November 14, 2012, by Holly Jackson

Why study Archaeology?

Dr Will Bowden, Associate Professor in Roman Archaeology

Like many people, I have always been fascinated by the past, and my childhood imagination was fired by stories of Tutankhamun’s treasure or the mysteries of Stonehenge.  I never had any idea that you could make a career out of this interest, although as a teenager that didn’t matter because I was going to be a rock star anyway.

After A-levels, finding I wasn’t yet a rock star, by chance I became involved with an archaeological dig at Stansted Airport. As the airport underwent massive expansion, I became part of a team excavating the dozens of archaeological sites that lay in the way, including a complete Iron Age village. I loved it. It wasn’t only the work that I enjoyed; it was being part of a team of like-minded people doing something very different from the careers options that had been suggested to me at school. I went on to study archaeology at University College London and later undertook a PhD at the University of East Anglia.

Will Bowden on Time Team

Will Bowden on Time Team

Although I’ve been working in archaeology for more than 25 years, the excitement of being the first person to handle an object in hundreds or thousands of years never leaves you. Archaeology has taken me all over the world (usually at someone else’s expense). I’ve learned foreign languages, been stung by scorpions, and drunk tea with Bedouin nomads. More importantly, archaeology has challenged my perceptions of the world and has made me realise that the ways in which people understand the past shape their views of the present.

Archaeology is a discipline that demands critical thinking, but it also requires teamwork and the ability to adapt to changing situations. It is also unusual as an undergraduate degree in that through participating in excavations students play an active role in the creation of new research data. Our students go on to work in many varied careers in archaeology and the heritage sector but also in completely unrelated fields where the combination of critical thinking and practical skills that they gained in their degrees is highly valued.

I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’m (almost) glad I never made it as a rock star.


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