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Archaeologists travel throughout the world, looking at ancient buildings, the remains of villages, and objects and documents left behind thousands of years ago, to reconstruct the past. They are interested in figuring out the various social, political and intellectual histories of different societies. This information is used to expand our knowledge of human evolution.

They want to learn about daily life, about industries, about religions, about architecture. Archaeologists do this by travelling to remote places, abandoned villages, and even by examining urban development sites. They study each artifact they find carefully, and preserve and document them all, from small seeds and cooking tools to glittering jewels and bones. Each artifact they find is a piece of the puzzle, each piece telling us more of humanity's story.

Using scientific studies, laboratory tests and past knowledge, archaeologists can take the artifacts, and, along with information about the location they were found in (desert, jungle, underneath city hall), they can come to conclusions about human cultures of the past.

Most of our knowledge about truly ancient history comes from Old World, or prehistoric, archaeologists. These are the scientists who have to recreate history using only found objects. These scientists look at societies who didn't write anything down.

Historical archaeologists are the scientists who concern themselves with places and times which have already had some historical details written down. This sounds like it might be easier than Old World archaeology, but it isn't. Often, historical archaeologists are working with faded, indecipherable documents, often written in lost or uncommon languages.

The science of archaeology is exciting. The satisfaction of a new discovery is thrilling and intense. Many archaeologists are able to impart previously unknown knowledge to a community whose ancestors they are researching. Old traditions can be brought back to life, and the rest of the world benefits by learning the details of human history which, without the help of these dedicated scientists, would most definitely be lost forever.
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  Interests and Skills  
Archaeologists need excellent reading, writing and research skills, should be naturally curious and respectful of other people and their cultures, both past and present ones. Archaeologists should be sensitive to the needs of the local population as they are investigating their ancestors. Archaeologists need an adventurous streak, and be eager to travel and explore remote locations and different communities. Good organizational skills, and a patient, methodical nature are also assets. Archaelogists should have a good memory, and be able to think clearly and logically even after long hours on the job. They should be interested in science, geography, and animals, as well as politics. Archaeologists need to be interested in working with others, as well as able to work creatively on their own. They should be physically fit, as the job can entail lifting, digging, hiking and sleeping on rough terrain.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Make maps of chosen study site
  • Train field staff and volunteers on excavation techniques
  • Research in museums, libraries and on site, often in remote locations
  • Preserve, clean and restore artifacts
  • Conduct laboratory studies to authenticate artifacts
  • Present papers to colleagues and students
  • Advise governments and corporations on policies and projects
  • Keep good notes and journals on findings and locations
  • Write reports, books and academic articles
  • Stay up-to-date with all changes and discoveries in field of study
  • The typical day for an archaeologist will depend on where they are working, and the stage of research they have reached. Archaeologists who work for companies and universities have offices, where they will do a lot of reading, analyzing, and writing. They will also do some lab work, give lectures, mark some papers and attend meetings with colleagues. If they are on field studies, they will have to create maps and diagrams of excavation, and keep precise notes on findings. There will be a lot of digging, and searching through dirt, water, and sand. Archaeology is one career that guarantees travel, and the chance to meet many kinds of people from many different cultures.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Archaeologists can be found hard at work in museums as curators, researchers and technicians. They are also at colleges, universities, government department and archaeological sites, where they engage in heavy manual labor, tedious sifting and sorting, lifting and moving huge objects, and preserving findings for future study. They live and work on site, often in isolation for long periods of time. They are in danger of attack by animals, snakes, insects and parasites. They work closely with fellow archaeologists, landowners and developers and native groups.
  • When they work on the field, their hours are long, and unpredictable. But when they are writing up their findings in the office, the hours are regular, with weekends and evenings off.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Archaeologists are highly trained, and the more education they have, the more job opportunities available to them. Along with researching and teaching at universities, there are always colleges and high schools looking for instructors, and museums in need of curators, exhibit directors, technicians and researchers. People trained in archaeology can get work in historical preservation, environmental management, consultants for cultural initiatives, urban planning and development, and as analysts and researchers for businesses who have found artifacts on site. They can be on staff with these organizations, or they may choose to go into business for themselves, and work in those capacities on contract.

  Educational Paths  
Usually, people begin their career in archaeology by volunteering for local digs and excavation teams. There are many going on all the time, in local communities as well as internationally. Some courses are available for students over the summer. This may be a good idea before signing up for years of university training.

After completing a bachelor's degree in anthropology or archaeology students will need to go on to complete a master's degree in archaeology. This master's degree will allow them to direct field crews, work for private companies or for governments. It will also qualify them to teach at community colleges. However, in order to advance to more prestigious positions or to find a research/professor position at a university, a PhD in archaeology is required.

Students will learn at school whether or not they will be required to obtain a permit before starting work.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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