How to Talk to an Archaeologist

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Like many archaeologists I spend 1/4 of my year in a hole in the ground.

This is the kind of thing that happens to me because I’m an archaeologist. I call Visa to put a travel alert on my credit card. I’m on hold. Enya “Sail Away”* is playing. I’m irritated because I’m on hold, but if I must be on hold, yeah, I’ll listen to “Sail Away.” Good choice Visa.

Visa representative: “Hi thank you for holding. My name is Rubin. Could you state your name please?”

Me: “Annelia Alex.”

Rubin: “And how can I help you today Ms. Alex.”

Me: “I need to put a travel alert on my credit card.”

Rubin: “Okay we can do that for you today Ms. Alex. And tell me where and when will you be traveling?”

Me: “Okay I’m already in Israel, but from February 14- 18 I’ll be in Armenia, then back in Israel, and then on March 2- 9 I’ll be in Morocco. I’ll be in Germany mid-April, but I’m not sure the exact dates.”

Rubin: “Oh wow. Quite the traveler!”

Me: “Sure.”

Rubin: “Israel and Armenia—do you mind me asking, is this for pilgrimages?”

Me: “No.”

Rubin: “Oh okay. I thought it might be for pilgrimages because Israel and Armenia are very holy places…”

Me: “Yeah, but no…”

Rubin: “Okay well we can set that travel alert.”

Me: “Great.”

Rubin: “So do you mind me asking, why do you travel to these places?”

Me: “I’m an archaeologist.”

Rubin: “Oh wow! That’s fantastic. It must be really exciting.”

Me (with painfully forced enthusiasm): “Sure is!”

Rubin: “I wish I could do something like that. Hey—can I ask you a question?”

Asking me if he could ask me a question was in fact a question.

Me: “Okay.”

Rubin: “So I have read they found a Noah’s Ark in Turkey and one in Armenia. Which is the real one?”

I missed being on hold: Sail away, sail away, sail away…

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Often when I meet someone new and mention that I’m an archaeologist, they say, “Wow I’ve never met an archaeologist.”

I always respond deadpan, “Really? That’s weird. Most people I know are archaeologists.”

It’s a joke, you see. I actually understand that archaeology is an obscure career, but because I have that career I meet a lot of other archaeologists. So yes, most people I know are archaeologists. Did I explain that joke to death?

It might happen to you someday. You might be in a bar and you might meet a sassy archaeologist like me (because that’s where sassy archaeologists hang out, when they aren’t in a cave in the Altai or a paleoethnobotany lab or something). If you don’t want to blow it, here are some tips on how to talk to an archaeologist:

1) Do not liken the archaeologist to Indiana Jones.

I know you think it’s charming and original, but it is so not. Nearly everyone says that. Scrolling through my first 100 messages on OkCupid reveals the following supporting data: 47% referenced Indiana Jones, 22% did not, and 31% cannot be determined because they were written in Hebrew.

Secondly, yes, we love Indy as an action hero, but he was a terrible archaeologist. He swashbuckled and plundered. He had reckless methodology and demonstrated no knowledge of archaeological theory. He was not advancing the field; he was treasure hunting. Would I make out with him? Obviously. Would I award him tenure at the University of Chicago? No.

(And here is a satirical tenure rejection letter to Indy that every archaeologist posted on fb when it was first written:

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/back-from-yet-another-globetrotting-adventure-indiana-jones-checks-his-mail-and-discovers-that-his-bid-for-tenure-has-been-denied)

Academic archaeology is tedious and arcane. We devote years to developing narrow specializations, such as charcoal identification, ceramic typology, stone tool production, and sediment analysis, in order to answer obscure Ph.D.-worthy questions like: How was ceramic imagery used to construct or resist gender norms in pre-Formative Olmec society? Did diversification of marine resources in Late Bronze Age Arabia facilitate wider social transformations? Do oxygen isotopes in fossil ungulate teeth record seasonality that exerted an evolutionary pressure on early Homo?

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Real archaeology is less of this, and more of…

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…carrying buckets of dirt,

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…straightening bent wires into straight wires so we can properly tag artifacts,

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…trying to salvage bones that got flooded, moldy, and infested by rats while in storage…

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…and studying dirt at the microscopic level.

Thus when some dude in a bar says to me, “So you’re just like Indiana Jones?”

I’m compelled to explain, “Well actually I’m more of an archaeological biogeochemist. I focus on radiocarbon dating to improve our understanding of where, when, and under what socioenvironmental contexts Neanderthals and our modern human ancestors met and in some cases interbred…”

He looks vacant.

If he’s cute I say, “So yeah, I’m just like Indiana Jones” and he looks satisfied.

If he’s not I say, “No. Nothing like Indiana Jones” and frown until he slinks away.

2) Be aware that archaeologists have nothing to do with dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs went extinct 66 million years ago. Archaeology begins about 2.5 million years ago with the earliest artifacts, putatively some stone tools found in Ethiopia (Semaw et al 1997: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v385/n6614/abs/385333a0.html).  Just like you, everything I know about dinosaurs I learned between ages 5-8 or from watching Jurassic Park. In other words, I believe that if you don’t move T. Rex can’t see you.

IMG_1546It may look like we’re on a dinosaur safari, but we’re just looking for plain old human bones.

3) Archaeology excavations are not like camp.

Well they are like some kind of camp—something between summer camp and boot camp, but not quite concentration camp. No sane professional archaeologist enjoys excavations. They are physically, intellectually, socially, and emotionally draining. You live and work with 10-50 colleagues for numerous weeks, usually under conditions conducive to nothing but insanity. There is no time for free time and no space for personal space. You’re stranded at work all summer long.

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Does this look like camp to you??

Once upon a time excavations were fun, when we were undergraduates and just required to wake up, tie our shoes, not screw up too much while digging, wash some pottery, get drunk, and repeat. After that, as graduate students or professionals, we care too much about the methodology and results to have fun. We need things done right. Our careers and humanity’s understanding of the past are at stake.

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Now that I’m a supervisor, excavations are no fun!

Yes, there are aspects of the experience that are still enjoyable and certainly rewarding—or we would have quit long ago. We like the travel. We like being off the grid. We like you thinking, based on Facebook pictures and a priori notions, that our summers are exotic and thrilling. I’m a whistle blower for revealing the truth: excavations suck, but we still want you to be jealous of them.

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Okay the off-the-grid travel is great.

4) Don’t ask, “What is the coolest thing you’ve ever found?”

The coolest thing I’ve ever found is nothing. The best thing that can happen in a given day is digging through sterile (meaning no artifacts or bones) sediment (what you would call dirt). When we find something we have to halt our meditative and/or mindless digging and concentrate. We have to carefully document its context with drawings, photographs, labels, and measurements. Fucking graph paper is usually required. When we have recorded every detail of its location, orientation, and essence, we carefully remove it from the ground and put it in proper storage. Then we realize we forgot to do something and we hope no one ever notices.

Ideally someone will find something spectacular that makes the site famous and all of our efforts worthwhile. I just don’t want to be that person. I want to find sterile sediment.

5) And most importantly don’t say, “I always wanted to be an archaeologist when I was a kid, but then I had to get a real job.”

What do you think? That it’s fake job? That we’re paid by fairies with Monopoly money? I’m guessing if you’re a doctor, lawyer, or banker, you had plenty of advantages and opportunities to pursue a path of your choosing. You could have been an archaeologist. It is a real job. But I’m glad that you didn’t because there aren’t that many tenure track professorships, so the fewer aspiring archaeologists, the better my chances.

So what should you say if you meet a sassy archaeologist in a bar?

“Cool. Can I buy you a drink?”

 

*correction: the song is called Orinoco Flow, but I think more people know what I’m talking about if I call it Sail Away.

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135 responses to “How to Talk to an Archaeologist

  1. OK, I would certainly offer to buy you a drink.

    As a former professional geologist, I get this all the time from people who see geology as cool, exotic, unusual. Other. Not like my current career.

    And you know what? I do nothing to discourage them, b/c I LIKE that they think the study of the earth is cool. Science IS cool, and it’s a rare thing these days to be able to share that enthusiasm with non-geologists (usually non-scientists at that).

    Then again, there is no Indiana Jones of Geology, so I suppose we don’t have to stave off the pop culture confusion the way you do.

    Hell, Neanderthals are even news-worthy these days, so your research is both intriguing scientifically and relevant socio-politically.

    So you never know just who you’ll meet at a bar. You just might learn more about “under what socioenvironmental contexts [archaeologists] and our modern human [non-archaeologists] met and in some cases interbred…”

      • Information Technology.

        See? Taste that ho-hum familiarity? That deflating curiosity? (“Wow, you’re in IT??? That is SO COOL!” said no one to me. Ever.)

        Of course, I LIKE data management and analysis or I wouldn’t have switched careers! But revelation that I’m in IT isn’t exactly a conversation stopper most places. Er, “any” place.

        Cliched, wrongheaded inquiries about Indy Jones are tiresome, no doubt. Yet the disclosure of your career unearths (ouch, pun intended) imagination, curiosity, inquiry. You have a chance to play, to bring something thought-provoking from our distant past into the lives of modern Homo sap.

        Posting blog replies about it online are what the rest of us do.

  2. 4 is my favorite. I would add that since all that matters to most of us is aggregated data, finding any single one thing is fairly worthless. When people ask, “What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever found?” they want to hear “a GOLDEN CROWN!” or “King Tut’s Tomb!” or something like that. Good archaeologists don’t look for that stuff or write about that stuff and it is a little bit frustrating when people think our work is really cool, except only because they totally misunderstand what it is that we do and what’s cool about it.

    • This applies to a lot of fields actually. I’m an ME major, and when people ask “Is it possible to build ______?” they want a simple straightforward answer. I even once had someone ask me “Can you tell me how magnets work?” It’s difficult to condense Gauss’s Law into candid layman’s terms, much less make it interesting. What’s sad is a lot of people are encouraged to enter the STEM fields thinking it’s going to be really fun. What they aren’t told is they’ll be spending several semesters taking challenging math and physics courses before they actually get into actual engineering classes. Most drop out before they make it too far due to misguided expectations of the field.

  3. I think Dan missed the point! I am headed to my first field school this summer and hope it is not just a drunkfest. Though I know the chances of finding anything noteworthy are slim to none, the experience of it will be a lot of fun! And I like digging in the dirt. It is oddly relaxing and peaceful!

  4. This is awful. Any Archaeologist who is passionate about their work should love to talk about the interesting things they have found. Passing on that passion to the lay person asking about what you do is part of your job and helps to raise awareness of the importance of material culture to the understanding of human history. Finding nothing once in a while is a nice relief but the discipline can’t exist solely on negative evidence. Also it has been my experience that the professional archaeologist loves the field work far more than the lab work generated by the excavations or survey.

  5. In his defense, the time setting of the Indiana Jones movies pred-dates the “New Archaeology” (the history of which I’m hoping is still taught in US grad schools).

    • Yeah. It’s usually people who are new to archaeology who are all strident about the “Indiana Jones was a bad archaeologist” schtick. What do you expect him to be, Ian Fucking Hodder? I was a bit surprised to see this from someone who appears to be a more experienced archaeologist.

      • There were plenty of archaeologists in the 20s and 30s who did very serious and detailed excavations and developed the methods Binford would later build upon. In fact, a lot of it was set in place by the end of the 19th century. W Flinders Petrie would have had an aneurysm seeing an archaeologist crash his way into an unknown Mayan temple and destroy it only to get his hands on – or worse, destroying Egyptian tombs in the way Indy does.
        We all love Indy, but he was a terrible, terrible archaeologist. Just terrible.

  6. I think I would prefer Nick Cage to Harrison Ford. Nick got paid WAY more than Indy.

    I’d recommend that, if you are at a bar and trying to hook up, go to someone and ask them what they do for a living and when they say, “I’m a bag checker at Walmart” or “I’m a postal worker” or some other crazy profession, respond with “Wow! That is so cool! I wish I could do that! I’m stuck digging in the dirt.” They’ll respond, “Oh, so you’re in construction?” Then you say, “No, I do the Indy Jones stuff. Buy me a drink and I’ll tell you about the time I found the REAL Noah’s Ark of The Covenant Lampshades.” Lets face it, when you tell the truth about archaeology at a bar, you’re stepping just above the ability to process with the alcohol-induced stupor anyway–take artistic license.

    And I once found a mummified pre-paleontoic finger right next to a bunch of stones. It was really easy to find. All the stones were arranged in such a way as to point to the center. It must have been really important–there were all these professor types with bad hair, slightly ripe, and odd tan lines talking about “Pict Stonehenge”. Never seen so many people freaking about about a finger. (See how easy it is… lolz)

  7. While I can related to all of this (except the international travel part), the one I love most is #4. When I’m standing out all day in 100 degree weather monitoring a construction crew dig within the boundaries of an archaeological site, the last thing I want is to actually find something. And no, I’m not fooled by the KFC bones you just threw into the pit to make me “happy.”

  8. Ha, so true. Lost count of all the “Wanted to become an archaeologist myself when I was younger but may parents insisted I should learn something useful.” (or the like) comments on site (interestingly, a short survey showed it’s mostly western European in their 50s to 60s). Regarding that Indy Jones cliché … well, got to admit sometimes it’s just fun to play with expectations. 😉 But I’d definitely concur on having a beer with vs. having him teached an introduction into archaeological theory and method.

    Well written. Thanks.
    – Jens

    • At least she knows what a paloeontologist is. Im going to study it and it gets real irratating when all my friends ask me what’s that?

  9. Great article, except for the following exchange:

    “If he’s cute I say, “So yeah, I’m just like Indiana Jones” and he looks satisfied.

    If he’s not I say, “No. Nothing like Indiana Jones” and frown until he slinks away.”

    Cute, but reverse the genders in that exchange and the internet would blow a gasket. I don’t care personally, but I thought it should be pointed out.

  10. As a fellow archaeologist, this article actually explains “Why Not Talk to Snobby Archaeologist”

  11. I’m only a first year undergraduate but I can appreciate most of these points. The number of people who, upon saying that I study archaeology, ask whether I ‘dig for dinosaurs’ or am like Indy is very high!! I wish more people would have a greater appreciation of archaeology and how important it is to gain a better understanding of the past.
    Also, I totally appreciate the annoyance of graph paper!
    This was a great read- thanks!! 🙂

  12. I used to be an archaeologist. Then I took an arrow to the knee. Also, these girls on the towels are far too close from the edge of the stratigraphy: it could make it collapse.

  13. What did I learn from this article? There’s a bar-loving female Archaeologist who is single and a member of an online dating site (OKCupid) who crunches her 100s of messages to produce percentage statistics of keywords, like ‘Indiana Jones’, and may coverup an error at a site’s excavation when following protocol that includes “f****** graph paper.”

  14. I also get asked a lot if I’m like tomb raider. I hope I will never have to be as fit and comfortable with gun fighting or hand too hand combat as Lara Croft!

  15. I used to know someone (online) who told me she was an archaeologist who was very close to Enya … yes, and her yacht was named, “Orinoco Flow”.. Whether her stories were true or not, they were worth listening to for entertainment factors ~~ better than any movie.

    • probably a lie, archaeologist never make much money so the chances that she actually owned a yacht are very slim if any…

      • She sent me pictures of herself and family … already wealthy at birth, so she got educated in her interests. She enjoyed collecting historic documents and underwater mining with her own company of rigs.

  16. Jesus the romance attached to archaeology is fucking ridiculous. Its just a friggin science for fucks sake. I have a BA Arch, Hon Arch, MA Arch and have worked full time as a commercial/research archaeologist since 2008 mainly across Australia, but also in Papua New Guinea, Kuwait, Turkey and the UK. The amount of over hyped b/s attached to this field is really crazy. For me its just a job, one that is great at times, but this sort of bullshit romacing of it really gives me the shits. Get over yourselves archies!! Its just a job in science, if all other scientists went on like this the scientific community would become a laughing stock.

  17. “Once upon a time excavations were fun, when we were undergraduates and just required to wake up, tie our shoes, not screw up too much while digging, wash some pottery, get drunk, and repeat.” You left out the ‘have sex’ part… Because in the isolation of a dig, it’s gonna happen.

  18. How about: What is it like to be MARRIED to an archaeologist ? Well, to begin with, I am no longer married to one, Why? Because the problems began when my archaeologist husband starting digging bones with the living flesh still attached! 😀

    The “other stuff” is that I learned there are many different areas of archaeology. Many of the “exotic” places where archaeologists start their field work (such as Egypt, Turkey, any number of the best “dinosaur quarries”, etc) are funded by grants. The money is very little. My ex is one of the most noted in Southwestern archaeology (Basket Maker I and II, Pueblo, Anasazi) here in the U.S., and yes, he makes money, because he has to clear the ground for oil and gas companies so they don’t disturb anything of any significant value. It is grueling work to walk transect lines in the middle of the Great Basin dessert in the middle of the summer, and even more grueling to find something, because that means you have to stop and start the dig (after clearance to do the dig).

    They even get into fights over who the new-found site is to be named for, and one such time (where I went along as the camp cook), another worker stepped into a heated argument and suggested ME, because: 1. my name actually is Bella, which means “Beautiful”, and it truly was a beautiful site, dating back pre-Spanish settlement; and 2. it stopped the argument, so my ex agreed (and he was the boss). In the Colorado State Archaeology Society office it is now known as the “Bella Site”.

    Other than that, I had to pick grass stickers, prickly pear cactus stickers, look for ticks, etc etc etc, at home after each trek. I had to learn how to read topo maps and meet the group driving an off road SUV as they hiked out of canyons, and I had to set up camp. “Camping for fun” no longer exists, as all archaeologists I know dream of staying at a Sheraton or Hilton when they have a few days off. The “team” consists of Paleontologists (the REAL bone scientists working with dinosaurs, human remains, etc), biologists, geologists, and anthropologists (which role is mostly taken up by the archaeologist) I could go on… The money ONLY comes in AFTER the reports are written and submitted to either companies who want to disturb the ground for some reason, or the Government if there is a job from them. The money comes in way after the fact, sometime in the following 6 months or so.

    (Oh, and what exactly was found at the Bella Site? No treasure or pyramids, I can assure you, but was found inside a huge overhang near the dessert of Moab, Utah, in the sandstone area. It was so well protected that there was ASH in the fire pit – NOT “black dirt”. There had been a lean-to made of pinyon branches where the needles had fallen neatly underneath, a mano and matate, (look that up), arrow points, ancient tools, etc from a nomadic tribe. Undisturbed from any wind or other elements since about 1200 ad. Can you imagine??? It was fantastic! But – GRUELING.)

  19. Haha! I always dread the “greatest thing you ever found” question. I’m stumped every time, since it’s impossible to describe something without giving an elaborate explanation of context

  20. Change to e-harmony post in the profile page that you’re a grave digger instead a catalogue the responses for your next blog entry juxtaposed with the ok-Cupid ones. It should make for good inspiration.

  21. I’d say to a sassy archeologists I meet in a bar, “An archeologist girl is someone I have been looking for since I can remember having started looking for someone because they make ideal wives. The older their husbands get, the more they value them. Can I buy you a drink to raise it to a man who is perhaps unaware as yet of the happy family life that awaits him?”

  22. Fucking excavation. I could survey all day but loathe excavation. It is nearly impossible after 4 weeks in 85 degree temps, no shade, and 25 cm of Poison Ivy roots to stave off the “Hmmm, should I really document this? I’m really irritated by it right now”. Nothing sweeter than chunking out a unit in a day with no paperwork ESPECIALLY if you are the supervisor and have to QA the paperwork until 2 am.

  23. I am an archaeologist, based in San Diego. I really feel that the author of this piece is a completely pompous dick. Don’t be an Arch if you don’t enjoy the whole process. Yeah, I have less-than-perfect moments, but they contribute to the anecdotal joy of such a fascinating career.

  24. Pretty much spot on.
    I would like to add also as something never to ask an archaeologist in the field:
    – Have you found any gold yet? (almost invariably followed by the questioner chuckling at his/her “joke”).
    Firstly, this stopped being funny about a month into my first excavation, when I had been asked this about 12 times.
    Secondly, if we do find gold we are sure as hell not telling anyone until it’s all packed up and finished.
    Thirdly. We may have found 1000 things way more interesting than a peice of metal, but with your question you’ve signalled that all you are interested in is treasure. So go rewatch Indiana Jones again. I’m busy uncovering the lives of real people here.

    As for the best find I’ve ever made. I’m not being cute here – it was a lump of burned clay found at my first excavation. As I held it in my hand I realised it had the imprints of another hand that had held the wet clay 4000 years ago before it was burnt in the fire. I still get chills when I think of my hand over that long gone person’s hand. I fell hard for archaeology and never looked bak.

  25. So true, and number 4 made me laugh. But I have to say that the coolest thing I ever found doing archeology was – get this – dinosaur bones. After 20 years in the field the irony was almost too much to take.

  26. You should add “So you believe people came from monkey’s?” as soon as I say I have a degree in Anthropology and I’ve been on two digs. While I want to say “yes” (because I do), I just avoid the whole conversation because sometimes there’s just no winning and I get tired of the same argument.

    You’re right about dinosaurs. I tell someone I’ve been on an archaeology dig and they start telling me about some dinosaur found somewhere and if I had ever found dinosaurs.

  27. Did you just make fun of my dissertation research question? It’s Iron Age Arabia!!! Good post 🙂

  28. I find this post (and my archaeology friends and colleagues reposting this) concerning…. It sounds to me like you need to find a new job….for a few reasons..

    First, its just never a good idea to speak for a profession as if we are all so disgruntled and disillusioned – the vast majority of us are not – we love our jobs!

    Second, quotes like “No sane professional archaeologist enjoys excavations.” and “The coolest thing I’ve ever found is nothing. The best thing that can happen in a given day is digging through sterile (meaning no artifacts or bones) sediment (what you would call dirt)” are ridiculous – again, this sounds like you should start looking for another job – especially if you have risen above the level of “shovel-bum.” There are more than enough passionate, capable people who have struggled and failed to reach that position, and it sounds like it is absolutely wasted on you. Many of us who have been doing archaeology for a long, long time still love every survey and excavation they have been on – even ones in which we dig hundreds of sterile STPs in mosquito infested swampy forests (this whole trip survey was made worth it when we uncovered a broken point and two tiny retouching flakes on the second-to-last STP…I love finding things…).

    Oh and excavations and field schools in particular are exactly like summer camp (albeit with a work component involved)..camp rules are often evoked – some people choose not to shower the whole time, people tend to drink too much, there’s always some unnecessary drama, people get caught fooling around, and generally…everyone has an awesome, if not a bit weird and exhausting time…

    Third, yes, as archaeologists we frequently face many of the reactions and questions noted with such disdain in this post – “Oh, I always wanted to be an archaeologist!” or “What’s the coolest thing you have found..gold?!” While I can certainly say I have indeed been asked these same questions more times than I can count…I still don’t feel the same frustration with the blogger or any who have posted about it here. Yes, the vast majority of people are fascinated with what we do and yes, the vast majority of people are not aware of the intense (and yes often tedious and even stressful) methodological and theoretical processes which form basis for what we actually do as archaeologists. BUT isn’t it our responsibility as archaeologists to encourage peoples interest in the past (not condescend) and disseminate what we know.. I understand that many aspects of archaeology become tedious and of course stress full, and well job like…but come on – our job is archaeology! I’m one of those people anyway…as a kid I wanted to be an archaeologist…it was a winding and tough path, but I worked my ass off to get here and still love and truly value what I do…in spite of the stressful aspects of the job.

    I think what we do as archaeologists is important – there is so much to learn from our past. Understanding our past is the only way we can truly grasp the processes of the present. But even so, much of the value of what we do, as so eloquently pointed out by R. Joyce in her statement to Congress (the last, and very recent time they came looking to take away one of our most critical sources of funding (in the U.S.)), lies in archaeology’s intrinsic value. People are interested in the past and its our job to uncover that past with all the methodological and theoretical rigor we can muster.

    I suggest take what you do a little more seriously and take yourself a little less seriously…

    I do apologize about the long-winded comment.. But I’m going to leave with a quote from one of our best…

    “After our talk this afternoon [said the Old Timer], I got to wondering about what archeology needed the most. I decided there probably isn’t an urgent need for one more young person who makes a living editing other people’s original ideas. And I decided we probably didn’t need a lot more of our archeological flat tires recapped as philosophers. There seems to be enough around to handle the available work.

    What I don’t see enough of, son, is first-rate archaeology.

    Now that’s sad, because after all, archeology is fun. Hell, I don’t break the soil periodically to ‘reaffirm my status’. I do it because archeology is still the most fun you can have with your pants on.”
    -K. Flannery (1982) “The Golden Marshalltown”

  29. My father in law did some digging in South America he told me it was extremely boring. Days of nothing in heat and mosquitoes. He enjoyed traveling and helped a person who was in that trade for the day. Said he broke his back for nil

  30. What an obscure life. There’s something to be said for living a life which no one else really knows about. it is your world, and yours alone. A slightly lonely life it must be, but at least you know lots of other archaeologists 🙂

  31. Every once in a while, I binge watch archaeology documentaries on You Tube and it’s awesome. No pebbles in my socks, no sketchy restroom arrangements, no annoying cocktail of sweat and Coppertone 30 coagulating in the crook of my arms and other unmentionable crooks. And I can pause the entire experience to get another beer.

    I also devour geology, vulcanology, quantum physics, and the occasional native peoples anthropological expedition to remote tropical islands. I’m all about a balanced diet.

  32. I can’t help but laugh when reading through these comments. Who knew people would get so upset over one person’s experience with archeology? For the record, you absolutely do not have to talk about your work to random people all the time to prove you are passionate about it. Sometimes when you are at a bar you just want to be you, not the “archeologist.” So get your drink on, be you, and continue to laugh at everyone referencing Indiana Jones.

  33. I agree with anolivedaily. Who says archaeologists have to be uptight? And the last time I name-dropped people like Binford, Hodder, or Flannery was when I was fresh out of graduate school trying to impress people. This entire exchange (original post and the comments that follow) remind me of all the online discussions I see about the difficulties of parenting young children. Like clockwork, someone pipes up to accuse the poster of being a bad parent for not being happy and thankful 24/7. I wouldn’t want to hang out with an archaeologist who was serious and reverent of the “craft” all the time any more than I’d want to talk to a parent who looks for any excuse to try to look superior.

    • Well I think that is more than unfair. My objection with this post was not about that she voiced some grievances she has with the occupation, but that she seems to detest every aspect of the job (except travel)….and the stated point of the blog was to express to non-archaeologists, that we (as archaeologists) all feel that way. Who said anything about needing to be happy and thankful 24/7? Just don’t publicly announce that all archaeologists just want to travel, not find anything, and certainly not talk to you about we do…

      I am not serious and reverent of archaeology all the time – I complain too. If fact my post was specifically about not being an uptight archaeologist and being willing to share what you know, AND at least being willing to encourage people’s enthusiasm with what we do. The only reason I posted (I NEVER post on blogs like this) is that I feel the attitude expressed in this post is sadly shared by some (if not many) archaeologists and I find that troubling. If we soo resent people’s interest in what we do…then why do we do it?

      My use of the Flannery quote was not so much to name drop but to use a relevant quotation to support or at least corroborate my opinion (but yes, part of the relevance was that it was a quote from someone any archaeologists reading this would know…). I specifically used the Flannery quote because it so eloquently expresses exactly what I was trying to say to counter the sourness of this blog post…archaeology isn’t just interesting and important…its fun too!! So don’t be afraid of getting a major eye-roll and a scoff…most of us love to talk about prehistory and archaeology…and you don’t even need to buy me a beer to come talk to me about it, just be interested!

  34. I’m a librarian. Everyone makes bun-hairstyle and shushing jokes. Or asks why I’ve gone into that when books are going to be supplanted by digital technology in two years so libraries will all go away. Everything in that sentence is false, by the way – books are going to be around for a good long while yet, as anyone who’s scanned anything or dealt with copyright could tell you, and libraries have never, not ever, been just about books.

  35. Indiana Jones is an example of a bad archeologist. Rain Man is considered the example of autism. Too many people get their “knowledge” from the movies. I work in a law office. The lawyers in my office with work hard for the money, much harder than this secretary who goes home after 40 hours. 80 hours for them is not uncommon. I don’t begrudge them their success. There are a lot fewer lawyer positions than people believe. Most cases never go to trial. Settlements are negotiated.

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