Have you ever wondered what the citizens of ancient civilizations did on a daily basis? Are you curious about the way their societies functioned? Do you love to decipher the meanings behind works of art or pieces of literature? If this sounds like you, then maybe you should consider looking into a career in archaeology. But, what exactly is archaeology?
Archaeology is actually a subfield of anthropology. Anthropology, the scientific study of humankind, has four main sub-disciplines: Biological Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, Linguistics, and Archaeology. Biological anthropologists focus on the biology of human beings, their origins, and their relationship to other animals. Cultural anthropologists study social structures and cultural development of civilizations. Linguists study the structure and practice of different languages, the origins of language, and the relationship of languages to one another. And, finally, archaeologists study prehistoric or ancient civilizations.
In other words, many anthropologists, and archaeologists alike, focus on studying the biology of human beings, their social structures, and their cultural development. However, the main difference between anthropologists and archaeologists, however, is that while anthropologists concentrate on present-day societies, archaeologists analyze prehistoric or ancient civilizations.
For the most part, archaeologists use historical and literary texts to search for and excavate locations where they know or believe that ancient civilizations may have flourished. Old buildings, artifacts, and other remains that are found at these sites are then further examined by archaeologists and their crew members in order to gain more insight on the civilizations they are studying as whole and the individuals who lived within these societies.
Although archaeological work can certainly be both interesting and fun, becoming an archaeologist demands an intense and prolonged study of anthropological material and a great deal of field experience. In addition to a Bachelor of Arts degree, typically in Anthropology or a related field, individuals who wish to become archaeologists are also generally required to complete graduate coursework in their specialization. Graduate work usually includes a great deal of research which requires students to spend ample time in the libraries pouring over historical and literal texts that relate to the civilizations or locations which they are studying.
In many cases, fieldwork is also required of individuals who wish to become archaeologists. Fieldwork allows archaeological students to gain hands-on experience working with dig sites and artifacts. Both undergraduate and graduate archaeology students are often given the opportunity to sign up for internships on dig-sites that will allow them to view firsthand just how archaeological digs are conducted. Because a great deal of the materials excavated from these dig sites are extremely old and fragile, students are encouraged to garner a deep understanding of how these artifacts and their surroundings should be treated: with care and respect.
Although there are some archeologists who have only attained post-graduate degrees, often the most well-respected archaeologists commonly boast Post Doctoral degrees as well. These individuals will usually lead entire teams of excavators and other archaeologists at dig sites. As you can imagine, with the great amount of degree-related coursework and historical study required to become an archaeologist, many of these individuals are considered intellectuals and academics.
Overall, archeology is a well-respected and fascinating career. While many individuals pursuing a career in archaeology might, at first, be attracted simply because of their love of history; many archaeology students quickly find that this field is saturated with diverse and interconnected subjects, including biological and social sciences. While the bulk of archaeological work centers on the analysis of historically significant artifacts, many archaeologists focus their work on studying the languages, art, food, or other cultural traditions of specific ancient populations.