Archaeologists study, record and interpret archaeological remains while they still exist. Their work is extremely varied and can be applied to a range of situations.
The work of an archaeologist
Depending on the specialist area, your work could include:
- Identifying possible sites using methods such as aerial photography, field-walking and surveying
- Taking part in excavations ('digs'), usually as part of a team
- Rrcording finds and sites using photography, detailed notes and drawings
- Identifying and classifying finds
- Cleaning and preserving finds in a laboratory
- Using laboratory analysis, for example carbon dating
- Using computers to produce simulations of the way a site or artefact would have looked
- Preserving industrial artefacts and buildings
- Checking planning applications and identifying the impact of development on archaeological sites
- Making sure important sites, buildings and monuments are protected and preserved
- Classifying, displaying and looking after artefacts in a museum.
You may also carry out research, write about your work for publication in books and journals or teach in universities, colleges or schools.
You are likely to specialise in a particular geographical area (for example Egyptology), period of history (such as Roman) or type of artefact (for example pottery).
Training to become an archaeologist
Most professional archaeologists have a degree and many have a postgraduate qualification. There are also BTEC, HND or foundation degrees in archaeology. You can do general degree courses in archaeology, as well as those specialising in different aspects of the work, such as:
- environmental archaeology
- human evolution
- forensic investigation
- archaeological science.
As competition for jobs is very strong, it is essential to gain some practical experience. Local and regional archaeological associations often have a programme of field activities that you could get involved in. See the Council for British Archaeology website for details of volunteering opportunities.