Armchair Archaeology

If I had a dollar for every time someone said, “I wanted to do that when I was in college” after hearing that I was an archaeologist in the past, I could still afford to be an archaeologist! While my career path has meandered well beyond the crystal ball of any guidance councilor of my past I still have a strong interest in other cultures, especially dead ones.

To study archaeology is to study past cultures by examining the material remains left behind. There are no interviews with the owners, only the back and forth debate with one’s peers in an attempt to interpret what was happening in the past. So an archaeologist also needs to be a historian, a laboratory scientist, a GIS expert and a detective to be able to determine what they are seeing. Oh, and it helps if you don’t mind biting bugs, broiling sun, long hours, rattlesnakes (where indigenous), camping and cheap beer.  And those can be the highlights of a field season!

For my fellow armchair archaeologists the web truly provides a wealth of information; I have spent countless hours reading shipwreck excavation reports in Malta, perimortem mutilation of human remains, or other equally esoteric research.  For the remainder of this article I would like to share some resources I have discovered with you.

To keep in touch with the pulse of new discoveries and for education on the numerous other cultures that I do not have experience or expertise with I check in with Archaeology News almost daily to see what new and exciting discovery has been published. This site tracks all press stories that relate to archaeology worldwide.

For a more academic approach I am hooked on K. Kris Hist’s blog at Her articles summarize numerous concepts and theories on archaeology at a level meant for the armchair archaeologist. Numerous multimedia references are included with each article which allows for further research.

For the reader who would like to experience an excavation, unlike anything you saw on an Indiana Jones movie, there are numerous choices around the world. Determine if you are doing this for credit or just the experience then research your options.

The above are just three that I have reviewed or know people who have attended so they are not personal endorsements or recommendations but are included as a starting point for your research. There are also many local non profit archaeological projects that can use volunteers. Check with your state’s archaeology office or history museum.

If you have previous experience and want to work in the field welcome to the life of a modern nomad. Projects are often short term or seasonal and so is the employment. A couple of starting points, beyond using Google, are Shovelbums and Archaeology Field Work.

While archaeology is an exciting field actual field work is not for everyone. Please consider supporting it through a donation to one of the numerous non profit organizations that exist. At the national level the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) is an excellent choice.

With winter approaching in the northern hemisphere now is a great time to build a reading list to explore the history and wonders of past cultures on a cold snowy night.

Bonus credit to the first who can identify the ruin in the above banner photo; the only hint you get is it is in South America.

Get out and explore the World!

About Haliku

Mountain climber, ultrarunner, scuba instructor, world traveler, student of life
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3 Responses to Armchair Archaeology

  1. Xenia says:

    Everyone’s all interested when they find out you’ve done a degree in archaeology but then they ask the soul-crushing question “So, what do you do with that?” Answer: Work a fryolator at McDonalds. Either that or they ask what kind of dinosaurs I’ve dug up.

    As for the photo, I think it’s Macchu Picchu. And I’m totally freaking jealous that you’ve been there!

  2. Tom says:

    This brings back memories of sitting in archaeology class at F&M…. we’ve come a long way, haven’t we?

  3. Chris says:

    Sue guessed it and commented on my FB link.

    The banner picture is from my visit to Bolivia a few years ago. Its the Ponce monolith visible in the Kalisasaya gateway at Tiwanaku. A pre Incan civilization, by ~600 years. Cheers!

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