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21st Century Careers in Archaeology

July 27, 2011

So what is it that archaeologists do in the new millennium?  What are the career opportunities in archaeology today?  Check out the special issue of Society for American Archaeology’s monthly publication The Archaeological Record to find out.  This special issue contains 12 personal accounts of careers in archaeology that show how the field involves a lot more than just digging holes.  Read about archaeologists involved in work with the Federal government, community based projects, collaboration with educators in public schools, in the virtual world, and much more.

When I returned to school in 1985 as a nontraditional 30-something undergraduate I first registered for a course in physical anthropology and decided that was what I wanted to be when I grew up.  The next quarter I took Introduction to Cultural Anthropology and decided ethnography would be my future.  The next quarter was linguistics and I once again pondered a different career direction.  Then I took Introduction to Archaeology and realized that this subfield of Anthropology allowed me to merge all of my research interests.  I was thoroughly caught up in the interdisciplinary work of Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus in Early Mesoamerican Village, The Cloud People and more.  Then, I distinctly recollect that after my first field experience in 1986, I was newly committed to excavation and artifact analysis.

Fast forward some 25 years and I have not dug a whole lot more than a few shovel test probes in the last couple of years but the same excitement for archaeology I had in the 1980s continues in my work as the director of C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa and when teaching in the Museum Studies program and the Anthropology Department at the University of Memphis.  My career has certainly not taken me where I thought it would back then.  But I realize the end result is much more meaningful.

As reflected in the 12 personal stories in the special issue of The Archaeological Record, I also have found that the new career opportunities in archaeology speak to the discipline’s relevance in today’s culture not simply as a source of curiosity and speculation but as a means for engaging the public in a discussion of our culture’s future.

How has your archaeological career evolved over the years?

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