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Write here only if you have personal experience of working as a field excavator archaeologist. Why did you decide to become one? What are your qualifications? What are the ups and downs of the profession?

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      15.07.2002 18:48
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      I would like to begin this opinion by making an apology. Well, two apologies really - firstly for being so utterly predictable that I have found yet another opportunity to witter on at you about archaeology, and secondly for posting this in what is not strictly the correct category (I've already written a review in the "archaeology in general" bit, I'm afraid). But when prompted to write about "a favourite thing" as part of Jill Murphy's celebration of life, what else could I think of that brought me as much pleasure (and that I could post before the watershed)? You should all hopefully know what archaeology is by now - it's that giant, fiendish jigsaw puzzle of the past that torments us because there are pieces missing (but you don't know which ones), and that you can't cheat at by looking at the picture on the box. It is a subject based around delving through the remains of dead people's rubbish while trying to find answers to questions that are often unattainable. It is populated by alcoholics, nutters, eccentrics, masochists and other strange people who are often dressed like tramps. It is hard work and poorly paid (if you get paid at all), and leaves you open to sunburn, insect bites, bad backs, sore knees, hangovers and blisters. Often I have even had to pay the dig director for the pleasure of being on site. So exactly why do I love it so much? Well, there is nothing quite like going on a dig. At the beginning, there is this wonderful sense of anticipation in the air, as all the diggers turn up eager to find out what we are going to be doing - but nobody exactly knows what you are going to find, or when. Underneath the muddy field you are staring at, there could be beautiful Roman mosaics, a palace, a type of metalwork never seen before or something that could rewrite the history of the area you are working in. Equally, there could be bugger all. But you just don't know until you
      get started! As you work, you get to know your fellow diggers very well indeed, as you are not only sharing a workspace with them, often it is mealtimes, a campsite, a youth hostel or a pub as well. You spend your time surrounded by like-minded individuals who share your enthusiasm for finding out about the past (and proving the historians wrong!), your poverty and your blisters. I have met some truly fascinating people in the archaeological world since I began my degree in the subject in 1997 - including my long-suffering BF - and made some lasting friendships. Then there is that amazing feeling when you finally find something! After hours/days/weeks of trowelling through endless dirt, you spot something sticking out of the ground that probably hasn?t been seen or touched by another human for hundreds or even thousands of years. That piece of pottery - which probably looks really boring and insignificant to onlookers - can tell you about the people who made it, whether it is local or was traded from another area, and sometimes even what was kept in it. I suppose you never forget what your first find was; mine was a sheep's molar! However good that was though, nothing can ever compare to the day I found a coin - it felt like making a "proper" find, something real, useful, dateable and informative. That sort of excitement makes up for all the backbreaking navvy work and sore bits by a mile, and really does make you feel that life is worth living. Well, to me anyway. Discovering archaeology has changed my life - there is no other way of saying it. It has provided me with a memorable three years of university, friends, given me a direction for my career to head in (you could say that it lay in ruins from the start...) and something that I am good at and enjoy. The archaeological world is a community that has welcomed me every bit as much as dooyoo has, and however bad life is (and it hasn't exactly been a great de
      al of fun recently) I have some great memories that make me smile. As for qualifications for working in the field, well a degree in archaeology is a good start - but many people volunteer without this (and you can now do GCSE and A levels in the subject). A reasonable level of fitness and a good sense of humour are musts though! I would like to finish off this opinion with the "Archaeologist's Prayer" - with apologies to Christians and lovers of good poetry everywhere: Our Director who art in Heaven, Harassed be thy name. Thy diggers will come, Thy work will be done, In trenches as it is in survey. Give us this day our daily drink, And forgive us our hangovers, As we forgive you for charging site fees against us; And lead us not into history, But deliver us from this evil. For the research board is the kingdom, And the power to award grants. For ever and ever (we hope), Amen. This opinion is dedicated to Jill Murphy - happy, healthy and bored enough to read my reviews on a regular basis. I hope this made you smile, Jill. :-) (P.S. And when I find the Holy Grail, you'll all be able to say you knew me before I was famous!) "Jill Murphy asked me to write about one of my favourite things to help her celebrate her fourth anniversary of cancer-free living and to remind ourselves of all the nice things in the world. It takes more muscles to make a frown than a smile you know. If you'd like to join in, whether you've only just joined dooyoo, or you've been here ages, you're more than welcome. Just write about one of YOUR favourite things, make your title "A Favourite Thing: [your choice]" and include this paragraph at the foot of your opinion. And post before Friday, 9th August."

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