So you think you are an archaeologist?

So you think you are an archaeologist?

Posted by almead in Archaeology

I used to have a professor who later became my employer. He asked once during field school “Do you think you are an archaeologist?” The girl sat next to me excitedly defended her understanding of why we were, in fact, archaeologists. My counter-argument simply stated that we were not professionals. We were not getting paid to do archaeology (quite the opposite). When I later became employed by this professor, he again asked the same question. My co-worker at the time had been a field technician doing CRM work and was accepted into graduate school for the upcoming fall. Late one night whilst discussing this question, both she and I agreed that neither of us felt like archaeologists at this point in our careers.

So this is the question I pose today: When and how does someone become an archaeologist?

This past year I spent quite a bit of time with archaeologists from different backgrounds. I found some that were plucked out of school and sent out to work in the field; I found those who had done the traditional American version of field school; I also found those who had never been in the field. However, with all of these people I found common themes. They were all surprised that other methods of becoming an archaeologist existed Not many of them knew how to “become an archaeologist” There tended to be large gaping holes in their knowledge None of them felt like archaeologists I am planning to delve a little further into each of these issues, so bear with me as I start to unpack and I do apologize if I miss any glaringly obvious points—I would love to hear them in the comments below. I think this point is rather self-explanatory in terms of the meaning. Although I have a M.A. in Archaeology, I had only have a vague understanding how one is to become an archaeologist and more importantly that it varies around the world (not to be confused with regional and regionalism in archaeology—which is a subject for a different blog post). However, I think this is a critical point to touch on—not everyone will have had the same educational background.

When I was getting my M.A. they were very keen on this point. The department tended to have a general understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of different regional areas (i.e. the people who had never been in the field tended to have a better theoretical knowledge and vice versa). This allowed all students to be brought up to the same level of educational standard. N.B. Although I am making a point about this issue, I am not suggesting standardization of archaeological education. At this point in time, there isn’t enough cross-over (even with the amount of people wanting to work in Egypt or the Aegean) to require such a standardization. However, on the part of international institutions for the awareness of professors, educators, etc. academic understanding and theoretical knowledge are different.

2) In all of my years of schooling, I wish that my schools had offered some practical “how to become a working archaeologist” classes. When I was looking for M.A. programs, I had the option between a CRM program (which was cancelled when I went to apply) and one of the top universities in the world. When I went to the university, it was amazing, but it was all theoretical knowledge. I came out with a knowledge of Hodder, Binford, Wilde, Childe, Marx, etc., but I had no idea how to become a working archaeologist. Neither did many of my classmates. It oftentimes felt like the years of great archaeologists have passed and now it is become a murky-watered semi-professional field which is confused about how to produce more archaeologists. Traditionally in the states, a student must do one or two field schools, maybe some volunteering, do CRM and then get a M.A or Ph.D. (at least my understanding). But so many students follow alternative routes. Unlike with many of the other professional fields, there is no clear route to how to become an archaeologist. N.B. If you want further reading on this point, I suggest “Introduction to Museum Archaeology” by Hedley Swain (I will link the book below). He is the head of the Museum of London (which is an amazing museum and excellent example of archaeology in museums) and his book is easy to read. It gives a lot of information on the professionalization of archaeology as a field and touches on a lot of concepts I would like to post on later. It is also a MUST for any museum that has any archaeology. I kind of touched on this above, but I will repeat it here: Students that had great theoretical knowledge tended to be lacking on practical knowledge and vice versa. This isn’t true in all cases, but as a general trend across the globe its not a bad rule of thumb. What it means in a practical context is critical though. During research for my thesis I came across this photo

Phd1

http://www.succinctresearch.com/archaeology-field-techs-teach-phds-archaeology/

(I will link the blog it came from below—it’s an excellent read and speaks directly to the points I am making)

In my experiences it takes about 6 months to a year to get fully trained enough to be able to do fieldwork without supervision. Therefore, not knowing how to do basic fieldwork is a real issue. When I came out of my M.A. program (my goal, was not to become a professor), I had learned some of the basic fieldwork but I was not confident in my ability to perform in the field. When I went to look for work, many of the jobs I was qualified to apply for required me to be competent in basic elements of fieldwork. So how then do we define archaeology? Is it when we had the degree or when we can perform the tasks? Theoretically it’s when we can do both, but currently neither option (getting the degree or doing the fieldwork) is fulfilling both requirements.

4. During my time at uni, one of my best friend was a girl getting her M.A in Conservation. I noticed that although we were both in the same department, under the same professors, and under the same dean, our classes were glaringly different. Obviously her’s were conservation and mine were archaeology, but more than that, her’s were practical and hands-on. How do we mix chemicals to best preserve? What is the ideal room temperature and display temperature? How do you put a pot together (and do it please). This was a mix of theoretical and practical knowledge that prepared students for an actual career in the field. Although, I can semi-intelligently discuss the finer points of Marxism (just stating fact, not a political opinion), if you were to ask me what I learned at uni which prepared me for becoming an archaeologist, I would have a difficult time answering and I have knowledge that many of my peers feel similarly. So I guess I pose the question to you, my audience, what is your experiences in becoming an archaeologist? Do you feel like it’s a field that is well-adjusted and quite guiding or that it is confusing? How would you define when a person becomes an archaeologist? In your opinion (or area of the world) how does someone get to be an archaeologist? I would love to hear feedback and thoughts on this issue. X Links: An Introduction to Museum Archaeology An Introduction to Museum Archaeology Buy from Amazon http://www.succinctresearch.com/archaeology-field-techs-teach-phds-archaeology/

Museums and Archaeology Review

I used to have a professor who later became my employer. He asked once during field school “Do you think you are an archaeologist?” The girl sat next to me excitedly defended her understanding of why we were, in fact, archaeologists. My counter-argument simply stated that we were not professionals. We were not getting paid to do archaeology (quite the opposite). When I later became employed by this professor, he again asked the same question. My co-worker at the time had been a field technician doing CRM work and was accepted into graduate school for the upcoming fall. Late one night whilst discussing this question, both she and I agreed that neither of us felt like archaeologists at this point in our careers.

So this is the question I pose today: When and how does someone become an archaeologist?

This past year I spent quite a bit of time with…

View original post 1,097 more words

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s