(The following is my first post for the Day of Archaeology Event for July 29, 2011. Here is the link)
This is my first post for the Day of Archaeology event. I’d like to begin by thanking the organizers, advisors, and sponsors for conceiving of and making this event happen. It’s important that we discuss archaeology across the world and get our work out to a broad audience. All most people know about archaeology is what they see on the Discovery Channel or from Indiana Jones.
The road I took to get to a career in archaeology involved several u-turns and a few speed bumps. Here is a quick history. When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, an airline pilot, or an archaeologist. Since my family didn't have the money for me to realize any of those goals I did what I thought was the next best thing and joined the Navy right out of high school. I spent the next four and a half years working on EA-6B Prowlers as an aviation electronics technician. During that time I went on a cruise on the USS Enterprise for six months in the Mediterranean and in the Persian Gulf. We saw some great cities with great archaeology and history. At this time, archaeology was something you saw on TV and included crusty old PhDs working in universities. I never considered it as a career.
Near the end of my time in the Navy a random phone call landed me in commercial flight training at the Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While there I received my private pilot's license and finished the training for a few other licenses. After a year and a half I transferred to the University of North Dakota to continue my flight training at the nations largest and most advanced collegiate flight training school. UND Aerospace has an amazing program with state of the art aircraft and flight simulators. It was a great experience.
While I was taking aviation classes I filled up my general education requirements with anthropology classes. I still loved the science of archaeology, in particular paleoanthropology, but still didn't see it as a career option. I'm not sure why. I think it was still just one of those fantasy fields that you never think you are capable of performing.
After a couple of years I started to lose my desire to fly commercially. I just didn't think I would get any satisfaction from shuttling people around the country for the rest of my life. Sure the pay is good but there are a lot of things you can do that involve less stress if all you want is money. I need a job that makes me feel good at the end of the day and that I look forward to going to everyday. Since I still didn't see archaeology as an option, even though I had taken most of the classes offered, I spent the next couple of years taking photography and math classes just for fun. I know, I like math. I'm probably the only CRM archaeologist that has used SOHCAHTOA to determine the exact angle for a transect.
During my penultimate year in college my professor, Dr. Melinda Leach, told me that I could graduate in one year with a degree in anthropology. I just had to take all of the upper level classes and that would be it. With no other direction I decided to go for it. I had to take 18 credits during the fall and 15 credits during the spring and write, I think, five or six research papers during the year but in the end I graduated. After graduation I went back to Seattle and worked with my brother's father in law's home remodeling company. I hated it.
In the fall I went back to North Dakota to help with the big event that the department had planned the previous year. We had Jane Goodall coming to speak to a packed house. One day, while sitting in the student lounge, a former student, and friend, came up to me and said hi. He was visiting because hurricane Katrina had destroyed his apartment in New Orleans and his company laid everyone off for a little while. He asked what I was doing. At the time I was getting ready to go on an Earthwatch expedition to dig in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. After that I had no plans. He asked if I had checked Shovelbums. Shovel what?
I educated myself on shovelbums.org, prepared my CV, and started on a job in Minnesota a week after I returned from Africa. That was in October of 2005 and I've been in CRM ever since. I've worked at all times of the year, on all phases of field archaeology and in 13 states.
In August of 2009 I began a one year MS program at the University of Georgia. The program was intense but I received my Master of Science in Archaeological Recourse Management in July of 2010. I'm currently working in the Great Basin of Nevada and love every minute of it!
So, I guess that wasn't too brief. My fiancé will tell you that brevity is not a trait that I possess. Hopefully someone will get out of this that it's never too late and you are never too old to get into the dynamic field of anthropology. There are many paths that you can take to get to anthropology and there are just as many that you can take along your career.
My Chief in the Navy once told me how he decides whether a job or a position is right for him. He said to look around at the people that have been doing your job and are at the ends of their careers. Are they happy? Are they doing what you would want to do? My favorite thing about archaeology is that you can't really tell what the future will bring. You could be running a company, teaching at a university, or hosting your own show on the Discovery Channel, if they ever get back to science and history shows and away from reality shows. The possibilities are nearly endless.
In my next post I'll talk about the project I'm on right now and the wonders of monitoring.
Written northeast of Winnemucca, NV
From the Dictionary of Archaeology, Peguin Reference, 2004, an entry chosen using a random number generator Pg 227, entry 2:
Issyk Mound a so-called 'royal' KURGAN of the SCYTHIAN period, which was constructed in the 4th-3rd centuries BC by one of the SAKA tribes. The site is 50 km (31 miles) east of Almaty, in Kazakhstan. It was excavated in 1969-70 by K. Akishev. The kurgan was 6 m (20 ft) high and 60 m (66 yds) in diameter. When the mound was removed, two graves appeared: the central one had been completely ravaged in ancient times, but the lateral one (to the south) had remained intact. The lateral grave's chamber [measurments ommited] was constructed of logs. In the southern and western parts of the chamber were found thirty-one ceramic, wooden, bronze and silver vessels, while the northern part contained the remains of a deceased nobleman, seventeen-eighteen years old, lying on his back on a board floor with his head to the west. The discoveries also included more than 4,000 golden plaques that decorated his costume, footwear and a tall conical head-dress. Many of the adornments are executed in the scythean-siberian animal style. Because of these incredibly rich adornments, the grave's occupant was dubbed the 'Golden Man' by archaeologists. There was also iron weaponry (an acinaces and a sword inlaid with gold-plating) and a bronze mirror lying by the man's belt.