Careers in Archeology: More than Dust, Dirt, and Old Remains
Many people think of archeology as the science of past civilizations; the archeologist is perceived as the one who sifts through mountains of earth to find the truth about an ancient culture or who unearths buried skeletons of humans, animals, or who studies artifacts to determine how people lived in days gone by.
Archeologists do indeed work with history to discover the truth about humanity’s past, but the field has many other possibilities that you may not be aware of. If you like exploration, discovery, and solving puzzles, you might consider any of the following intriguing careers in archeology.
Forensic Archeology: Forensic archeologists work with modern law enforcement agencies to study crime scenes and uncover the truth about unsolved crimes. Such events could be recent or could involved ferreting out very old criminal trails—such as helping to locate the murderer of a victim whose decomposed remains has been unearthed by a local farmer.
Rescue Archeology: A rescue archeologist studies a geographic region to determine why certain natural disasters happen with a higher frequency in that area or to make recommendations about the construction of a major highway system, new power plant or other facility. The archeologists looks at historical data on natural events as well as current conditions that will contribute to the success or failure of a project.
Physical Archeology: This is a relatively new specialization of historical archeology; the physical archeologists tends to focus on particular groups of people rather than on civilization as a whole. This individual is trying to analyze changes in humanity over time, determining when and why a particular culture began experiencing particular diseases and changes.
Maritime Archeology: Maritime archeologists study old shipwrecks and the changes in watercraft from ancient times to the present. Since the bottom of the ocean does a great job of preserving artifacts, these studies provide valuable clues to the activities, developments, and values of ancient cultures.
Project Archeologist: This individual is a type of archeology manager. Responsibilities include supervising excavations, applying for grants and other funds, and writing reports on the activities and discoveries of an archeological team.
Archaeobotanist: The archaeobotanist studies plant remains from a historical site. His purpose is to determine what kinds of plants grew in the area and how they were used—whether it be for food, medicinal use or some other purpose. Additionally, the way a plant changed over time may tell the archeologist much about climate change and natural events.
Where does an archeologist work?
Archeologists can be found in a surprising variety of places; they are in high demand and few people pursue this fascinating career, so it shouldn't be difficult to find a job. The highest paid archeologists usually have graduate degrees. However, you would find an archeologist in any of the following fields or locations, just for starters.
- Museum: developing and updating displays from various historical sites or civilizations
- College or High school: teaching classes of budding archeologists
- National parks: conducting tours, monitoring protected sites and providing information to tourists.
- Government and private industry supported research labs such as development labs for pharmaceutical companies.
- Theaters: helping to design authentic scenery and backdrops for historical drama
- Zoo: while zoos typically display live animals, an archeologist plays an important role in designing animal friendly, authentic displays and in providing information to guests.