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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Advice, Tips, and Resources for Aspiring Archaeologists

In 2011, I wrote the Beginner's Guide to a Career in Anthropology or Archaeology. At that time, I was completing my undergraduate degree in anthropology, and had only begun to explore the many areas and disciplines you could pursue after college. Sitting in my crowded classes, with close to 500 students, I began to ponder why these students had chosen this field. I felt a bit older than those fresh faced college students, whom had just exited their senior year at high school, and were open and excited to explore a new path.

I, on the other hand, knew what I wanted to do while I was sitting in my first Intro to Anthropology class. I wasn't there for an elective for a degree in psychology, or whatever degree required me to have a few classes that I was barely interested in just to graduate. I was there to explore my future. A future in digging in the dirt. A practice we loved as children. Those individuals that never wanted dirt under their finger nails, or who couldn't go outside without the right pair of shoes, their hair done, a clean shave, or full makeup, would never hack it in the field. Those were the students I sat next to. While they were thinking where the next party would be, I was thinking about studying, and more studying. I actually enjoyed the less than funny jokes about archaeology my professors told, however I may have only understood them because I was older.  It was a happy time *smile*.

Those Who Can't Dig throughout the Year, Warp Young Minds

I'm always amazed by archaeologists who spend their years teaching a room full of inspired and hopeful young archaeologists, but I'm also incredibly surprised at the directions those archaeologists choose after graduating. Some find that working in the field is no where near as glamorous as they once thought. We have, however,  the Indiana Jones movies to thank for this sometimes careless ideal of seeking truth through artifacts, or riches through the looting and pillaging of archaeological sites.

Sitting in my graduate level classes, I could just sense the passion of my professors, but it was also clear that teaching was sometimes a drag. They would often say they'd rather be in the field, but they detested those weeks and months of pillaging through data, and sorting their records and samples that were sometimes categorized incorrectly by a volunteer, or a student assistant.

We all know that at the college level, professors are required to do research. If you know this going in, then why make a point of reminding students that it's a drag. It's part of the process, and while many professors expressed their frustration, there were others that inspired students to change their entire way of thinking about the past. It wasn't until an Anthropology Method's class that I really started to appreciate anthropology more so than archaeology.

My favorite professor had completed his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, and he challenged his students to stop just taking down notes from Powerpoints, and to think and reflect about the information we have in the present. One of my favorite books in that class was Visions of Culture, An Introduction to Anthropological Theories and Theorists.  The other textbook, the title escapes, included studies from anthropologists like Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict.  We were required to read two articles a week, and then write a reflection paper about something in those articles that struck a nerve with us.  Needless to say, I always found something that would make me shout something out loud.

I remember reading “The Methods of Ethnology” by Franz Boas. Boas attacks evolutionary theorists because in reality he supports method without theory, and to my understanding, one cannot exist without the other. Boas supported the Darwinian model of biological evolution but was hostile to its application to social evolution. The term “social organism” comes to mind once again, which was made quite famous by Herbert Spencer, which combines both evolution and societal issues in one. Why such a favoritism towards the scientific? Can’t anthropology be scientific and unscientific?

This class alone made me change my entire educational path. I was no longer interested in just digging holes. I wanted to study and help people, and it usually helped if they were still alive and kicking *smile*. The moral of the story is, you can start your education and think that this area is the one you will stick with, but once you start taking the diverse classes offered, you will start to realize that things are not always what they seem.

Reasons why you should become an archaeologist or an anthropologist

Whatever your reason for pursuing a career in either anthropology or archaeology, it's important to know the reasons why you should become an archaeologist. Perhaps you want to teach people about the past through material goods you discover. You may just have been that curious kid that questioned everything, and accepted no opinion without proper evidence-the budding researcher was slowly emerging.

For me, well, it was more than going on a few digs for the local archaeological society. And, I know this will sound cliche, and Indiana Jones would say if you want to be a good archaeologists, get out of the library, I started bringing my books with me to sites, and reading. I did a lot of reflection, and envisioning of the past. I was so deeply enthralled with a sugar mill here in Florida, Cruger and Depyster, that a tourist asked me if I could explain the history of the site. It was my first time there, and the only information I had with me was a google map, printed at that time, with the name of the site at the top. I was well equipped with a $100 Kodak Digital camera, that lasted me more than 5 years, even though it was dusty, and often filled with remnants of a site I had just traveled to. I couldn't really share much, but I tried to explain about the Seminole Wars, the sugar industry, slavery, and how the Seminoles have evolved today.  Trust me, 19th century history is not my thing. I was always more interested in the crusades and templars, and then I wrote a piece on the Uruk Period Kings, and grew quite obsessed with cylinder seals. I mean, who gets exited about a clay tag? Archaeologists do, that's who.

But, what really did for me was visiting the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine as a child, and digging in the fossil beds of Caesar's Creek in Ohio during a class trip. On my last trip back to Ohio, my mom asked me what I wanted to do for the day. I told her I wanted to dig for fossils, and off we went. That day, I picked up a few trilobites, coral, and cephalopods to take home. You can only remove certain sized fossils, and you are required to purchase a license to dig, which we did. If you are ever in the area, pick up a $5 license at the US Army Corps of Engineers Visitor Center, where they also have a wonderful display of the 450-500 million year fossils from the Ordovician Sea.

Read: 30 Reasons Why You Should Become An Archaeologist 

What's the message here? Are you even a practicing archaeologist?

The answer to that question is yes and no. I don't presently dig in the dirt, I warp young minds. I consider myself to be more of an anthropologist than an archaeologist. That's not to say that I never was an archaeologist.  I like to think that I evolved from an archaeologist to an anthropologist. When life became more real, and I started living more so in the present, while still appreciating the past, things changed.  And while I still love to share archaeological stories, because that's where it all began, in the present, I am studying young learners, and also learning about their heritage, language, and culture. Above all, I've always enjoyed research, and I love helping people achieve their goals, whether that's by assisting them in searching for schools for archaeology or looking for scholarships. That's just my way!

So, in fitting with the site's motto, 
An Ancient Digger is anyone, not just an archaeologist, who digs for knowledge, truth, reason, science and education, and strives to share that knowledge with everyone.

Helpful articles to start your research into becoming an archaeologist or starting an anthropology or archaeology program

  • Guide To Archaeology and Anthropology Graduate School 101––I recently attended a seminar featuring Dr. John Walker, Professor Peter Sinelli, and Dr.John Schultz from the University of Central Florida. The seminar focused on the Do's and Don'ts of applying to graduate school for archaeology and anthropology and was organized by Hominids Anonymous Anthropology Club.
  • Best Graduate Schools for Linguistics––Many students find phonics, semantics, and pragmatics of linguistics programs far too fascinating to pass up as a degree goal. Studying linguistics provides a scientific foundation for broad-based study of human communication that is usually broken into three main subfields, including language meaning, language context, and language form.
  • Best Graduate Schools for Classical Archaeology––Classical archaeology is a deeply interesting subject that has enchanted researchers and students for ages. Quite simply, it is the study of archaeological excavations from Ancient Greece and Rome. However, some only consider it to be the study of the Roman and Athenian civilizations, but it can include other subjects such as Minoan and Crete civilizations.
  • Best Schools for Biological and Evolutionary Anthropology and Archaeology––These schools for Biological and Evolutionary Anthropology and Archaeology are not ranked in any specific order, as I believe they contribute to these fields in their own unique ways. I have put the main area of focus next to the college name, but please remember, many of the biological and evolutionary programs are combined into one department at some schools.


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