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The Breakdown

What kind of currency did the Incans use?  How did the ancient Romans prepare their meals?  What’s the meaning behind the relics found in King Tut’s tomb?  If these kinds of question leave you salivating, you might want to consider a major in archeology.

While archeology is definitely a discipline in its own right, it’s rare for most colleges to have an undergraduate archeology department.  Often times, if a school offers an archeology major, it’s through the anthropology department.  Of course, regardless of academic channels, as an archeology student you’ll learn about the origins and history of different peoples and civilizations.  Through close examination of evidence and artifacts, you will study how to reconstruct past social, political and economic systems.  Archeology is an interdisciplinary pursuit so you can expect to take classes in history, anthropology, classics, foreign language and even biology.  You’re also likely to study areas that span a huge geographic range, from the Near East to Egypt to the Americas.  And you will most certainly take classes in archeological methods and practices.    

Finally, most programs require you to attend a field school.  These can be run by your home university or another accredited program.  Field school grants you the opportunity to put your classroom knowledge to good use.  During this time, you’ll participate in an archeological dig, excavating, collecting data and analyzing your findings.  Even more exciting, there are field schools all over the world.  Indeed, you could work and study everywhere from a Native American reservation in Wisconsin to the Bolivian Andes.

If you want to excel in archeology, you should be a creative thinker who loves to solve a good mystery.  Moreover, you will find it’s quite helpful to be organized and detail oriented.  Further, you will need to be good at analyzing and synthesizing information.  And you should have a deep, abiding passion for digging around in the dirt! 


Nuts and Bolts

As an archeology student, you’ll learn all about other cultures with classes such as: Hunter and Gatherer Societies, Ancient Britain and Ireland, Archeology of Rome, The Ancient Greek World, Origins of Cities, History of Babylonian Language and Culture, Archeological Field Methods: Survey and Excavation, The Near East Bronze Age, Art and Architecture of Ancient America, Asian Gods and Goddesses, Ancient Aztec and Inca Civilizations, and Zooarcheology.

Decisions, Decisions

Archeology students are fascinated by the past, by human origins and by how cultures develop.  Therefore, they would also likely enjoy studying anthropology, sociology, art history, African studies, East Asian studies, history, Latin American studies, Middle Eastern studies, geology, classics, architecture and art/historic preservation.

What's Next

Those undergrads certain that their professional destiny lies with archeology should be prepared to enroll in graduate school.  Indeed, while you can land some entry-level fieldwork positions with a bachelor’s degree, most archeological jobs require a master’s degree if not a doctorate.  Of course, once you have acquired that coveted graduate degree, there are a plethora of places you could work.   To begin with, a number of archeologists seek out academic positions, teaching at colleges and universities.  These professors often conduct field research on the side.  Others might look for employment within museums.  This work usually entails a combination of research, presentations, exhibit preparation and artifact preservation.  The government also relies on the skills and talents of archeologists; you can find such individuals in places as diverse as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service.  The work frequently involves managing archeological sites on federal or state lands or surveying sites prior to a construction project.  Additionally, many archeologists also hold private sector jobs.  Working with engineering, environmental or consulting firms, these archeologists often conduct investigations to locate historic sites, help excavate existing sites and/or analyze the results and findings of said investigations.  Finally, you could also just spend your entire career searching for the Holy Grail.



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