Who is a “Real” Archaeologist?: highlighting alternatives to digging holes in the ground

By: Maeve Marino

So I’ve spent many a blog post line talking about all my outdoor activities and this week I really want to highlight that not all archaeology is digging in the dirt, and in fact, I have yet to dig a single hole all summer long. Archaeology for me this summer means digging into archives and reports and trying to make sense of 50 years of information. Now I know I have briefly mentioned going into the archives before, but never fully expanded on the fact that all this work I’ve been doing is still “real” archaeology. 

I want to highlight this because at times you may come across a person who has determined that the only “real” archaeologists are the ones covered in dirt, with a trowel in one hand and a screen in the other. This is the traditional picture of an archaeologist after all. But this discounts all the people who do lab work and are in offices synthesizing reports and making sense of decades of research. Being a “real” archaeologist does not require going out to do field work each summer, being a “real” archaeologist means thinking critically about our past, adding to our knowledge, and doing good work in any capacity related to archaeology. Personally, very little of my own research has ever involved doing fieldwork, there is way too much that has already been dug and never researched! Beyond researching already dug up data, other archaeological routes could mean being an artist and focusing on photographing and drawing artifacts, maintaining collections in museums, or being in a lab and refitting pottery shards into a vessel. There are hundreds of jobs that archaeologists have that never require digging a hole. 

So, if you are interested in archaeology but have been deterred because you are unable to, or just aren’t interested in doing field work, well you can totally still be an archaeologist! Everything I did this summer could have been done with no fieldwork and been just as well done. Archaeology can be a completely accessible profession for anyone who wants to pursue it.

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