Have you ever watched an adventurous movie like Indiana Jones and wondered
who in their right mind would go into caves and mines to gather information?
A person who takes up such a task to study ancient culture is called an archaeologist.
Archaeologist is a person who studies ancient and recent human past through material remains. Archaeology is also a sub-field of anthropology, a study of all human culture. In pursuit of a broad and comprehensive understanding of human culture, an archaeologist analyses the million-year-old fossilized remains of our earliest ancestors.
He/she helps us understand not only where and when people lived on earth but also why and how they might have lived. They form opinions on the culture of the ancient people, the climate and environment in which they might have had lived in and the habits they had followed then.
Unlike history which depends primarily upon written record and documents to interpret great lives and events, an archaeologist helps us go back to a time when written languages didn’t exist.
There are many types of archaeologists. Some of them are:
Pre-historic archaeologist: He/she focus on past cultures that go back to the times when there was no written language and relies primarily on excavation or data recovery to procure cultural evidence.
Historical archaeologist: This type of archaeologist studies culture that existed (or still exist) during the period of recorded history. It involves analyzing the cultural patterns of our ancestors and understanding behaviours based on language and culture.
Classical archaeologist: A classical archaeologist focuses on ancient Greece and Rome and is often related to art history than anthropology. He/she also deals with what is known as biblical archaeology that aims at understanding the ancient teachings of the bible.
Underwater archaeologist: This type of archaeologist studies the physical remains of human activity that lie beneath the oceans, lakes, and rivers. This also includes maritime archaeology that studies shipwrecks and marine destructions to understand the construction of ships and marine vehicles
Qualities of an archaeologist
- Knowledge and interest in history:
The first step in becoming an archaeologist is a degree in archaeology. Although a degree in biology would be considered, a degree in archaeology is preferred. Earning a degree in archaeology will give you the in-depth knowledge you need to succeed in this field.
- Sense of Adventure:
An archaeologist’s job involves excavation or careful digging of soil for artefacts that forms a major part of their fieldwork. If/she has an eye for detail and observance it is an added advantage in this field of work.
- Project Management skills
An archaeologist must plan his excavation trips beforehand with permissions and travel plans curated for the entire team. He/She must cultivate the ability to work methodically but also be flexible with his crew and climatic conditions.
- Excellent Research Skills
efore, during and after the dig for artefacts, an archaeologist has to collect data about the archaeological site, record interviews and make notes of their observations. He/she must survey the site using GPS technologies and analyse the site completely.
- Interpretation of their findings/analysis
An archaeologist must input the data into his/her database and to use them for further analysis and interpretation. He/she then proceeds with the conservation process in a lab where all the data collected through excavation must be put through a conservation test. It involves cleaning and stabilising the materials collected for further analysis. A complete analysis must be done to trace patterns of culture, behaviour, and environment.
Now, let us look at a famous archaeologist and their notable work
The famous archaeologist known for the excavation and research of the Giza Pyramid Complex. Born in North Dakota in 1950, Mark Lehner is an American archaeologist with more than 30 years of experience excavating in Egypt. After acquiring his degree in archaeology, he moved on to become the director of Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA). His approach was to conduct an inter-disciplinary archaeological investigation. He examined every archaeological object from his findings to create an overall picture of an archaeological site.
His research methodologies included deep-testing, biological testing and in-depth analysis of archaeological materials, which are still followed by research centres.
One of his notable works includes the excavation and research of the Giza Pyramid Complex which mapped the ancient city of the builders of the Pyramid complex. His findings from the excavation showed the idea behind the construction of the pyramid, the lifestyle and environment conditions of the builders when the pyramid was built and also the cultural patterns of the ancient people who lived there.
Mark Lehner’s work continues to inspire young archaeologists and his methods of research are the most sought-after by centres today.