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Although it digs up historical objects that are thousands - if not, millions - of years old, archaeology has not been around for that long. As a scientific study, archaeology is about 150 years old. However, interest in past events and old structures has been around for much longer. Archaeology as we know it today was arguably born in Europe. John Aubrey, a British citizen, discovered Stonehenge in 1649 and began recording stone circles in the British countryside.

Today, archeology is a preferred career for many people who have a strong compulsion to study history and understand the past.

Becoming an Archaeologist

To begin a career as an archaeologist, you are required to finish an undergraduate program to earn a degree in anthropology, history, or geography. During your college or university years, you likely will participate in excavation of potential historical sites and work with archaeological remains. This is part of your training in the assessment, analyses, and interpretation of historical objects and information.

After completion of a bachelor's degree, you will likely be required to complete a fellowship or an internship. If you prefer, you may earn a master's degree and proceed to complete a doctorate degree.

It is important to note that archaeologists have to have a strong background in math, history, and science, particularly in high school. They must also have developed good research skills and writing abilities. In some cases, having the ability to speak, read, and write in another language can be an advantage.

What Exactly Do You Do as an Archaeologist?
Archaeologists study and analyze historical and pre-historical remains to obtain information about the evolution of human civilizations. They participate in the recovery, excavation, and interpretation of artifacts that may include ancient tools, pottery, buildings, ruins, fossils, and paintings.

In some cases, archaeologist have to work with non-tangible information, such as oral history. They may collaborate and study information that has been passed down from one generation to the next via word of mouth. The information may include tribal or familial history, stories, myths, and traditions.

Archaeologists also perform archival research, which is likely the first type of job they will do as professionals. Archival research involves studying written records available in universities, museums, private homes, historical societies, and even courthouses. These records may include diaries, letters, newspapers, old photographs, maps, tax and other relevant records.

Archaeologists also do plenty of digging - literally. When they work on a site, they carefully remove layers of dirt, soil, sand, or stone to uncover remains and artifacts. These remains are then documented - photographed, marked, and recorded - for future reference. In a few cases, their research might take them to other places, even other countries.

Archaeologists also work in a laboratory where they analyze and test artifacts and remains. They may perform tests to determine the age and composition of an object. These tests may include radiocarbon dating, dendrochronology, and stratigraphy.

In What Type of Setting Do Archaeologists Work?

Archaeologists have the opportunity to work in different types of settings. They can be employed by colleges, universities, museums, government agencies both federal and state, and many historic sites. Some private companies that manage cultural resources also require the services of an archaeologist. In some cases, an archeologist can choose to work on their own as an independent consultant or start their own company.

Many archaeologists also teach. Doing so allows them to impart their knowledge to students who are interested in history and want to learn from a person who has actual field experience. Some experienced archaeologists also become known and respected experts in their field and go on to become speakers and authors of their own books.

How Much Do Archaeologists Make?

In 2019, the median salary of archaeologists was $63,670. The low-range 25% made around $49,760 while the highest-paid 25% made an annual salary of $81,480.

Do Archeologists Travel?

Most archaeologists do not travel much. However, this will depend on where their employer might send them. Some private entities, for example, send their archaeologists to another state or country to lead or assist in an archaeological dig or study. In most cases, archaeologists spend more time in an excavation site for digging, in a laboratory for analyses and tests, and in their office for writing reports. They may also be tapped to write for publications and become invited guests or speakers to related events, which might require them to travel.

Skills You Need

Other than a good education and internship, archaeologists require patience, focus, analytical thinking, persistence, good communication skills, and strong attention to detail. They must also be careful and highly organized, especially since they will be handling delicate historical items. They should also be able to work independently and with a team.