November 30, 2015, by Hannah O'Regan
What inspires people to become archaeologists?
What inspires people to become archaeologists? Below two archaeologists from the University of Nottingham tell their stories.
I don’t remember when I decided to be an archaeologist – my fascination with the past started long before I could spell ‘archaeology’ but I knew that’s what I wanted to do. We lived in a 19th century house in Suffolk and had interesting pottery turning up in every flower bed in the garden. We collected these fragments and on slow afternoons I’d try to put them back together. I don’t remember ever finding a refitting piece, so no doubt the novelty wore off quite quickly. Not so the experiments with my brother, when we tried to light fires using flints, probably inspired by Clive King’s Stig of the Dump. On reflection the coffee table in the lounge probably wasn’t the best place to try it, but thankfully we never succeeded. We went field walking and pond dipping with the Mildenhall Museum Club, and on visits to the British Museum, there was always a chance to see the famous Mildenhall Treasure and reflect that all that shiny Roman silver had come from where we lived. If that wasn’t enough immersion in the past, in 1982 the lifting of the Mary Rose was broadcast live on TV to an excited nation. So, as a result of garden archaeology, inspiring children’s literature, shiny treasure and a very impressive ship – how could I not have been an archaeologist?
Not everybody knows what they want to do and feels a ‘calling’. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at University; I was working towards Medicine with lots of sciences at A-Level, but really liked the humanities subjects I was taking too, and over time I thought that they were a more natural ‘fit’ for me. I also don’t really know when I decided on Archaeology; I liked history, but wanted to do something more active and honestly, I think Archaeology was the first thing to fit that brief in the UCAS book. Decision made.
I do know when I decided which bit of archaeology was for me; I was in a 1st year Prehistory of the World lecture about early farming communities. What a fascinating period of human development. Afterwards I asked the lecturer if he knew of anyone undertaking field work on a Neolithic site in the Near East, and a few months later I was on my first dig in Jordan, which quickly led to my second. In the end, my 6 week trip turned into a 4 month stay, and led to many return visits. It kick-started my fascination with lithics, and human-animal relationships, and by the end of it, with no prior training, I was able to catalogue the lithic assemblage from a new site. This became the basis of my undergraduate dissertation, which led directly to my Masters’ thesis and PhD research…The rest is (pre-)history.
So, for Hannah it was everything and for Holly it was fieldwork – what was it that inspired your interest in archaeology? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us at @UoNArch #digthepast