Studies & Degrees in Archeology
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Archeology Study Programs
Perhaps, one of the major fields of studies that have explained a lot of historical mysteries is the field officially known as Archeology. The enigma of Egypt, the grandeur of Greece and the splendor of Rome were all revealed by archeology. Primarily, Archeology studies human cultures through unearthed historical remains of ancient structures, relics and artifacts, scrolls and biofacts among other things. From these unearthed items, more or less, a glimpse of how human beings lived during ancient times can be deduced. Although, it doesn’t promise solutions to modern woes like how to cure diseases like AIDS and cancer or how to achieve world peace but it has helped mankind restore the past and has brought cultural pride to the different indigenous cultures around the world.
A study of Archeology usually begins with surveying. Through the process of surveying, identifying sites to excavate became more systematic and cost effective. To identify potential sites, surveying techniques like a simple survey where manual combing of an area done with the use of augers, corers and shovels are employed, an aerial survey, a technique that has revealed buried structures accurately uses infrared and ground penetrating radar wavelengths and thermography, and geophysical survey where deviation in the Earth’s magnetic field caused by the artifacts themselves are widely used. Once the site has been identified, the next process is the excavation proper. This is the most expensive phase in any archeological activity because this is where the heavy equipments come in to remove tons of top soil. When unearthing relics and artifacts, it is necessary to record the actual coordinates of where an item was found (provenance or provenience in archeologist’s parlance). By doing this method, deducing what pieces goes together would be easier later on when stitching together the whole story. When the digging finally goes to a halt and the site has been exhausted of artifacts, the archeological team then starts a series of post-excavation analysis. This phase is the most time consuming. In fact, most publication of post-excavation analysis took years before the final report was published. The archeological team owe it to themselves to think very thoroughly because once published they can never retract it. A wrong conclusion and approach would surely ruin their reputation.
Archeology not only recreate and understand the past but in certain countries like Egypt, Greece and Italy, it has helped their economy quite grandly as their tourism industry is the envy of the world with regards to the amount of tourists visiting their countries. A robust tourism industry is just of one of the potential after-effects of discovering an archeological site. For the natives, it gives them a cultural identity and pride that their forefathers belonged to an advanced culture.
The field of Archeology is unarguably one of the most complex fields in human studies as there are just so many skills to be acquired. Deciphering scrolls of forgotten languages, preserving artifacts which require special techniques and carbon-dating to know exact age of relics are just among the few skills needed to get by in this field.
Job positions for Archeology:
Going inside the famous Louvre Museum, museum goers just can’t help but be in eternal awe with the timeless pieces of art to be found there like the Venus de Milo, the Victory of Samothrace and Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and a host of other artworks. Naturally, these priceless masterpieces did not go to the museum by themselves but were arranged for by somebody and that somebody is the Museum Curator.
The Museum Curators, especially if the museum is the Louvre in Paris or the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. or the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, would find that time come and go so fast because they would have a lot of responsibility in their hands administratively, academically and financially.
Administratively, the day-to-day affairs of the museum are the overall responsibility of all curators. Making sure that everything is in order is already a monumental task. It is necessary to make the museum always sparkling and shining before it officially opens for business. One source of income for the museum is from entrance fees collected and having a dirty museum would just drive the viewing public away. Since a lot of people is expected to come and view the museum’s priced exhibits, it is the Curator’s job to set a decorum of order for the museum’s special guests like restricting them from touching the art pieces or eating food during the guided tours. Security is perhaps the most important job a curator should always give emphasis to. The art pieces are considered priceless and so arranging necessary security measures like installation of an extremely thief deterrent system and hiring ushers are essential. Some museums doesn’t even put on display the genuine piece but instead put on an exact replica so that those who might be planning a heist would be disappointed in case they do pull off a fast one.
Academically, the Curator needs to showcase the art pieces in a way that a trip to the museum is an educational one. Usually, museums have tour guides who take care of informing the public the significance of just about anything the museum put up in display. Basically, museums are tied up with universities and research institutions. Curators have the power to plan and conduct special research projects sometimes on their own accord or sometimes in collusion with universities and research institutions.
On the financial aspect, Curators are the ones responsible informing the board of directors what’s happening with the museum’s financial soundness. Accounting every penny spent on researches, on repairs, on acquisitions, on personnel wages and on marketing activities to attract more museum goers should be presented in a clear and detailed manner. Usually, most museums get by through philanthropic donations and government appropriations and so there is really no pressure for museums to earn money and so detailed accounting is a necessary task if indeed they do depend on donations.
Museum Curators are indeed busy men and women. If they are not in the museum probably they are meeting with potential grant donors or private individuals who own priceless arts pleading them to loan their masterpieces for an exhibit in their museum, they are probably teaching at a university somewhere explaining the mummification process or the genius of Leonardo da Vinci. A lot of Curators are actually archeologists because more or less their experience from seeking out funds for research and knowledge in historical events make them perfect for the job.
In the movies, Archeologists are often depicted as an adventure-filled profession as quest for long lost treasures and mythological objects are always the theme. Perhaps, the most well-known fictional archeologist is Indiana Jones that guaranteed Harrison Ford a star in famed walk with the stars in Hollywood. In almost all the installments of Indiana Jones movies, there is always swash-buckling action, answering riddles that may mean death if a wrong answer is given and getting out of booby-trapped places. In real life however, Archeologists need not be a swash-buckling gigolo just to find a hidden treasure but it promises tons of adventure nevertheless.
Archeologists would be the experts when it comes to identifying unearthed relics and artifacts. Depending on what culture is the specialization of the archeologist, they can tell approximately what era a particular relic belongs to. For example, if the specialization of the archeologist is Chinese reliquary, and when somebody wants to know what era an item belongs to, the archeologist could more or less give an approximation that the relic belongs to let’s say to the Ming Dynasty based on the markings or whatever clues it may give as there is usually an inherent pattern or fad for every era.
One skill an Archeologist should possess is knowledge of ancient writings. This particular skill would be the handiest of all because interpretation of scripts found would give a clue to a possible explanation of what kind of society the ancient people were living. Not only that, sometimes it is a life-saver as some places have some kind warning and that opening or disturbing that particular place or item is hazardous as booby traps are in placed.
Archeologists can be compared to modern day forensics experts in a certain sense like when solving a crime, forensics experts looks at the evidences at hand and from there draw a picture on how the crime was orchestrated. Archeologists perform similar functions as they recreate what scenarios were happening thousands of years ago based from artifacts, art works and other clues. More or less a single item could tell how advanced an ancient civilization was. For example an iron shield was discovered and was carbon-dated and was found out that it existed during the time when bronze was the common material used by neighboring states. The shield alone can tell that indeed its users were more advanced as their technology in shield making was way ahead of their neighbors.
Another necessary skills Archeologist should know is how to preserve dug up artifacts and biofacts (like seeds and mummies). During excavations, it is of utmost importance that items to be found would not be destroyed due to mishandling. These items have been preserved through natural means so when an excavation team suddenly unearths them, a wisp of air could literally destroy them and so techniques in recovering these items are also a skill in itself.
Becoming an Archeologist is not an easy feat to accomplish. Interest in knowing the past should be an inherent passion together with an optimistic point of view towards success is needed as sometimes in an archeologist’s lifetime, an excavation project may not come at all.