Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What does an archaeologist do??

The other day I said to our niece "I have to go to work now" and she laughed. Usually her aunt mo and uncle yo just lie around, drink martinis, and watch bad movies when they visit (to be fair it is usually a holiday). I think that the thought of her aunt actually going to work was pretty amusing. I bet she wonders, as might most of you, what we actually do. We say that we are archaeologists, but when we aren't on a dig or teaching what does that mean? I thought it would be a good idea to explain what we do -- well I'll tell you what I do here in Toronto, Yo can post his own blog about what he does in Amman - sounds like a lot of martinis and lying around watching bad movies. Yo at Nai drinking martinis:I currently work on a field project in Greece. Usually in May and June I am in Greece working on the Early Bronze Age project of Keros (you can see earlier blogs for greater detail). This is an image of our transport to and from the site:Hopefully this coming season Yo will join the project as the ground stone specialist (I'll let him go into detail about ground stone etc...). I am interested in the archaeology of the Bronze Age Cyclades, but I am also interested in the looting that took place at the site in the 1960s and 1970s. This is an image of a looter's pit on Keros. My area of specialization is how countries legally protect their archaeological sites from looting. I am interested in whether or not laws work, how they work and why countries pick particular laws. I am also interested in why people loot sites, why people collect archaeological artifacts and how these practices effect archaeology. For my PhD I looked at antiquities laws in Israel and Palestine. In Israel you can buy and sell artifacts from pre-1978 collections. This a shop in Jerusalem:Palestine is currently writing their legislation and I was very interested in the process behind the writing. I spent a year living in the area talking and interviewing people about their involvement with the antiquities trade. Why am I telling you this? Because much of what I am doing now is writing articles based on the research from my dissertation. Why am I writing articles? Because that's how you get "known" and then maybe somebody or some institution will want to hire you.

So one thing we do is write articles, books, reviews and present the results of our research at conferences. Last week I finished an article called Legislative Legacies for a journal called the Jerusalem Quarterly. The article is about the laws in Palestine and their historical antecedents in the mandate and Ottoman periods. I spent a lot of time looking through archival material for information about the writing of the laws. A lot of detective work.

We also teach. I don't have much teaching experience, but I would like to get more. Yo has tons and has taught all kinds of courses at all kinds of universities and colleges. This past year I took 12 students to the site in Greece for a field school. Field school photo: At the excavation the students learned how to excavate, how to get up in the morning, how to interact with locals, how to socialize with famous archaeologists and how to "be" an archaeologist - all useful skills regardless of whether you end up an archaeologist. Dancing with ACR:Archaeology is definitely not for everyone, but generally everyone has to get up in the morning and go to work. Sorting the wet sieve material in the early morning:
While I am here in Toronto I am analyzing the results of my research from my 6 months in Jordan last year. I did a lot of interviews and I now need to look at all of the answers that people gave and look for themes and similarities, sort of like connecting the dots. I am also doing some more interviews while I am here, hopefully with people from the Royal Ontario Museum. During my poking around in the archives in Jerusalem I came across some information about artifacts that the ROM bought in the 1920s, so now I want to trace the information from the ROM angle. Why? Because it is useful for anthropologists and museum professionals to know about past museum acquisition policies in order to make improvements or change the way we acquire artifacts (not buying anything that is looted). The demand for artifacts from museums and individuals is what drives looting, so I am always chasing leads on what creates this demand. The new Michael Chin crystal at the ROM:
I also spend some days working on the Antiquities Market section of the Journal of Field Archaeology http://www.bu.edu/jfa/. I am a co-editor (with CML) and we have to badger people to submit articles for the journal or we have to edit articles.

I (along with CML) also work for Prof G, a lawyer from DePaul University on a project, which brought 35 middle eastern cultural heritage experts to Washington to discuss how they protect their cultural heritage.
I sometimes review World Heritage Site nominations for UNESCO http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1108. I am also working on developing some new projects - a co-authored book (with CML) on aspects of this research and a collaborative field project where another archaeologist (MSC) and I try to trace the pathway of looted artifacts from Jordan to Israel. A type of pot we are attempting to trace:
There are lots of other things we do - writing grant applications, applying for jobs, giving public lectures etc... but our real love is being out in the field and travelling. It is all about visiting far away places.

5 comments:

Sue said...

Please, oh please, don't let him go on about ground stone...

Mrs. Goodwrench said...

Go girl! Amazing! How do you know where to begin each day?

Yo, I can hardly wait for your account.

AmpiezzaDiVedute said...

I always wondered what you did... ;)

I love the picture of the Biblical Antiquities store in J-town. I saw that very place when I was there and May and thought that you had probably been all over that place! Hope all is well. AMP.

MMK and YMR said...

I am sure (?) that Yo will keep the ground stone chat to a minimum. Of course I didn't go in to the social side of archaeology, which as you all know is crucial. In fact I am going to get coffee with my archaeology pals right now . . .

Louise A. Hitchcock said...

Hey, what's wrong with drinking martini's? That's exactly what I do when I'm not digging too!

Louise