Archaeologists study human history by examining artifacts, which range from prehistoric tools and buildings to animal bones and tiny organisms. The aim of the role is to record, interpret and preserve archaeological remains for future generations.
Types of archaeology
- contract or commercial archaeology – working for a developer who is responsible for the cost and time involved in a project;
- research or academic archaeology – working on sites or survey projects over several months or years, subject to funding;
- public or community archaeology – work carried out by professional organisations but with public involvement;
- specialist archaeology – specialising in particular geographical areas, historical periods or types of object, such as pottery, coins or bones.
Employers of Archaeologists
- Professional and commercial developers
- University archaeological units
- Archaeological trusts
- survey sites using a variety of methods, including field walking, geophysical surveys and aerial photography;
- work on field excavations or digs, usually as part of a team, using a range of digging equipment;
- project manage an excavation, including managing teams of diggers;
- record sites using drawings, detailed notes and photography;
- analyse findings by grouping, identifying and classifying them;
- use computer applications, such as computer-aided design (CAD) and geographical information systems (GIS), to record and interpret finds, sites and landscapes;
- use computers to produce simulations of the way a building, site or artefact would have looked;
- clean and preserve finds;
- conduct laboratory tests, such as radiocarbon dating, and research and desk-based assessments of sites;
- check planning applications and identify any possible archaeological impact;
- provide advice on the conservation or recording of archaeological remains;
- ensure important buildings, monuments and sites are protected and preserved;
- produce and publish excavation and site reports;
- generate publicity materials and publish articles about research, site interpretations or excavations;
- give educational talks and presentations;
- assist in the curating and display of artefacts.
While academic qualifications are not always essential, you will usually need a degree in archaeology or a related subject such as ancient history, anthropology, conservation or heritage management to work as an archaeologist.
Archaeology is a broad subject linking with many others, such as geography, history and social sciences, and there are some specialisms where a science degree such as biology, botany, medicine, geology or environmental science may be more appropriate than a purely archaeological qualification.
- excellent communication skills and the ability to liaise effectively with a range of other professionals;
- flexibility and a willingness to keep up to date with developments in archaeology;
- a methodical and well-organised approach, with good attention to accuracy and detail;
- strong team work skills, particularly during fieldwork;
- an analytical and enquiring mind, with a keen interest in the past;
- self-motivation and focus;
- dexterity in using tools and instruments;
- organisation, negotiation and project management skills;
- patience and dedication;
- good IT skills and a willingness to keep up to date with technological developments.