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Chapter Summary

  • Many readers of the preceding editions of Archaeology: Theories, Methods, and Practice have wondered how one can set about developing a career in archaeology—which may be in the field of archaeological research (whether in a university or as an independent researcher), or it may be in a more administrative capacity as a government employee, or in the business of heritage tourism. So we have invited six professionals, all earning their living by doing archaeology in one way or another, to tell their own story. Each is actively engaged in research, in the creation of new knowledge: in that sense they are the new searchers, the counterparts and successors of the pioneer "searchers" discussed in Chapter 1. They are not a random sample; different invitations might have produced different responses. But they are all part of that now vast international enterprise involved in investigating, reconstructing, and disseminating knowledge of the human past.
  • They are all established archaeologists but at different stages in their careers. Their backgrounds are also different. Yet most of them have something in common: they came to archaeology fortuitously, by chance, as it were. This is hardly surprising, since the practice of archaeology is not a major profession like medicine or the law or retail selling. But each of them, by some means, caught the bug. That bug, the "back-looking curiosity" as Glyn Daniel once called it, that fascination with the human past is what drives them: each expresses it in their own way.
  • The joy they express ("The most rewarding thing I have ever discovered") is not simply discovering and uncovering objects that have lain hidden for thousands of years. It is the pleasure of making sense of the data, making sense of the past. Douglas C. Comer, now in the Cultural Resource Management business, writes of the pleasure of extracting useful information from geospatial analysis technologies. Shadreck Chirikure writes of his pleasure in helping recover the Oranjemund shipwreck, "a legacy that belongs to all of humanity."
  • Two of the authors work in countries (Thailand and South Africa) outside of the transatlantic axis, between Europe and the United States, which was so significant in the early development of archaeology. It may be relevant that each did their postgraduate training at centers within that axis (Michigan and London respectively). Yet each now teaches graduate students in their own country—students who will themselves become the new searchers, developing a world archaeology that will be fully international, perhaps genuinely pluralistic.
  • Part of that internationalism is indeed the rich experience of working in places and with people who lie outside of one’s previous existence. Jonathan N. Tubb writes of his first visit to an excavation in Jordan: "almost from the first day I was there, I felt it as my region." That determined his future career. Many of us are born and brought up in cities, so that archaeological fieldwork brings a welcome first experience of living and working with hunter-gatherers or with rural farmers in an environment very different from that of city or university. Rasmi Shoocongdej writes of her experience of working with local communities in her own country to develop museums and guide-training programs at two rockshelter sites. Gill Hey, although she has travelled and worked widely, still finds that the prehistory of her native country (England) offers the most exciting and gratifying experiences. She has satisfaction in seeing how absorbing and inspiring local communities find the progress of archaeology. The landscape of archaeology lies in the countryside as much as the town.
  • Each of the authors is also concerned with the present and with the future, and aspires to make a difference to that future. Lisa J. Lucero hopes that her work on the demise of the Classic Maya, apparently through long-term drought, can inform our current understanding of the impact of climate change. Each sees it as part of their job both to interact with scholars in other countries, and to communicate with a wider public in their own. The archaeologist of today, as of yesterday, is a person of wide horizons, with knowledge of the human past, and with a concern for the human future.