By Madaline Harris-Schober
People always assume archaeology is a glamorous field, filled with glittering gold finds and adventurous escapades through hidden tombs… just like those of a famous movie persona, Indiana Jones. Whenever an archaeology student is asked, “what do you study?” the asker’s response is along the lines of “Indiana Jones!” or something to do with the movie ‘The Mummy’. Whilst it brings a smile to the faces of most aspiring archaeologists, these stereotypes could not be further from the truth.
Archaeology is anything but glamorous. Volunteering on excavations in order to gain practical experience has taught me that archaeology is more than just hard work, it’s messy… and painful (at times!). The before-sunrise wakeups followed by long walks, generally up hill lugging equipment, hit me the hardest on my first archaeological dig. Setting my alarm for 4.30am was not something I had become accustomed to having always been a student who would sign up for classes that started from midday onwards. There was dirt everywhere, in my hair, under my nails and even my eyebrows. One dig I was lucky enough to excavate on was held during the winter, it rained so much that my waterproof boots were deemed useless. Let’s not even mention the mud.
Just as Lara Tooby mentioned in a previous blog, archaeology has different meanings to different people. Which brings up the question: after all of the hard work to gain experience in the field, why do students stick to such a demanding discipline?
Archaeology is so much more than simply getting muddy and exhausted. The effort you put in definitely pays off. Being able to hold a piece of the past in your hands is an indescribable experience that overrides all the negatives.
After the initial shock of what practical archaeology truly was, I found myself and those around me embracing the experience.
However, I am still yet to walk through an Egyptian tomb and stumble across gold (or a crystal skull of sort). Maybe one day!