Four Misconceptions About Archaeology!

Alrighty! This is for the aspiring archaeologists and those who clearly know nothing about the field.

Misconception 1. We DO NOT dig up dinosaurs. If this is what you'd like to be doing I would suggest taking zooarchaeology, geology and paleontology related courses. Misconception 2. We DO NOT go searching for specific gold statues like you see in Indiana Jones. We like to keep things in context and actually learn something about our past as opposed to robbing a random community. Misconception 3. Aside from NOT digging up dinosaurs, we DO NOT only dig up Egyptian mummies. We don't discriminate against any time periods or locations. There is something to learn just about everywhere. Misconception 4. We DO NOT keep what we find. Objects, formations and information are reviewed, researched, written about and all physical objects removed are given to the appropriate museums, societies and governmental organizations.

I have encountered many people, even some in my own family that had no idea what exactly an archaeologist really does. So to put it plainly, we research and gather information on a site. This could be done through historical record and/or land survey. We perform shovel testing where we view the stratigraphy of the area to see it's potential for research and a proper dig. No sites are identical in nature and all have special requirements, whether they are a castle in Scotland, a buffalo kill site in the USA or a sunken submarine in the ocean. They each require their own special skill sets. We then VERY CAREFULLY and with external funding begin excavation work. (Of course this also implies all proper permits and such are obtained from the local authorities etc) The process to begin is extensive requiring grant writing, letters begging for funding and proposals for board members and such. When you actually get down to the physical digging part (implying that this is in fact a dig site), you are going down potentially millimeters for each layer in a meter x meter unit. This is slow and grueling labor but an incredible amount of knowledge can be obtained from this process. You WILL learn patience by the end of each dig season. And to wrap this up, I have just described only one type of dig site. Each location, period, culture etc require entirely different skills (some transfer over but others are on the opposite end of the spectrum) and entirely different sets of permissions from the area.

Hopefully this has given you a bit of insight into how extensive archaeological work has become and a new respect for those wanting to preserve the past for generations to come.

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