I believe that anything (material or immaterial) that we can think about will always have its stereotypes, which pretty much have nothing to do with reality. This is actually something quite easily seen in any academic degree. And mine, of course, is not immune to these judgements. Truth be told, there isn’t and never will be a no shortage of stereotypes related with what Archaeology is.
The first association that everyone makes is with Indiana Jones, and honestly you guys couldn’t be more far from the truth. There’s no archaeology in those films. And to be fair, I literally hate Indiana Jones. I’ve only watched the third film and it was just because Shia LaBeouf appeared on it. Currently, not even him you convince me to watch these films.
Second: gold. Piles and piles of gold. And once again this is a big fat NO. To be honest (but someone do correct me if I’m wrong), it’s not even that huge of a find. I mean, I’m sure Bronze/Iron Age archaeologist wouldn’t mind finding lots of gold artefacts, but I’m pretty sure their more interested in other kinds of materials. Either way, it’s not like we’re digging holes in the earth and finding lost gold treasures. And by the way, we don’t dig holes because yes and randomly. There’s always a bloody purpose behind it and an extended survey to choose the specific place to dig.
I’ve been asked before if Archaeology is like the TV show Bones, which obviously has nothing to do with this. Bones is related with Forensic Anthropology. There’s absolutely no Archaeology in it too. The problem here is that people watch too much TV and don’t actually know how to distinguish reality from fiction.
And lastly, but not least important, DON’T EVER TALK ABOUT DINOSAURS TO AN ARCHAEOLOGIST! That would probably be the biggest mistake of your life. WE DON’T DIG DINOSAURS! That is the job of palaeontologists. This statement is not offensive but we really don’t like it.
And as for the TRUE Archaeology, these three pictures are just some examples of what we do and on what contexts we excavate. There’s a multitude of types of sites, so these are just two examples. We work we extremely complicated and long stratigraphies, sometimes. Those two pictures actually show too very different methods of excavation, pretty much also related with the period of the human occupations that are being dug. While the first one (the vertical picture) is in Atapuerca – a Palaeolithic site (i.e. the beginnings of Humankind), the second, which I don’t know where it is, must be from a more recent period. I cannot recognise the pot, but I would saying that it’s from sometimes between the Bronze/Iron Ages and the Roman period.
The remaining picture… I chose it because it portrays a clear picture of how dirty our job can be, sometimes. I can tell you guys that it is extremely bad having to inhale all that amount of dust. I used to cover my face with my t-shirt every time I had to do it. As a quick explanation: those two are doing a sieve analysis. It basically means that they are passing buckets of each dug out through sieves, in order to retrieve small artefacts that otherwise would have been missed. And this is actually only one of the ways of doing these analysis. It is the quickest one and the one doable on site, but it’s not exactly the best one actually.
I believe that the main point here is that we do what we do with a purpose. It all has a historical and research purpose behind it. We don’t dig just for the sake of it or because it is fun. It really has a purpose and I just wish more people would open their minds and actually realise it. Society is not only made of the finest technologies we can come up with. It’s also made of history and identities [we actually had a very interesting debate on this matter in one of my Prehistory classes].