How To Pursue A Career In Archaeology

Let’s admit it – trying to pursue archaeology is not all that easy as compared to medicine or engineering. This is partly due to the fact that not many universities offer specialized courses, leaving interested candidates no option but to study whatever they could from ground zero – high school to graduation. This article aims at guiding you through the whole journey until you gain that degree – letting you know what subjects and courses help Archaeologists the most.

Understanding Your Requirements At An Early Age

Archaeology is increasingly open to other disciplines, especially these sciences: Biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics and technology. So if you like science, you may be able to link that with archeology. Mathematics is utilized daily in the field for taking levels, measurements, making grids , etc. Physics and chemistry is closely related to geology – they partly serve to deepen the study of materials. Biology has been representing the largest collaboration with archeology for years. Also, since Darwin wrote his “Origin of Species”, the study of human beings and genetics have been brightening up the past of human beings through their DNA.

Subjects in the fine arts discipline such as: drawing, art history, etc,. can be useful for pursuing a career in archaeology as well. When you dig, you have to represent the site with drawings on the ground. You also have to represent the artifacts in the same manner. If you are good at drawing you should have no problem with this.

Social Sciences such as: geography, history, Latin, Greek can play an integral part with archaeology. Geography allows you to observe various historical territories from another perspective. With this subject one could look into Landscape Archaeology as well. Classical languages also grant you the key to study the epigraphic sources of paleography – which is the study of ancient and historical handwritings.

Studying Archeology At The University Level

Do you opt for Business History or Archaeology? That is one great dilemma. Does training in History make the cut or do I need to specialize in archeology make? Well, you can go both ways – you can study business history first, and then opt for a masters degree in Archaeology. The main reason why people opt this route was due to the lack of effective specialized courses – and business history formed a good base for archaeologists as this gave them the qualification to teach at universities as well. But thankfully, now there are over 174 institutions offering specialized courses in the US alone, which means that you have the option to jump directly into what you love doing best. There are many good universities offering the course outside of US as well.


Once you are into the course, participate in excavation projects organized by the department in summer, with the intent to collaborate in drawing material during the course. This way you can always be informed of what is going on in the department and know well in advance about the various options at your disposal as and when you finish the degree.

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Risks and benefits of a career in archaeology

Archaeology basically means the study of the past cultures and traditions, with the help of remains. Many people take this up as their profession. The job is very interesting and involves a lot of travel.
The benefits of a career in archaeology are:
1. Traveling: Everyone dreams of a job that will take you to different locations all over the world. Archaeology is one of the few careers, which provides that kind of opportunity. Some archaeologists has to travel and stay abroad for many years, to understand the local culture. Some of them also need to visit extreme, remote locations. Some of them choose not to travel, and work in the local museums and historical sites. Their job is to preserve the priceless historical arts and artifacts.

2. Opportunities: Since the number of archaeologists is not very high, lots of opportunities are there. There are many private employers in this field. You can also choose to work for governmental agencies. In the future, with more construction projects coming up, more archaeologists will be needed to make sure that the historical sites are not destroyed. As per reports, it is estimated, that by 2020, the rate of job growth will be more than 20 percent, which is significantly higher than most other professions.

3. Skill improvement: The job is not at all easy. In the course of the job, an archaeologist picks up a large number of skills, which helps him to survive. While researching in those remote, difficult locations, the survival skills are enhanced. Also, since a lot of travel to different foreign countries is involved, an archaeologist needs to have an idea about almost all the major languages. Writing skills are also extremely important, because application letters needs to be written for donation for a specific project.

4. Pay: Like most other professions, the salary depends on the location and the experience. However, as per reports, it is found that the average salary is around $60000 per year. Some of the experienced and skilled archaeologists may earn as much as $100000 every year.
5. Contribution to the society: Archaeologists have an important role in the society. Their job is to make sure that the historically significant sites are protected and not used for construction purposes. Because of them, we have an idea about the cultures and the traditions, that existed in the past.

However, there are some risks:
1. Lack of colleges: If any one is thinking of a career in archaeology, the first major problem is finding a good university. Most colleges in U.S.A do not have this course in their undergraduate courses. Most people study some related course like anthropology in the initial level, and then take up archaeology later. Also, you need to study a lot before you take up this profession. It will take some time, before you eventually start earning.

2. Strenuous work: It is a very physically demanding job. Staying in remote locations, travelling every month, may sound very adventurous initially. But as you age, it will be very difficult to cope up with the physical nature of the job. The chances of suffering from an accident is also more in this profession. Plus, you will get to spend very little time with your friends and family.



The Essential Tools and Equipment Archaeologists Use

Archaeologists use a wide array of tools and equipment on site and some of them are familiar to us while the others are more specialized. We have listed the tools necessary for Archaeology and brief descriptions about them. These will be the tools you will see on a field session.


Trowels are very useful and they are also the most iconic tool for archaeology. It is the tool that masons employ in applying mortar to a brick wall, but it is used in archaeology to excavate in an area where the space can no longer be dug up by a shovel.

There is actually a long-standing debate within the community of archaeologists regarding which trowel is better, either the square-ended or the pointed ones. Opinions vary a lot among archaeologists, but it would still boil down to personal preference.


Shovels, may it be square or rounded, are used as a primary excavating tool especially in units that has no artifacts or features to be discovered. Shovels are an essential tool because they are efficient in moving soil from a particular area to another.

Soil is being shoveled either into 5-gallon sized buckets which will then be carried into a screen, or it is shoveled directly unto the screen.


A screen is used to sift through the shoveled soil that comes from a particular unit. This process is necessary for searching and spotting artifacts. There are a lot of screen varieties, but the most common are the box or personal and the tripod screen.

The soil is being poured down into the screen from a bucket or shovel, and then shaken rapidly back and forth in order to let the lighter soil fall through the mesh. The heavier artifacts, if there is any, will remain within the screen box.

Hand brooms/Dustpans

Hand brooms and dustpans are utilized by archaeologists because they are also efficient in moving soil out. The hand brooms are the ones that keep the surface of the unit clean especially when it is time to take pictures. Dustpans help move the soil at a quicker pace when trowels are being used. The excess soil will be gathered into the dustpan and contents will then be dumped into the bucket. This is more sensible than moving soil using only a trowel which is much smaller in size.

Tape Measures

Tape measures, like how most people use them, are being utilized by archaeologists to measure the depth and size of a specific unit. They are extremely useful in the creation of maps.

Line Levels/Plumb Bobs

Plumb bobs and line levels are primarily used to map excavation units. A plumb bob is used in conjunction to the measuring tape in order to give a more precise location to artifacts or feature boundary that are in the floor or walls of a unit. On the other hand, line levels, which are attached to strings, measure the depth of any level an artifact where it is found.


Digital cameras are important for documentation purposes. Archaeologists release official images of the walls and floors of all of the excavation levels, plus there has to be pictures of the found artifacts. Occasionally, archaeologists take candid shots of themselves, too, with the rest of the crew as they work on the site.

These are the most common tools and equipment you will find in an excavation site. Archaeologists use only the highest quality tools and equipments due to the fact that excavation sites are usually away from civilization.


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What to Know about Archaeology and its History

Archaeology is a study of all human activity done in the past. This is done through the analysis and recovery of environmental data and material culture that has been left behind. This includes architecture, cultural landscapes, biofacts and artifacts.

Archaeology tied up its field of study with the roots of history. From lifestyles of peasant to kings, all of the information relating to the past are mostly from the findings and researches of archaeologists.

Herodotus was a scholar who systemized the study of archaeology. The antiquarians then followed in the 16th to 17th century with their deep interest in the collection of anything related to the past. From the antiquarian movement, it then shifted to nationalism wherein personal collections are being donated to national museums.

In the 19th century, it finally became a systematic discipline as more anthropological and historical researches are being done. At the same time, great advances have been made with the technologies essential to the field.

Beginnings of Archaeology

Archaeology started as a study of the history of Europe and of the people of the past. The last emperor of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, King Nabonidus, was very much interested with events from past generations that he had aligned himself with all of the past glories. It became an obsession that it came to a point where he initiated a revitalization movement and started rebuilding ancient temples.

Even if the time in which Herodotus conducted his systematic excavations and studies has been labeled to as the ancient times, he has made an investigation of even the earlier years of one of the first formed civilizations in the world. Herodotus was also the first western scholar who systematically collected artifacts and tested them all with accuracy.

With the evidences he has collected, he made a thorough narrative of what he concluded was the past. This narrative is in a set of nine books which he named “The Histories.” The set contains all the things he contemplated about the different regions of the world. To give you a taste of what it contained, he discussed in one of the books the consequences and the causes of the infamous Greco-Persian Wars.

Herodotus has also been able to explore Delphi and the Nile. He has definitely made a compelling narrative of what happened in the past, but most scholars claim that they found crucial errors on his records and that he probably was not able to explore the southern parts of the Nile in contrast to what he claims in his books.

The First Excavations

Stonehenge was one of the first sites to undergo excavation by archaeologists. The archaeological excavation was headed by Gilbert North and Dr William Harvey in the early years of 17th century. The Duke of Buckingham and Inigo Jones both dug in the site shortly afterwards.

The archaeologist that pioneered the recording of myriads of Southern England’s megalithic monuments was John Aubrey. He was also the one who discovered and mapped out the whole of Avebury henge monument. Modern archaeologists would say that Aubrey was way ahead of his time in the case of his findings and analysis. He attempted to make a chart of the stylish evolution of medieval architecture, shield-shapes, costume, and handwriting in a chronological order.

Aubrey has written in Monumenta Britannica a review of the archaeological remains of roads, urns and coins of sepulchral monuments as well as military sites, Roman towns, camps and numerous castles.


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Latest Archaeological Finds

There have been thrilling archaeological finds in the recent past that give an unprecedented and complex insight into human history. Below are some of the landmark finds:

The Tomb of an Unknown Egyptian Queen

A retinue of Czech archaeologists recently uncovered a place where a previously unknown Egyptian queen was interred. The tomb that was found in an ancient Egyptian necropolis is that of a pharaonic Queen that held the reins of leadership in Egypt around 4500 years ago. Historians were oblivious of her. The tomb was found in Abu Sir, an area known as the ‘site of forgotten kings of the 5th Dynasty.’

This tomb is that of the wife of Neferefre, also known as Khentakawess III. In her tomb, the archaeologists also found 30 pieces of utensils, four of them made of copper, and 24 made of limestone.

Mysterious Text in Ancient Arthurian Stories’ Book

Wale scholars, with the aid of an ultraviolet light, were recently able to discover that some portions of one of the most popular books in Welsh history was redacted, and had some texts overwritten. The book, The Black Book of Carmarthen, features Christian prayers, poetry, and Arthurian stories.

A previous owner of the book, a Jaspar Gryffyth, did in the 16th century erase some verses, doodles, as well as marginalia that had been included in the manuscript over the years as the mysterious book changed hands. With the guidance of an ultraviolet light and a photo-editing software, the Welsh scholars were able to investigate the vellum pages and, thus, revealing poetry that has been out of the Welsh canon. Though the poems are fragmentary, the scholars hope that with a deeper and thorough analysis, they will be able to see the text in full.

The Discovery of the Origin of the Basque Culture

No people have baffled anthropologists more than the Basque people. Their language is unique, and they have very interesting customs and traditions. Thanks to studies of a group of eight skeletons discovered in a cave in northern Spain, scientists are confident that they might have discovered the origins of this special group of people.

Results of DNA analysis show that there is a close link between prehistoric Iberian farmers and the modern Basques.

A Mummified Monk inside a Buddha Statue

There was a shattering discovery in 2015 when some researchers set to study a Chinese Buddha statue- which are a Buddhist monk’s mummified remains. The Buddhist monk is believed to have been a Chinese master who died in the year 1100 AD. This finding exemplifies an ancient practice of self-mummification that was popular among Buddhist monks. In this practice, the monks practiced burdensome rituals to mummify themselves unto death. This practice continued for many centuries until it was banned around the 19th century.

A Mercury River under the Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico

Recently archaeologists discovered a river of liquid mercury running under a subterranean tunnel that is beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent that is found in Teotihuacan, Mexico. Archeologists believe that this tunnel could represent an underworld river which leads to a Royal tomb, especially since the remains of Teotihuacan kings have never been found to date. The discovery would be of great importance to archaeologists as it will unravel plenty of mysteries about the Teotihuacan civilization.


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