Monday, November 4, 2013

Digging Up Dirt: A Career as an Archaeologist

Do you like learning about history? Why not consider a career in Archaeology?

An Archaeologist studies  past cultures based on artifacts, or relics, left behind by people who died many years ago. He might discover tools used by the people in the area, cooking vessels, weapons, or furniture, or even coins. He might find items that have words on them that need to be deciphered.

                      You can uncover the stories of ancient people through knowledge of their languages.

                       In ancient times, people made pottery that was functional and beautiful.

Archaeology is practiced on several levels: you might be an Academic Archaeologist, or a professor of archaeology; that career requires a PhD, or Doctorate degree. A Project Archaeologist would  write a proposal asking permission to do a dig, supervise the dig, and then would write a report afterwards describing what was found at the site. Project Archaeologists usually hold a Masters Degree and sometimes a PhD.

2,000 terra cotta (baked clay)warriors unearthed by farmers near Beijing, China. Learn more about them at:

A Field Archaeologist would be one of many workers sifting through soil and excavating at a dig. This person would likely need a Bachelor of Science degree and would have less authority.

                           Ashkelon --an ancient city uncovered in Israel.

A Museum Archaeologist would receive artifacts to study in a museum, would catalog them into the collection, and be in charge of keeping them secure. This person would likely need a Masters degree as well.

   This is the bottom of a boat, uncovered near London before they hosted the Olympics in 2012.

To work in this field (!) you should be adaptable, tolerate different climates well, write well, enjoy collaborating with others, and have a sincere respect for other cultures. It is likely that you would travel to new places to participate in digs, whether in other states or on the other side of the world, so you would have to enjoy travel.

You may find one particular kind of relic more interesting and specialize in that: Do you like to be the one that 'dates' an object? Do you prefer working with metals? What about specific kinds of pottery? Tools? Particular cultures of people? Burial grounds and customs?

You can also work for the National Park Service, which preserves sites in the U.S: .

               You may work with Archaeological Anthropologists when discovering human remains.

This is Machu Pichu in Peru. Have you ever heard of it?
Check it out:

You might discover a treasure trove like these silver objects, found stashed in the bottom of a Viking ship in Sweden:
Mixed in this pile are armbands and coins; Learn more about it at:
You can even 'dig' under the ocean; here are divers
 exploring a shipwreck:

Ancient ruins are present all over the world, and you can discover settlements, ancient burial grounds, Native American villages, even work with previously undiscovered graveyards, right here in the U.S. 

                                                        Assorted Native American objects

                            Mesa Verda National Park, Colorado: a Cliff Palace

                         This is an old cemetery in Philadelphia: What could be learned here?

Archaeologists have been working at the site of the Jamestown settlement for some time, discovering how they lived, what they wore, what tools and cookware they used. Jamestown was the first permanent colony or settlement in Virginia.

Look at the stunning silver coffee pots and chocolate servers:

Here is a longer video featuring several found objects: 

How can you get started exploring the idea of Archaeology as a career?

 Find your State Archaeological Society: Here is Minnesota's Society:

      A student showing pottery shards to her professor. They hope to carbon-date these pieces.
Here is an organization that sponsors volunteer archaeologists: The name is 'Passport In Time' or 'PIT.'
Here is a site that discusses archaeology as well:

And check out the Archaeological Institute of America:

Think about it: a career spent uncovering and solving ancient mysteries. Interested?

Little metal books about the size of a credit card, found recently Jordan, dated to about 1 A.D.






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