Day in the life of
Archeologist – AC
I have worked as an archaeological technician, you need a few years of experience at this before being promoted to an archaeologist. The advanced duties of an archaeologist include extra paperwork and dealing with clients, all else is mostly the same.
What does your typical day look like?
Wake before sunrise, eat breakfast in whatever budget hotel chain you’re staying in. Pack a lunch. Leave the hotel and drive to the site. Proceed with work. This mostly consists of pedestrian surveys, sometimes with small tests to see if any artifacts are within the first layers of soil. Project areas can vary in size. Most projects are due to impending construction, as government regulations require an archaeological survey prior to construction commencing. Work continues for 10 or more hours, often until it grows dark enough that work is no longer feasible. There is a lunch break, timing varies depending on project and company. Eat dinner at one of the four restaurants in the small town you’re stuck in for the next few weeks. Go to sleep early, it all happens again tomorrow. Schedules are sometimes 5 or 6 day weeks, but often come in the form of 10 days on, 4 off.
Single occupancy hotel rooms, per-diem, time and a half for overtime (unless your company is terrible, which many are).
Work is very seasonal in most parts of the country, and thus you will frequently be looking for new projects. Many archaeologists refer to themselves as “shovel-bums” for this reason, as for much of the year they are quasi-nomadic, and rarely stay in their own homes. Many are borderline alcoholics. Pay is far less than the construction and energy workers who often end up on the project with you, especially if you’re doing the monitoring. Hours are long, the pay is higher than minimum wage, but less than the degrees required would suggest, at least while starting out. Working outside can be very pretty, and you will see a lot of beautiful sunrises and sunsets. You will also walk into thornbushes, have to navigate more corn and wheat and soy fields than anyone should have to, get attacked by bugs constantly, and deal with extremes of heat and cold. Work will sometimes stop due to inclement weather, but often won’t. (Thunderstorms will cause a pause due to OSHA, but rain alone is worked through). Also, when working in rural areas, landowners are sometimes less than hospitable. Many are friendly, but you will probably get a gun pointed at you sooner or later. Always wear high vis (it’s required), especially during the hunting season. This refers mostly to commercial archaeologists working in the United States.
The goal of most is to work for a university doing research, which still has long work hours, but you get the joy of discovering new and interesting things, and writing about them, rather than fulfilling the often shifting or incomprehensible whims of corporate clients. The ideal job is working for the government, or becoming a tenured professor, but both of those are incredibly competitive. Also, not all archaeological companies are created equal, and some will stiff you on breaks, per diem, housing, travel reimbursements, or all of the above.
conduct research to reconstruct record of past human life and culture from human remains, artifacts, architectural features, and structures recovered through excavation, underwater recovery, or other means of discovery.