Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Archaeology - Time Team America and more

I've mentioned in several posts I'm working on a graduate degree in Anthropology, specialing in historic archaeology. I've tried to keep this blog focused more on cemeteries and cemetery study, but every once in a while I have to go back to my roots academically. This is one of those days where I'll take a slight digression from the topic of cemeteries and talk about a new TV show featuring archaeologists and some other resources that describe exactly what an archaeologist does and how you become an archaeologist.
People don't seem to know what archaeologists do or how you become an archaeologist. Just like in any other profession you'll find a myriad of reasons people give, with one exception. I've never met anyone who said they became an archaeologist to get rich - just like historians, non-profit employees of all sorts, biologists, geologists, librarians, and many other fields you won't get rich. You can make a living, but that's it. On the other hand, well, very few other jobs have the combination of discovery, science, history, and storytelling we have on a daily basis! We very, very, rarely find "treasure" of the glittering sort and no, we don't keep the stuff we find (whether trash or treasure, it still tells us something).
So, the TV show - PBS has launched a new TV series, Time Team America. The first episode aired last week, or you can find it on the web-site if you missed it. The second episode airs tonight - and it's a good one. If you're interested in how humans got to North America this is the episode to see!
The Time Team America website also has a great introduction to archaeology as a career - how do you become an archaeologists, what types are there, and what they do. Check out the videos at the bottom of the page, particularly the "So You Want to be an Archaeologist" video! Another great resource is the about.com page on archaeology - it's maintained by an archaeologist, and on it you'll find links to everything you'd want to know, including digs you can volunteer at. Kris Hirst, who maintains the about.com page, also has an archaeology related blog. Most states have an archaeology association and they usually sponsor volunteer digs where you can go through a mini-fieldschool and get your hands dirty. In addition the USDA Forest Service offers their Passport in Time program - lots of volunteer opportunities.

There are lots of books out there related to archaeology in general, specific projects, and topics within archaeology. The book that really got me into archaeology is In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life. This is a classic, and while some of the things presented have been refined and revised, it's still an excellent introductory text. The author, James Deetz, died a few years ago - I regret that I never met him in person. He's an excellent writer and makes the subject interesting and approachable even if you don't know anything about archaeology. Adrian Praetzellis has written two excellent introductory texts disguised as murder mysteries, Death by Theory and Dug to Death - not bad little reads, just keep in mind they're introductory texts. If you'd like something with a more nautical bent check out X Marks the Spot: The Archaeology of Piracy. Ivor Noel Hume is a well known figure in Historical Archaeology, Martin's Hundred is a good introduction to his work. The recently published Jamestown, the Buried Truthlooks like a good read as well, if you'd like to hear how a project began. You can find a list of additional books here.

As far as this blog goes: I am working on a series of posts about photographing graves and cemeteries, including equipment and techniques. I have some other topics in mind, including more on moving cemeteries, preservation (shaving cream bad!), and whatever else I can come up with. If there's something you have a question about - whether it's related to cemeteries or to archaeology (or both), write in and let me know. You can leave a comment or email me through this page, either works. It may take me a while to get back to you, but I do eventually reply! Sphere: Related Content

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