You’re studying archaeology? You’re just like Indiana Jones!

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!

INTRODUCING OUR KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Dr Ernst Pernicka

By Madaline Harris-Schober and Annabel Livingstone

Our keynote speaker for 2016 is Professor Ernst Pernicka from Heidelberg University. Head of the the CEZ Archaeometrie laboratory, Ernst has been working on radiocarbon dating, authenticity, provenance and isotope analysis in archaeology and objects of the cultural heritage for some forty years.

Notably, Ernst has excavated at the ancient citadel of Troy, in the northwestern Anatolian province of Çanakkale, from 2005-2012. His work at during these seven years at the famed site has provided insight into the world of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War.

In 2015 Ernst and his laboratory team presented new research results regarding Early Bronze Age chronology in collaboration with Heidelberg Academy of Science, and Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History researchers. This work has shed new light on the Early Bronze Age period in Central Europe.

He and his team have introduced new isotope systems in provenance analysis of metals, like osmium isotope ratios for iron, tin isotope ratios for tin and bronze and currently they work on silver isotope ratios for the provenance of gold.

In his institute the methods developed and the experience and data acquired are also used for authenticity tests for all kinds of materials. For base metals they have developed the unique test with Pb-210 which was also applied in the investigation of the famous Sky Disc of Nebra. Currently they work on the U/Th-He method for dating gold.

Having worked with scholars such as Philipp Stockhammer, of Heidelberg University, Ernst is a well-known scholar and archaeological scientist who is constantly researching and contributing to the field.

International Journal of Student Research in Archaeology

By Rhiannon Stammers

This year the International Journal of Student Research in Archaeology will be publishing the proceedings of NASC. This is a fantastic opportunity for students to work with a supportive and innovative international student team. Featuring editors from 34 universities, which collectively, are a truly expansive multi-disciplinary team. All NASC presenters will have the opportunity to turn their presentation into a paper for publication in a special issue of IJSRA.

The International Journal of Student Research in Archaeology (IJSRA), is an open access peer-reviewed journal, available fully onlineThe overarching aims of the publication are to be a source for rigorous research and a global reference point in archaeology; in addition, it is intended to serve as an international forum for the exchange of excellent scholarship in an atmosphere of constructive dialogue and inclusivity. The Journal was born of a clear need within the current system: the need for a rigorous and wide-reaching scholarly venue through which the next generation of the global archaeological community can contribute original research to the larger body of scientific knowledge. This publication has been established to enhance the academic experience, scholarly presence, and recognition of accomplished students worldwide.

IJSRA accepts papers addressing any topic and temporal sequence of archaeological interest, including materials conservation, genomics, and much more. It is double-blind reviewed, ensuring a premier level of scholarship. 

IJSRA is the first truly international journal focused exclusively on student academic research in archaeology. An opportunity not to be missed by participants of NASC!

For a wonderful review of NASC 2015, check the most recent issue of IJSRA. To take advantage of this opportunity to publish, submit an abstract for NASC 2016!

Why Archaeology?

By Lara Tooby

Scraps of rubbish or hints about the alternative life ways? Image by Aman Kang, Susannah Place 2015 (on blog http://ekaatma.com/)

Scraps of rubbish or hints about the alternative life ways? Image by Aman Kang,
Susannah Place 2015 (on blog http://ekaatma.com/)

Why archaeology? A difficult question for many a budding archaeology student. Almost as nebulous a question as ‘what is the meaning of life?’ However, answering the question succinctly gives archaeology students solid grounding and their studies meaning and, just as importantly informs everyone. This blog post attempts to clarify why I believe archaeology is important when done correctly and with good intentions. 

Archaeology gives a voice to the voiceless

Archaeologists have the rare opportunity to delve into the past to give meaning to the silence, including people who do not feature in the history books. This is the crucial factor differentiating archaeology from other social science disciplines. 

Archaeology helps us understand present society

Most people will agree that modern history is relevant, as it directly influences society as it is today, but question the importance of history thousands upon thousands of years ago. There is a tendency to forget that the most ingrained and taken for granted social structures are rooted in ancient history. For example, clothing, religion, money and transport the inventions of umankind, and to gain a real appreciation of their significance and evolution over time one has to make sense of thousands of years of history in locations across the world. Archaeology deals with all history and is important in understanding how the past has created the present.

Archaeology helps us comprehend alternate ways of being

Nothing becomes too bizarre or ridiculous when viewed in the context of what has taken place over thousands of years of human history. In my opinion, this is the most important application of archaeology. A good knowledge of the past is useful in the ongoing debate about how we comprehend human similarity and difference, and how we coexist with each other and with other life forms in the modern world. In the words of Yuval Noah Harari (2011, p.269):

‘We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine.’

In a world that is becoming increasingly connected, how do humans understand each other and cope with the global environmental problems and conflicts bearing havoc on our Earth?

These three points have helped me clarify my own archaeological journey. Although students may have different reasons for studying archaeology, it is important to be able to answer the question: ‘Why archaeology?’ in terms of your own perspective and in order to help society, in general, understand the importance of the discipline.

So, what is your answer?

References

Harari, YN 2014, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Vintage Publishing, London. 

Do you have what it takes? Be a part of the National Committee for 2016!

Applications now open for ‪#‎NASC2016‬ national committee.

We are looking for representatives from universities nationwide to promote NASC and everything NASC is about to their peers.

You will be involved in blog ideas and content, promoting NASC to your networks and on your campus, liaising with your university archaeology society or equivalent, and the option to facilitate workshops on your campus with the support of the NASC organising committee.

No previous experience necessary and it looks great on your resume. 

If you are interested, please contact nascenquiries@gmail.com with a cover letter addressing the following points –

- Name
- University
- Level of current study and major
- Why you think the National Archaeology Student Conference is important
- What you can bring to NASC
- What you hope to get out of the experience

WELCOME TO NASC 2016

NASC aims to provide archaeology students with a
supportive environment to discuss their research and ideas.


Presentations and posters are invited from all Australian and
international undergraduate, honours and postgraduate archaeology students.

In 2016 the National Archaeology Student Conference will be held by

The University of Western Australia

from 29th to 31st July 2016.