I hear a lot of students are having a hard time deciding on a major. I hear a lot of grown ups talk about hating their jobs. So here it is: a series of interviews about What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. This is here to help people decide what occupation they want to occupy. Or, it’s here to help people resurrect their dreams of being a Komodo dragon trainer or volcano rock smelter.
First occupation in the spotlight: A Spook.
Second occupation in the spotlight: An Archeologist.
Remember when you used to dig holes in your backyard and expect to find the lost remains of your pioneer ancestors? Or possibly a saber tooth tiger skeleton? Or…more realistically…pirate treasure?!
Every kid likes to dig holes.
Some adults do, too.
We call them archeologists.
It is my great honor to introduce you to the awesome Arielle Danielson:
Oh geez that’s a bad picture of her. Let me try this one:
Hm. Still no good. How about:
Okay that’s decent. But my favorite has to be:
This is Arielle laughing and hugging her mom. If you know anything about her you’ll quickly find that she loves to laugh and loves her family. She also loves to rock climb and is pretty darn good at it. She also likes to dig holes . . . but we’ll get to that in a minute. For now let’s focus on the fact that she’s my cousin.Yes, yes, it’s true. Arielle is my cousin. So if you notice any good lines in her interview below . . . it’s most likely she got them from me.
Without further ado, I give you THE ARCHEOLOGIST:
Is your life constant motorcycle chases, treasure hunts, booby traps, indignant natives, collapsing temples, poisoned dates, and angry Nazis? In other words, is Indiana Jones FOR REAL?
Sadly, no. Our friend, Indy, tended to do things more on the illegal side, and we try to keep operations legal and not offend the natives.
Also, the type of archaeological work I do is different. I work in the CRM (Cultural Resource Management) field, which means that instead of going to temples and excavating, I do the initial survey of land parcels and try to discover archaeological sites. Here’s where the adventure comes in. The majority of the land parcels that we get to survey are undeveloped, so I get to blaze my own trail. This sometimes requires hacking my way through briars and dense vegetation, trudging through swamps, and crossing deep streams by way of fallen logs. All of this is done while looking for signs of prior human occupation and potential archaeological sites. So, in one sense, it has that same treasure hunt feel.
Do you have to wear this hat in order to become a real archeologist? If not, what IS an archeologist supposed to wear?
Well, a hat is very helpful, especially on sunny days, but usually a ball cap will do. Since archaeologists are exposed to the elements all day, it always good to have some form of sun protection! The typical archaeological uniform consists of comfortable pants made out of durable fabric, a t-shirt, and hiking boots. Rain gear, gloves, and a long sleeve shirt are usually kept in your backpack in case you run into some unexpected weather.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A crocodile hunter, like Steve Irwin. Or, a journalist for National Geographic.
Why archeology? What are some reasons for digging?
Let’s see, I actually just kind of happened into archaeology. I started out as a Mass Communications major, but realized journalism wasn’t for me after all. I had already taken a couple of anthropology* courses, and it seemed interesting enough to get a degree in, so I did. My junior year I went to field school where I spent a month deep in the jungles of northern Belize, excavating Mayan temples. From then on, I was hooked.
Since then, I have surveyed and excavated sites all over Texas, Louisiana, and Washington. Archaeology is very important because it gives us a more accurate representation of what happened in the past. It allows us to glimpse into cultures that were around before written language, as well as give a voice to the side of history which is generally over-looked: the side of the common people. History typically focuses on those in power, while archaeology tries to uncover what was going on in the daily life of the entire community.
*Archaeology is one of several branches of Anthropology.
So tell me what archeologists do.
Archaeologists excavate possible prehistoric (before written language) and historic (anything older than 50 years old) sites and determine their significance to the archaeological record. Basically, we dig a lot of holes and try to discover or confirm information about past cultures.
What is your dream dig?
One where I got to discover all the significant artifacts and didn’t have to do any of the paper work. Also, I would really like to go South America and excavate a cave dwelling or burial. That would be really cool.
What do you love about your job?
I love that I get to be outside all day every day. I love that I get to travel. I love that I get to work with my hands and perform some good ol’ physical labor. And I love that when I dig up an artifact that I am probably the first person to touch it in over a century.
What don’t you love about your job?
Living out of hotels, rainy, cold days digging in the mud, and not being able to see my friends and family.
Say I want to be an archeologist when I grow up, what are some things I could do in jr high/high school that will prepare me for the job?
More and more communities across the country are instigating community archaeology projects. You can volunteer and get involved that way. Or, you can always volunteer at your local museum. There are also several field schools you can sign up for through your local university or online through another university. If none of those options are available to you, you can read books about archaeology and do all the yard-work for your mom (to get used to physical labor in the outdoors).
Thank you for being here, Arielle!
Stay tuned for the next installment of What I Want To Be When I Grow Up: Scientist
Would you like to be an archeologist?
Have any questions for the archeologist?