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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Archaeological Field Schools

Summer is almost upon us, and with it, my oldest son and I are expected to participate in some archaeological field schools.  These are often remote and rural digs, where one might be expected to camp, take cold (or no) showers, and use port-a-potties, cooking over campfires and being eaten alive by mosquitoes while working under the hot sun.

Oh joy.  Why they don’t offer such opportunities during the spring or fall is yet another lesson in the tenured classes torturing the newbies.

But about the time when I’m feeling picky about which excavation sites we might choose, I realize that the choice is not entirely ours.  In many ways, my son and I are the odd couple, a package deal that might not be tremendously appealing to excavation directors.  I am semi-overqualified, having long ago passed my university student days, and my son is under-qualified, weighing-in as more of a high school student with limited field experience.

Not everyone returns my e-mails.

When we suggest several days in a row that we might be available, directors demur and hesitantly tell us to come one morning at the crack of dawn for “training”.  We’re instructed to bring leather work gloves, bottles of water, a lunch, insect repellent, and kneeling pads.  I add our own items:  log book for director to sign-off on our hours, field notebook to record conditions, artifacts, and features uncovered, measuring tape, sunscreen, field hat, camera, cute bag.  Make that:  cute, big bag.

Our program of study leaves a lot up to us.  We can start in the lab, field, or survey.  I try to avoid filling out anything for a site requiring an archaeological field school application.  My son has no “special skills”, he has no outstanding field experience, and he is not “at least 16 years of age”.  Three strikes, we’re out.

The most prestigious groups state that they are “not accepting volunteer applications at this time”.  Gee, we’re volunteers, and now I’m getting the feeling of being the last kid to be picked for the sports team… and we’re both good at sports.  Maybe they’re waiting for us to pay them to take us-!  After all, the university students fork over in the area of $3,500 for a week-long field school—travel, accommodations, and food extra—while we’re getting “free” experience as slave laborers.

As it stands, half of our dance card is filled.  We’re getting some decent nibbles that may work to our advantage.  Being the big fish in the small pond is not all bad.  This way, we won’t become lost in the crowd of the better-known excavations.

For now, we’ll skip the roughing-it, remote locales, and give ourselves something to slowly work up to as we peel away the layers of civilization.



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2 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar hoonew says:

    Make sure you take precautions about lead exposure- some artifacts (such as glazes) have lead on them. I have an archeologist friend who used to bring home some of the artifacts and put them on her counter, and she believes she exposed her toddler to lead that way, in retrospect.

    • avatar admin says:

      Thanks, hoonew, that’s important to know! On the other hand, I think if we bring home anything, I’ll be writing this blog from jail…! That should be interesting to see if they wear gloves in the lab, as well as in the field. I’ll keep everyone posted. I’m not planning on touching any bones, I’ll tell you that. 🙂

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