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What we really know about the past
Alright guys, I’m back. Apparently I took a much longer break than I initially intended to, but staring to write again is hard, especially when you have a bunch of work, and some side research projects, and the climbing is getting good and….. you know what? You don’t care about my excuses, I didn’t write over the summer and that’s that. I’m sorry, I’ll try and not lapse so badly in the future. I think I’m going to try to move to a once-a-month schedule. Which I think is more manageable, and will allow me to work on some other (very cool) research I’m in the middle of. Also posting this will get my buddy Sean off my back.
A quick not to Sean:
Speaking of school….
It’s October, and school is in full swing. Friends of mine are teaching classes; mostly intro classes with bright-eyed-bushy-tailed first years. So eager to come to class that they didn’t sleep at all the night before-which is why they end up falling asleep during the first hour of lecture. I suspect some of them were so excited for class that they stayed up all night with friends in eager anticipation for their Arch 100 class- and then slept through it. Which explains poor attendance. See Sean, I told you it wasn’t your fault.
Anyway, in celebration of a new crop of Archaeology students taking up the whip, I present to you another “Things I Wish I Knew in First Year”.
The first one of these I wrote was a tad bit cynical. Not saying that it wasn’t true, but I wrote it as a way of explaining the low-wages, massive time away home, and other hardships endured by the professional archaeologist. If you haven’t read it, you should go read it now, because I’m not feeling that cynical today. Instead, part 2 of TIWIKIFY (what a horrible acronym) is going to be more about the day-to-day life in the field for the professional archaeologist. Some of it is practical, some of it is funny, and all of it is based on the experiences of myself and my colleagues. As such these things may or may not directly apply to all archaeological experiences- but I hope the majority should translate.
I’m going to start with a few general suggestions, then move on to list of random things. Sound good? Of course it does. Let’s get started.
The first thing I would suggest is to get field work as soon as possible. Try it out, see if you like digging. Some people don’t. It’s important to figure out how much you love the monotony, the meticulous record keeping, the long hours. I find it helpful to remember that every hole I dig, every feature I map, every flake I bag, all help tell a story. It’s important to remember the big picture, it helps dilute the monotony.
Second, your field school experience (which is likely going to be your first field experience) bears little in common to the work you will be doing after you graduate. There are some exceptions, but in most cases your field school is going to be digging some known site, with structured research goals and parameters. In the consulting world you’re often restricted by time, money, and development plans. If you get to dig, you’re not necessarily going to get to dig the juicy parts of a site; instead you may have 20 cm of intact deposits sandwiched between a layer tin, plastic, and the remains of a Buick Skylark on the top, and mucky wet clay underneath. This is not Discovery Chanel Archaeology. This is CRM baby, we dig where we have to, not where we want to.
That being said, it is fun.
Listen, we all like digging and finding things. It’s why we got into it in the first place. Being paid to do it is amazing. It’s an amazing job. Hell, I just came back from a 9 day stint in Northern British Columbia, working with a great team, hiking around the bush, digging holes, scrambling up cliffs, finding sites, not finding sites (as important as finding them!), taking helicopter rides down rivers, blowing air horns, and generally having a lot of fun. It’s a great job and I highly recommend it.
So, provided you’re on board with the whole thing, here is my not-so-definitive list of Things I wish They Told Me In First Year (part 2):
So there you have it. My not-so-complete list of things I have learned that were not made expressly clear to me while I was in school. I hope it helps. Please feel free to add anything you think I have missed in the comments, and I can start a running list if we feel it’s necessary.
See you all next month, when I believe I will be talking about why smashing shells together on a beach in Tonga is not only fun, but also interesting.