What does an undergraduate of archaeology need to know?
Now that’s a very big question...I would say that if you are going to study archaeology at undergraduate level then you do need to have a genuine fascination with the past. You need to know that you are curious about how people lived their lives and that you want to find out how you can explore that past. It obviously helps if you have studied history as this gives you a good background but really you just need to have curiosity, energy, patience and a willingness to study hard. If you know that you have all these then you’re well on your way.
What happened to King Tut that caused him to die?
It used to be thought that Tutankamum died as a result of falling off a chariot but recent investigations have shown that he was probably weakened by some inherited genetic problem (he did have a partially clubbed foot) and had also suffered from malaria. So despite being the pharaoh he was not in the best of health.
What is your favourite moment of archaeology ever?
That’s a difficult one. There have been lots of times when something fascinating has been discovered on one of my digs, special things like a bronze dagger, an amazing flint arrowhead or a Roman brooch. But to me the best moment was when I was doing an excavation with primary school kids in Shaftesbury, where I live. We were finding lots of medieval pottery, which was what we expected, but then one girl pulled out a long piece of flint. It was a Mesolithic (middle Stone Age) blade, and she was the first person to touch it for about 10,000 years. This took us all back to a time when bears and wolves roamed the forests - a really magical moment. She got on the front cover of our local paper too! We’re going back in the autumn to do more digging there with the school. Can’t wait! (I’ll let you know what we find) .
Hi, I have been doing some of my own research into the field of archaeology and have come across the term PYF. I was hoping you could give me some insight into what it means.
I have to say that I have never come across the term PYF in archaeology - and neither has anyone else I have talked to. If you look it up all that is suggested is either ‘Post Your Favourite’ or, the one I like from personal finance, ‘Pay Yourself First’. Where did you see or hear this?
Who were Christian Jurgensen Thomsen's students during the pioneering or speculative period?
I’m not sure what you mean by the ‘speculative period’ – Thomsen, a Danish archaeologist, was the first to divide up prehistory into three ages, of Stone, Bronze and Iron (the ‘Three Age System’). The best known people he taught and influenced were probably Worsaae, Hildebrand and Montelius, Jens Jacob Asmussen Worsaae succeeded Thomsen as Director of the National Museum of Denmark and was important in developing scientific archaeology. Bror Emil Hildebrand introduced the Three Age System into Sweden and Oscar Montelius was another Swedish archaeologist who went on to sub-divide Thomsen’s three ages and devise the idea of ‘seriation’, using objects to provide more accurate dating. So Thomsen had quite an effect on the developing science of archaeology.
Who was the first Roman emperor?
In Rome the Imperial period, which marked the end of Republican rule, ended in 27BC and the first Emperor, the new ruler of the Roman State, was Augustus (Octavian) who managed to stay in power for 40 years.
How do you calculate the year of swords or crowns?
The same as you calculate the age of any object, by comparing it to other examples that you know the date of. So, if you found a sword, you would first look to see what it was made of: if it was made of Bronze then it might be Bronze Age, if it was of iron then it might be Iron Age (or later). Then you would look to see if any swords like that had been found with a burial – as if they had then the skeleton might have been dated using radiocarbon dating. So the date for the skeleton would give you a date for the sword that was found with it. So it’s a mixture of comparing and using science.
I was wondering if you have dug up any weapons or toys used by people in Mesopotamia?
Sorry Austin but most of my digging has been done in Britain (with a bit in Norway) so I haven’t ever found anything Mesopotamian.
How do you think dinosaurs became extinct ?
Sorry Emma this is one for a palaeontologist not an archaeologist! Archaeologists deal with human history which goes back at the very most 3 million years and the dinosaurs died out over 60 million years before that.
I have been watching a lot of documentaries, and is there actually a chance that humans have lived with dinosaurs?
I am not sure what sort of 'documentaries' you have been watching, it wasn't the Flintstones was it? I'm afraid there is no chance that humans ever lived with dinosaurs. The dinosaurs died out about 65 million years ago and the first humans didn't appear for another 62 million years.
I'm currently in high school and would like to pursue a career as an archaeologist, however we are not exposed to it at school. How do I go about doing this?
As you are already 17, you a bit too old to be a member of a Young Archaeologists' Club. However, if you live in the UK and there's one near you, you could get involved as a young leader.
But apart from this there may be opportunities to volunteer through your local museum or local archaeological society. There is nothing like getting hands-on experience, either by handling real finds or by taking part in fieldwork and excavation. If you're in southern England you could try some of our courses at WAFA our field school in Dorset (www.wafa.org.uk) Good luck!
What's the best thing you have dug up?
When people ask me this question it's always a difficult one to answer! Probably the best single object I have ever found as a bronze dagger from about 1500BC that came from a round barrow I was digging in Berkshire about 40 years ago.
But for the information that it provided, then the pit that I dug near Stonehenge about 30 years ago has really to be the best. It was full of animal bones, flint tools and pottery – the remains of a huge feast that took place about 6,000 years ago and told me so much about a time when hunter-gatherers were becoming farmers – at the beginning of the Neolithic. This is a fascinating time and the contents of this pit, just rubbing really, gave me a window into their world.
Why did Egyptians mummify the dead?
Like many societies, the ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife, and that when someone died they would go on to another world. But they also believed that to have an afterlife in this next world the dead person would have to re-possess their body, a body which needed to be recognisable. So this is why they mummified their dead, to preserve the body in this recognisable state.
On this basis the Egyptian afterlife would have been inhabited only by rich people, the only ones who could afford to be mummified!
When did the world start?
This isn't really an archaeology question. If you believe the 'Big Bang Theory' (the science not the TV programme!) then our universe came into being between 10 and 20 billion years ago. So that's quite a long time before the Earth cooled down and humans appeared (which happened about 3 million years ago).
Is it true that the word hieroglyphics means 'sacred writing' in ancient Greek, and why did people lose the ability to write hieroglyphs?
You are sort of right, Justin, 'hieroglyphics' means 'God's writing' in Egyptian. I don't think that people lost the ability to write hieroglyphs, they were used from around 3000 BC until about AD 400, but then simply went out of use.
Is it easy to find a well-paid at least properly paid job in archaeology today? Whether in a museum or in the field?
It depends what you mean by 'well-paid'... There are properly paid jobs in archaeology, both in the field and in museums, but there are not that many, especially in museums. If you go into field archaeology then this will usually be with a commercial organisation, one of the many, of different sizes, that carry out the work in advance of development schemes. Here you will have to be prepared to start at the bottom which, although pay and conditions are now reasonable, often means short contracts and being willing to move around the country to where the work is taking place.
We are writing explanation texts about how to do an archaeological dig and we would love to know your best tip! Thank you!
From the Lower School children at Cove Junior School
I'm sorry that this is a bit late but I have been away in Austria putting together an exhibition about Stonehenge – there is a connection!
You asked about a good tip on how to do an archaeological dig. I would say 'carefully' is one of my best tips! You also need to make sure that everything is recorded as well as it can be while you are doing it. If you excavate a site then you are destroying it just as much as someone would if they came along with a bulldozer. The difference is that, as an archaeologist, you record what you are removing, with notes, photographs and drawings, as well as the finds and samples of soil etc, so that you can reconstruct the site later. It's all these records and finds that form the evidence for the archaeological reports that should be written after the dig.
The ideal way to preserve an archaeological site is for it to stay in the ground, but if that isn't possible then digging it and recording it is the next best thing - and what archaeologists call 'preservation by record'. So, if you're going to dig anything then make sure you record it properly and write your report as soon as you can after the dig is over.
Is finding artefacts often hard?
It depends on what artefacts you are looking for and where you are looking for them. Some are tiny (like Mesolithic microliths) so we have to sieve the soil to make sure we don’t miss them. Others are just difficult to see - some prehistoric pottery looks exactly like dried mud (or dog biscuits) so when you’re digging in mud it can be difficult to spot. I have found that small children are very good at spotting finds – especially the tiny objects - perhaps because their eyes are better and they are closer to the ground. For me it gets harder as I get older and need glasses - which steam up when it’s raining. Very annoying!
Were the Scythians important people?
I’m not trying to get out of the answering the question (honest!) but I’m not sure how you define ‘important’. The Scythians were a nomadic people who, in the Iron Age were very successful as traders, were the first people to master mounted warfare and ended up with a vast empire that stretched from China to Siberia. So I suppose that they were important. But they are just one part of the history of the world which is a story of kingdoms and empires, of warfare and trade, of the rise and fall of cultures and civilisations. But I’m sure that those people who study the Scythians would argue that they are the most important people in history.
Is the Trojan horse a myth?
It’s a story, and a very good one, but we have no way of telling whether or not it was based on facts.
How did the Jurassic end?
Sorry but this is not a question for an archaeologist – archaeologists study human history which even at the very earliest stretches back to about 2 million years ago. The Jurassic period ended about 145 million years ago so there is a bit of a gap! This is a really a question for a palaeontologist. There's a great club for young geologists and palaeontologists called Rockwatch (www.rockwatch.org.uk) who may be able to help.
Why did the Romans capture Boudicca and her tribe?
The Romans did not capture Boudicca following her defeat after leading a revolt against them. It is not certain whether she killed herself to avoid capture or simply died. But, as you probably know, before her defeat she led a major revolt against the Romans, leading her tribe, the Iceni and also the Trinovantes, destroying Camulodunum (Colchester), Londinium (London) and Verulamium (St Albans). Boudicca has become a sort of British folk heroine, treated inhumanely by the ‘civilised’ Romans and standing up for herself, her tribe and the Britons (you may gather that I don’t like the Romans ...)
Why are old things sooo important?
Not all old things are important. A Roman coin that is found in an excavation so we know exactly where it came from could be very important in helping to date a building or a particular event. But if that same coin was dug up in field and the person who found it did not record where it was found or what depth it came from then it would not be important at all - it would just be another Roman coin. Old things are important and valuable for what they can tell us - they are the clues to understanding the past and what people were doing in the past.
My question is, how long have you been an archaeologist?
That’s an easy one to answer! I went on my first dig in my home town of Nottingham in 1970 - so I have been an archaeologist for 46 years. That means I must almost be an old relic myself...
I live near Chichester in West Sussex. What Stone Age or Iron Age or Bronze Age stuff has been found near here?
Alex Dipple (7)
That is a very big question.... What you need to do is to get someone to help you look on something called ‘Pastscape’, which is a great website that will give you the sort of information that you are asking about. Also Chichester District Council has its own record, called a Historic Environment Record (or HER), which you can also look up and will tell you about what is in your area. I know that you will find a lot! Good luck...
Have you ever found a mummy?
No, I have never found a mummy because I have never dug in Egypt or anywhere where mummified remains have been found, usually very hot dry places. In this country there are suggestions that some prehistoric burials are actually mummies where bodies were wrapped up and kept for quite a long time before they were buried but I have never found one of those.
Can you please tell me something about typology method in archaeology?
Typology is the study of ‘types’ .To put it simply, it’s a way of dividing ‘things’ (in the case of archaeology usually small objects like pots or flint tools or weapons) into different groups according to their physical characteristics. So you might start off with a simple pot, which could then at a later date be made the same but have some decoration applied and then in the next stage might have handles added. This would be a ‘typology’ - showing how the shape of that pot had developed over time and you would describe these as Type 1 (plain), Type 2 (decorated) and Type 3 (decorated with handles). I hope that this explains the idea!
Why did Mount Vesuvius erupt?
I presume that you are asking about the famous eruption of AD 79 which buried the city of Pompeii under layers of ash, creating an amazing time capsule of Roman life that archaeologists are still exploring today.
We know that Vesuvius, which is an active volcano, has erupted at least 42 times and will probably erupt again in the future. Volcanoes erupt when the pressure from lava (the molten rock that is forced up from the earth’s core) builds up and either flows out like rivers of molten rock or causes a huge explosion. It’s a bit like shaking a bottle of fizzy drink (which builds up the pressure) and then taking the cap off....
What things do you most often find on your digs?
Grace Rawlinson (7)
It depends on the date of the site that you are digging and also what type of site it is. If it’s a Neolithic (late Stone Age) site, and especially one around where I live in Dorset, then the most common find is going to be pieces of worked flint. But in the medieval chapel that we are using as our training dig in the summer we find more pieces of pottery and fragments of human bones than anything else. I suppose of you count them up then over the years I have found more flints than anything else.
What skills do you need to be an archaeologist?
I’m not sure if you would class these as skills but the two things that I think you need to be an archaeologist are to be nosy, to want to find out the answer to questions, and also to be patient - not something that young people always find easy!
You should always be asking questions and then trying to find the evidence to answer those questions - that's the being nosy! Being patient helps as digging is a slow and careful process and the work needed after you have finished the dig, to study the finds and write reports, will take much longer than the dig itself. And it’s also good to be organised!
How does skin disappear from human remains?
What a pleasant subject! Most of the time when we finds the remains of a person who died a long time ago all we will find is the skeleton, the bones and teeth that are the framework of our bodies. What will usually have decayed and disappeared is what is known as the soft tissue, the skin, the muscles and fat that make up much of our body. They disappear because of the action of chemicals that naturally occur in our bodies and because of bacteria.
Do you like being an archaeologist? What is the best thing about it?
Of course I like being an archaeologist! I’ve been doing it all my life (first dig in 1970.....) and the best thing, which still makes me excited, is the sense of discovery, digging up clues like pottery, bones and flint tools that tell the story about what people were doing in the past. I also love the teaching and explaining side of it – particularly digging with school children when I can explain how to do it properly and also share in the excitement of making finds. It’s just like being an explorer, except rather than going and exploring remote countries, you’re exploring the past.
In your opinion, what would you say is the worst part of being an archaeologist?
The worst (and really the only bad) part of being an archaeologist is having to deal with the weather. If it’s good then everyone is happy, you can get on with digging and recording easily and it’s great to be able to sit outside at tea breaks. If it’s cold and wet and windy than you’re always worried about damaging the archaeology and it just makes everything much more difficult when you, the tools, the vehicles and all the records are covered in mud. And you can’t dig a flooded site!
How long has Greenland been known?
We know people have lived on Greenland for at least 4,500 years but it was probably known about long before that. The first Greenlanders were Arctic peoples from the land we now call Canada. But they probably would not have lived there all of the time. It is a very cold place, and there were probably times when it was too cold even for Arctic people. We do know that in 986 a Viking called Eric the Red led a group of Vikings from Iceland to live in Greenland. This seems a bit mean, telling his followers that they were going to a ‘Green Land’ when a lot of it is covered in snow and ice! In the end the Vikings abandoned Greenland after having lived there for about 500 years.
How did Rome end?
Toby, Age 11
This is a difficult one for me. As a prehistorian, it is my belief that civilisation in Britain ended with the arrival of the Romans in AD 43 so I’ve never thought much about how Rome ended!! But fortunately I have a friend who likes the Romans, Mark Corney, who you may have seen on Time Team, so I asked him and he replied...
"By around AD 400 the Roman Empire was being hard pressed by Barbarian tribes from beyond the frontiers and Roman control of the western provinces became difficult. In AD 410 the Visigoths (a barbarian tribe) captured Rome led by their chief Alaric. Although this was a serious blow, the Roman Empire in the west continued until AD 476 when the last western emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was overthrown. By this time the provinces of Britain, France, Spain and North Africa had been lost.
However in the eastern part of the Empire, Roman rule continued from Constantinople (modern Istanbul in Turkey). This eventually became known as the Byzantine Empire and lasted until 1453 when Constantinople was captured by the Ottoman Turks."
I couldn’t have put it better myself!
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When on a dig, what is the atmosphere like when the first artefact is recovered?
Abigail Waller (13)
It all depends on the type of site that’s being dug and also on what that first artefact is. It’s always nice when you actually start finding something that is of the ‘right’ date, in other words from the time that you thought your site dated to. So this can be a worked flint, a Roman coin or a 100-year-old iron nail.
I recently worked on a church dig, and one of the diggers, Ed, got really excited when he showed me the first bit of medieval pottery! And one of our younger school diggers last year was thrilled when he found a nail from a First World War wooden hut (we were looking for a First World War Horse Hospital).
Basically all archaeologists, young and old, like finding things so an exciting find can cheer everyone up.
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What tools do archaeologists use?
Everyone thinks that archaeologists just use trowels and toothbrushes and larger tools like pickaxes and shovels when they are exploring a site, but these days there are lot of tools and equipment that we can use to help us explore the past.
We use geophysical survey to find out what lies below the surface and machines to remove the soil before we start digging by hand.
We use GPS (Global Positioning Systems) to help us make quick and accurate plans of our sites and digital scanning to record the fine detail of what we have dug up.
All of these things make excavation and recording much quicker and more accurate but really the tool that we rely on most and without which there would be no archaeology, is the computer in our head - our amazing brain. This is what make sense of all the information that comes out of an excavation and with imagination helps us to tell the story of what was going on in the past.
What is the best and most exciting object you have ever discovered?
Jalil, Age 8
That's a really difficult question as I have now been digging for 45 years (!) and in that time I've been lucky enough to find lots of exciting objects from all sorts of ancient times. I suppose if I had to pick just one it would probably be a Bronze Age dagger that I found in a burial in Berkshire in 1978. It was so well preserved that it even had parts of its wooden handle and remains of the wooden scabbard. Amazing to think that this was what a prehistoric man had chosen to take with him to the next world.
Is it good to do work experience in a museum even if it's not an archaeology museum? What type of work experience did you do?
Aiyesha, Age 14
I would always say that getting some work experience is a good idea – the key thing is that it’s experience of work, which is very different from school or college. Museums are ideal as working in one, even if it’s not an archaeology museum, will give you a good idea of how objects are catalogued, conserved, stored and displayed. All very useful if you want to go into archaeology. But really there are all sorts of skills that are useful in the world of modern archaeology – on my last dig I had to do anything from hiring machinery to photography and making the tea (I'm not bad at that).
I didn’t really do any work experience as I am so old that we didn’t do this sort of thing when I was at school. So apart from random holiday jobs (postman, filing clerk, shelving builder, road sign painter, fire escape erector) I just started digging when I left school and have been doing archaeology ever since. I hope that this helps!
What kind of kit do you need to be an archaeologist?
Jack Evans, Age 10
You don’t really need much kit to get started in archaeology. It’s important if you are going digging to wear the right clothes - nothing that you’re bothered about getting dirty - take waterproofs and a sun hat (you never know what the weather is going to be like) and solid shoes are important. Apart from that you will need a trowel (which most digs will be able to lend you) but if you want to get your own then it needs to be a short and solid one, not a bendy springy one. I would always suggest taking a notebook so that you can write down what you’ve been doing and learnt and a camera to take your own photos. But apart from those what you will really need is enthusiasm and a willingness to work hard. And don’t forget to ask lots of questions - it’s the best way to learn. See you on a dig some time!
How 'old' does a structure or hedge need to be, to leave a visible trace or 'ghost' line visible today?
A structure doesn’t need to be very old at all before it leaves a visible trace on the landscape. That’s why archaeologists need to be very careful when deciding what these traces represent. A line seen from the air crossing a field could be a prehistoric boundary ditch or a modern pipe trench and even things like the spot where a modern circular cattle feeder has stood can for a while leave a mark that looks very like a ploughed down Bronze Age round barrow. Getting that view from above is very important for helping to understand landscapes but it’s also important to know what has been going on in recent years – from maps and from talking to local farmers. So beware jumping to conclusions!
How do you date the objects that you find?
Elsie, Age 9
Sometimes we date objects just by looking at them. Things like pots are very good for this as the sort of clay that they are made of, as well as the way that they are made, their shape and the ways that they are decorated, all change with time.
It’s the same with lots of other objects like flint tools, or brooches and weapons, they also all change through time.
But we can also use science to date objects. Anything that has once been living, like wood or charcoal, bone or deer antler can be carbon dated which will tell you roughly how long it is since that living thing (tree or animal or person) died. Pickaxes made from deer antler, used to dig ditches and pit before metal was used, are very good for dating prehistoric sites like Stonehenge.
Have you ever found any gold and if you have how much was it worth?
Piper, Age 12
No, I have never found any gold myself - possibly something to do with spending a lot of time digging Neolithic sites (Stone Age - before any metals were used!) and I’ve only directed one site, an Iron Age settlement near Cirencester, where someone found a stater, a beautiful Iron Age gold coin. As far as how much something is worth, archaeologists aren’t bothered about that, it’s more to do with the historical value rather than the money value – what an object can tell us rather than how much it would fetch if it was sold.
Can you compare and contrast the Bronze and Iron Ages. How are they alike?
Kiyla Hill, Age 12
Oh this sounds like one of the questions I had to answer a long time ago when I last took exams – ‘compare and contrast’...!
In some ways they are similar and one is the logical follow on from the other, but the really important difference is what happens at the end of the Neolithic (the Stone Age) when the first metals, not bronze to start with but copper and gold, started to be used. Because this marked a change in how people were buried, those ‘Beaker’ burials with nice pots, metal and lovely flint arrowheads (like the Amesbury Archer from near Stonehenge) and the end of people building huge monuments together, like henges and Silbury Hill. It was the beginning of individuals having real wealth and showing it.
In some ways the next big change happens in the middle of the Bronze Age when we can see start to evidence of farming landscapes appearing in many areas, with fields and boundaries and recognisable settlements (‘villages’), making patterns in the landscape which carry on right through the Bronze Age and Iron Age and are still there through the Roman period.
If there are differences then I suppose that you could say that by the end of the Iron Age there is a more ’tribal’ society with groups of people who see themselves as being different from others. In Dorset I live in the tribal territory of the Durotriges. And there is clearly a hierarchy – the equivalent of our old class divisions, in other words a society with a few people at the top who have wealth and power and who show it by living in hillforts and having luxurious possessions, some imported from the Roman Empire.
One really important thing to remember is that change didn’t happen overnight. People didn’t wake up one morning and go "we’d better get rid of those old fashioned Bronze tools – we’re living in the Iron Age now". Changes took place gradually and in some ways the effects of new materials like iron were not as important as changes in society. These had more to do with the ways people organised themselves, created identities for themselves and the groups they lived in and even with their beliefs.
I hope that this hasn’t confused you but it’s a big and complicated question!
Is archaeology fun?
What a daft question....of course it’s fun! What could be more fun than spending time outdoors with a bunch of friends digging in the soil and finding fascinating artefacts? Yes OK, it’s serious subject but you can also have a lot of fun doing it and listening to the strange ideas that some people have about what they are digging up. Archaeology is a place for people with energy and imagination - so get stuck in!
What types of evidence do archaeologists use?
Abraham, Age 12
Archaeologists aren’t fussy, they use any evidence that they can get their hands on.
Even before you start to dig there is the evidence from earthworks, the humps and bumps that show where people dug ditches and built mounds, the evidence from aerial photographs that show sites in crops and ploughed fields and then of course all the wonderful information that comes from geophysical survey (not ‘geofizz’ to me!) which sees through the soil to the archaeology buried below.
And then when we do dig there’s the evidence from the finds, the flints and pottery and metal and bone which can provide evidence of date and of how people traded, what they ate and cooked in and also sometimes what they believed in.
But what has changed so much in the time that I have been an archaeologist is how much evidence comes from science, from analysing finds to see what they are made of and where they have come from. Tiny bits of bones can be radiocarbon dated and isotopes in them can tell if a person or an animal was local or came from a long distance away. We can sometimes tell if flints were used for slicing vegetables and what sort of food was cooked in certain sorts of pots – amazing how much we can now tell about the way our ancestors lived.
And don’t forget environmental evidence, from snails, pollen, seeds and insects buried in ancient soils that can paint a picture of what the landscape was like hundreds or thousands of years ago.
We are so lucky that there are so many types of evidence that we can use and they’re getting more and more exciting as time goes on.
Can you list all of the objects that archaeologists may find?
Karuna, age 19
Probably not as it would be a very, very long list! Basically if it has been made then we should be able to find it given the right preservation conditions in the ground. So things like stone and pottery and glass generally survive well, but of the metals only gold comes out of the ground looking like it did when it was buried. Other metals like copper and iron will corrode and may disappear completely in acid soils. It's the same with bone which survives well in chalk (alkaline) but is eaten away by some clays or sands (acidic).
As far as organic remains like wood or leather and textile are concerned, then these will only survive in waterlogged soils or in peat where there are 'anaerobic' conditions in which the things that cause decay can't operate. The exception is when things are burnt so charcoal (burnt wood) generally survives well. I have actually held a charred 1000 year old Anglo-Saxon bread roll which was found in Suffolk in the remains of a burnt down house.
My personal finds list goes from A for alembic (medieval pottery distilling vessel) to Y for Y-shaped tool (small Neolithic flint axe). I have not yet found a buried Zebra!
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My question is what should I be doing now if I want to be an archaeologist?
Ben Broadbent, Age 15
I'm glad to hear that you want to be an archaeologist, Ben - even though you do like the Romans!
As far as academic qualifications are concerned then just do the very best you can and bear in mind that history is a useful subject at A level as it teaches you the sort of research skills that will undoubtedly come in useful as an archaeologist. But apart from this I would encourage you to get involved in archaeology in whatever practical way you can. I assume that you are a member of your local YAC club, but also find out about your local archaeological societies and museums, see if they have active groups that are doing fieldwork or excavation and get some hands on experience.
Your museum may have opportunities for helping to process and catalogue finds - all very useful and may help you to decide which branch of archaeology you want to go into. We have just started a field school down here in Dorset to give people of all ages this sort of experience (www.wafa.og.uk) and you may have something similar in your part of the country.
Good luck - I expect to meet you on a dig at some time in the future!
How much does an archaeologist earn per month?
Tshedza Maradwa, Age 13
The answer is probably ‘not enough’ ... but, as with any profession, earnings vary according to experience and qualifications. If you want to get an idea of what earnings are like then have a look at the British Archaeological Jobs Register website which advertises everything from site assistants (‘diggers’) to heads of large archaeological teams. Like lots of archaeologists of my generation I became an archaeologist not for the money but because it was something that I believed in, and still do. My first full time job after leaving university paid me £30 a week - and even in 1975 that wasn’t very much - so things have got a lot better since then!
With all the new technology do you think that some day there will be no need for archaeologists to do hands on digging? I hope not!
Aimee Baumanis, Age 9
I don’t know as I have seen so many changes to technology like geophysical survey in the (very) long time I have worked in archaeology that nothing would surprise me. But I don’t really think that there will ever be a time when archaeologists don’t have to dig as even if we can ‘see’ into sites there will still be the need to recover artefacts and samples for dating and other sorts of analysis. I do wonder if in the future we will be able to carbon date samples on site. That would be amazing!
What's your favourite part of Stonehenge?
Elizabeth Allen, Age 9
My favourite part of Stonehenge is the outer circle of huge sarsens as it is such an amazing structure. Not only have those massive stones been moved over 20 miles from North Wiltshire, but they are shaped, they have huge gently curved lintels (the ones that sit on top) and they have even been carefully placed so that the top of the circle is level. And all this 4,500 years ago with any metal tools or wheels. Even if this circle was all that was there, then I am sure that Stonehenge would still be world famous and visited by millions of people.
Who is the most famous archaeologist in the world?
Seth Jackson, Age 6
That’s a difficult one..... there are lots of famous archaeologists, some famous because of the great discoveries that they have made and some famous as they have been on television a lot. I expect that some people in Britain might say that Phil Harding is the most famous but I am going to go with someone else who wears a hat - Indiana Jones!
What is the oldest known fossil?
Noah Jackson, Age 6
The oldest fossil in the world is a smelly little microbe that was found in Australia - and this is 3.5 billion years old. But archaeologists are interested in humans and the oldest human fossil, one of our very early ancestors, is a jawbone and some teeth that were found in Ethiopia which are 2.8 million years old. So this is a fossil of part of one of our earliest human ancestors.
How does archaeology help show us what women’s lives were like before we had (many) written records?
Dorothy Hakim, age 16
I’m going to stick to prehistory here. This is a difficult one to answer as without written records we cannot be certain of which roles within society were regarded as being women’s or men’s. We do need to get away from the idea that men built things and hunted while women stayed at home in a domestic role, tending flocks and cooking. Pottery production and flint knapping could equally well have been carried out by women and ethnographic evidence tends to suggests that in some societies women actually do most of the work while the men lounge around being important.
One area where we can see equality and the importance of women is in the burial record where skeletal evidence from early Neolithic long barrows like West Kennet shows a mixture of men and women, young and old. So not a male dominated society. And, t the other end of prehistory, from personal experience of helping to excavate an Iron Age ‘chariot’ burial at Wetwang in Yorkshire, I think a lot of people were surprised to find that the person buried with the elaborately decorated cart was a woman.
I need to think about this one a bit more!