Real Indiana Jones Stuff: #Archaeology 101

When I was growing up I had many phases of what I wanted to do with my life. They varied from astronaut to paleontologist (thanks to Jurassic Park) to FBI agent. What ended up winning overall was my love of ancient mythology and all things Greek. I am fascinated by the classics. The intellectual ancient Greek with their sophistication and elegance had called to me. I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to experience the wonder it would be to go there and uncover the history that had been buried beneath the ages. So when I went to college I decided I was going to become an archaeologist. My hopes were that one day I would be able to work in the Mediterranean and see the sights such as the Parthenon and the Acropolis. When I began at Baylor, those that majored in archaeology had to be double majors. So of course I chose classics. In my classics courses, I grew to love the Romans as well. Great men such as THE Julius Caesar inspired me to strive for greatness. I was so inspired that my first tattoo on my body that contained words was, “Veni vidi vici”. The words that were said to be spoken by Julius Caesar in which he described one of his victories that ended quickly against Pharnaces II of Pontus at the Battle of Zela. “I came, I saw, I conquered”. That is a philosophy that I try to apply to my life. Not only will I persevere through the hard times, I will come out the other side better than I went in. It’s not easy and I often forget my strengths but we are all human. Even Caesar. The histories and mythologies of the ancients have had such an impact on my views and thoughts it was only natural that I would want to go over there and discover the things that were lost over the passage of time.

Well I don’t know if you guys had the pleasure of attempting to learn Greek and Latin at the same time but let’s just say that that was one thing that I came, saw and did not conquer! So I retreated to double majoring in anthropology to accompany my archaeology major. The similar majors meshed well when it came to learning because the fields are so closely related. Anthropology studies humans and archaeology studies the human past by using the physical evidence/cultural remains that are still left. Essentially its studying the refuse of those long gone.  So for the last three years I have been working as an archaeologist, not in Greece/Italy unfortunately, and though telling others my profession is a great pick up line, I am baffled by the things people think we do!

  1. I do not go around digging up dead bodies. (It isn’t forensics)
  1. I do not go around digging up dinosaurs. (It isn’t paleontology)
  1. I am not looking for gold. (It isn’t panhandling)
  1. I do not dig for oil. (It isn’t geoscience)
  1. I don’t just dig up rocks. (It isn’t geology)
  1. I DO NOT KEEP ANY ARTIFACTS (Not looter/treasure hunter)

Now there are two different sectors in archaeology, there’s the academic (universities, etc) and the CRM (cultural resources management). What I have been doing is the latter. So that means that whenever someone is going to build anything or disturb the ground anywhere, they have to contact companies to make sure that there isn’t anything there that’s significant or important. So they need archaeologist, biologist, ecologist, etc. My job is to make sure that there aren’t any important historic or prehistoric (before written history) sites are in their project area. During the survey there usually is some hiking, digging small holes in a grid format across the area, screening all the dirt out of those small holes, and visual surveying the ground of the area. Anything found is documented, studied and a report is made of the findings. If there is a significant site one of two things can happen. First they can hire more archaeologists to do a more in depth excavation, digging large units with shovel skimming method, and if they results in significant finds then an even more in depth excavation would need to be done, digging units with hand trowels. The reason why is because the nature of my job is destructive, meaning once an item is taking out of its original provenience it forever loses its context and all the information that can be taken from it, gone. So when you tell me that you go around picking up all the artifacts you find, not only do I groan because you are a looter (LOOTING IS BAD), I groan because now when we come in to figure out if there could be a significant site we may have missed it because you took all the artifacts! So long story short, my job is not Jurassic park, nor is it like the gold rush. I do not seek to find treasure for my own gain or collection. Part of the moral code of archaeologist is that we are the keepers of the past. We contribute to the science of the human history. We do not go on our free time looting because essentially that is robbing every one of their history. Like I said, once an artifact has lost its context from its original spot all the scientific information is lost along with it. So now when you meet someone who is an archaeologist you will know more what we do and you will not put us in an awkward position by mentioning dinosaurs (Jurassic Park), oil, dead bodies (CSI), and gold.


P.S. Yes I have found some pretty cool stuff (arrow points, pottery, prehistoric tools, etc) and no never kept any of it. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the book Holes because I’m literally digging all day. It’s a lot of hard work for not that great of pay, something needs to be done about that! It’s definitely an adventure because I’m always on the road. Working as a contractor has its perks such as down time between jobs but it can be stressful bouncing around from company to company, project to project, state to state, hotel to hotel. I feel like I’m never at home . . . Alas that is the nature of the business…


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