sitting-upon-a-snake asked: I'm a freshman in high school, and thinking about being an archaeologist once I grow up. What sort of advice would you give?
I think I was also a freshman in high school when I decided that archaeology was ultimately the field I wanted to go into. Luckily, my Latin teacher was an archaeologist, so I asked him a lot of questions. If you have anyone like that who you can talk to, even an acquaintance, I’d recommend you do that. Try to gain as many perspectives as possible!
I contacted the Connecticut State Archaeologist (yep, that’s actually a thing!) and arranged to go to UConn’s campus over my spring break to volunteer. I’d try contacting your state’s archaeologist and ask a few questions. Since Connecticut is pretty tiny, I was able to go to the office myself, but if you live in a bigger state, that my not be possible. He even let me tag along on a CRM (Cultural Resource Management) dig. CRM is a huge facet of archaeology nowadays. A house was being built near a known Rochambeau campsite from the Revolutionary War, so we had to dig a bunch of test pits to make sure the house wasn’t being built on anything important. Unless those soldiers were drinking Buds, it turned out to be a bust.
A lot of times, it’ll be a bust. Don’t go into it thinking that you’re gonna find the Holy Grail or something. When I excavated last summer at a Mycenaean settlement in Greece, the most exciting find was a lead joint that would’ve held an ancient pottery break together. Other than that, it was just a lot of pot sherds and animal bones. Oh, and a huge (and disgusting) swarm of giant ants that had taken up residence in a buried pot. If you go into the field of archaeology with this fantasy built up in your head, you’ll be sorely disappointed. But don’t be discouraged!
Archaeology isn’t glamourous, but it is fulfilling. There are so many facets to the field that you could pursue. Start looking now! Do you think you’d be more into marine archaeology, Classical, Near Eastern, or American? There’s also palaeobotany, zooarchaeology/bioarchaeology, geoarchaeology, and tons more! Of course, there’s also the possibility of doing museum and professorial work instead of fieldwork, if you realise that’s not your thing. One of my professors absolutely abhorred fieldwork, so she teaches instead. So I’d recommend reading up on different fields and looking for colleges that’ll be a good fit. Personally, I wanted to go to a school with its own archaeology major, as opposed to one where archaeology was merely attached to anthropology. But don’t rush it! You’ll have plenty of time to worry about college later.
I’m about to start worrying about grad school next year, so that’s a whole new can of worms. Take all the time you need to research your options! Youth is definitely on your side.
And to all of you other aspiring archaeologists: this advice totally applies to you, too. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask!