federal archaeological resources in the Great White North.
These are good places to start looking for archaeologists and the volunteer work there will be different from that in a museum (and probably more archaeological and hands-on). You might have to have some training before you can even begin to volunteer… but isn’t that the point? Learning more about archaeology?
Here’s a question about the life of an archaeologist that is fitting for Halloween:
Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes. Is there something on the dig that scares you?
Hmm… this is a little embarrassing to admit: I hate ants. I really, really hate ants. I didn’t as a kid, but somehow I do now. Once, on a dig in Jordan, I dug right through an ant colony with one fell swoop of my hoe and suddenly there were millions of ants crawling everywhere at my feet… I shudder just thinking about it.
Should you have questions for the ‘Answered by an Archaeologist’ chronicle, you can now reach me at: archeologue.wordpress ( at ) gmail.com.
Questions are welcomed, but make certain you have browsed the site and blog for an answer before you contact me. Please note that I will not answer homework or research questions. Queries regarding universities and colleges, details about admission, programmes and courses should be directed to universities and colleges.
Should your question be relevant to a wide audience, it will be posted here.
Here’s a question about schooling and archaeology. May the Fourth be with you.
Do I have to like school to become an archaeologist?
It certainly would be an advantage! Even if you chose to be a field technician (which necessitates only a BA), you still need to go to college. Keep in mind, though, that when in university you actually get to chose the courses you want to take, which makes your studies so much more interesting.
Here is a question for those interested about fieldwork experience!
How can I find out about field school?
There are several digs across the world that welcome volunteers each year. These are undoubtedly very expensive. Take a look at the Archaeological Institute of America website for their listing. Also check with archaeological associations or museums with archaeology collections nearest you as well as universities and colleges nearby that offer an archaeology programme. Some institutions may offer “Archaeology camps” for children. Otherwise check with universities that offer fieldwork opportunities for undergraduate students during the summer.
Here is a question about skills required for an archaeological career.
What skills do archaeologists need?
You must be versatile, resourceful, curious and you must like doing research. You also should like working outdoors and doing paperwork and writing. You have to work well with a team and adapt to all sorts of conditions. Read the How do I Become an Archaeologist? section to have more details.
Obviously, this response is based on my personal experience… I felt it.
How do you know that a career in archaeology is really for you?
You know it, you feel it… Archaeology makes you happy, you love what you are doing and you find it stimulating. It is as simple as that. If you have doubts, you are unhappy or people tell you that you do not seem to enjoy your studies or your job… you may have chosen not so wisely.