How is it to be an archaeologist? A day in the life of some

Surprisingly or not I have never been asked how it is to be an archaeologist (or at least  I can not recall it)- as soon as people here that you are one, either they start sharing their own (past) hopes and dreams of becoming one, or they start asking you about what you’ve discovered. Automatically you are imagined as leading an adventurous, exotic, one of a kind life, filled with discoveries of amazing and precious objects (Well, in some cases people thought I was digging up dinosaurs, and recently a friend told me that she’d heard someone thinking that Archaeology deals with soil, as in the study of minerals…so I was referring to the happy instances in which people still had an idea of what I did 🙂 ).

However, I do not see my life as such, or at least not for the reasons that people tend to think that Archaeology is a one of a kind path in life. For these reasons, and most importantly because I’ve promised a while ago to do so, I will talk a little about how a day in the life of an archaeologist looks like. It’s not going to be a personal account, not a full day at least- rather, I thought would be a little more interesting to capture fragments and moments in the life of some of the archaeologists I know.

So,.. a day in the life of an archaeologist is:

– Talking to first-year students about Archaeology, beer cans, and communist buildings. One student is doing her make-up, 2 are sleeping and another is mesmerised by your words.

– Washing a couple of bags of Roman period ceramics, drawing and recording them. A basement, dim light, cigarette smoke and Coca Cola.

– On a winter day, spending the day in the library, a heritage building , alone, 10 celsius degrees (inside).

– Next to a 6000 old grave pit, in a 2m deep trench. Dust, sweat, 35 celsius degrees, a flock of birds flying up in the sky, the sound of cow bells. A trowel, a scalpel, mm paper.

– Writing frantically to finish an (overdue) article,  an antique arm-chair and a baroque symphony.

– Morning coffee, computer, Corel or Photoshop, rock music, crowded room, a poster with a Neolithic grave from Varna.

– a PhD defense. Wine (and Schnitzels, A la Rousse salad, aubergine salad and meatballs- home cooked, mum/wife/mother in law). Wine.

– In the street. Protest, 25.000 people, banners, rattle of pebbles in bottles. Talking about heritage preservation.

– Paper presentation on archaeology as ideology- discussion derails to talk about ISI publications, grants and getting money. Everybody gets heated. It’s the x time in the last 5 years that the same discussion has taken place.

– Trapped for 1 h in a paper presentation: about clinical death, Mao, afterlife and sleep.

– Coffee place, discussion on agency, Heidegger and the voice of objects.

Maybe these fragments are of no relevance to somebody from outside the discipline, but they are certainly illustrative for some way of being an archaeologist in this part of the world. Given the stress on “multi-vocality” etc. in the current debates, I reckon that a look at ones habits/challenges/struggles might put into a new perspective their theories/projects and opinions.

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