I’ve got to stop telling people I’m an archaeologist.
Other archaeologists will know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s The Conversation. You have The Conversation every time you mention what you do for a living. Every archaeologist has had it at least once, usually when on a long plane flight somewhere, when you are stuck for several hours next to a complete stranger who is trying to make small talk. I know archaeologists who have developed coping mechanisms for such. Some immediately put on headphones and dive into a book hoping that this indicates that they do NOT want any small talk thankyouverymuch. Others say “I’m an accountant” when asked what they do for a living (I suggest if you use this tactic only if you have some knowledge of accounting in case someone asks you about “this quarter” or something and you reply “well, if it’s flanged it may date to earlier than the Hellenistic period, but you should have someone look at that for you, wait, whut?”).
This is how The Conversation goes:
Friendly Conversationalist: So what do you do for a living?
Ambushed Archaeologist: Uh, I’m an archaeologist.
FC: *suddenly very attentive* Oh really? How interesting? Is there any archaeology in [where you are going]? (and yes, this does include the time I was flying to Israel, which has so much archaeology that people say things like "another ossuary of Jesus? *sigh*")
What the archaeologist wants to say is “No, shockingly, despite thousands of years of habitation by humans, not a single human ever dropped, buried, or threw away anything, nor did they build anything or change the landscape AT ALL, which is why I'm going there to look for it.”
Alternatively the FC, if he wants to be funny (or she, but let’s be honest, only men think they are this funny), says: I thought you guys had found it all!
AA: No, there’s still stuff to find.
What we want to say “Nope, we found it all. And keep it in a bunker away from dipshits like you, asshole.”
The FC will then ask the following questions:
- Have you found any gold?
- What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever found?
- Do you get paid well?
- How do you guys know where to dig?
- And will probably have a story about some artifact they found somewhere that they took home with them.
The answers are:
- Yes, but it was only a tiny fragment, no I didn’t keep it, it would be completely unethical to keep it so no, I wasn’t tempted.
- Dead people buried where we did not expect to find dead people buried. (Seriously, ain't nothing like finding dead people where and when they aren't expected. It happens so often, I should just start expecting to find dead people every time I dig a hole.)
- No, sometimes we don’t even get paid at all.
- Lots of research, talking to other archaeologists, GoogleEarth and sometimes, but very rarely, an ancient map.
- Dear God, you’ve just ruined an archaeological site please stop talking now.
Okay, we don’t say the last thing, but we are thinking it!!
What I’ve discovered, however, is that there is a far worse conversation that I’ve had many times now. This conversation happens with people who know that I am an out-of-work archaeologist living in Denmark. And they are trying to be helpful, I know, so I shouldn’t complain about it, but OH MY FREAKING GOD PLEASE MAKE THEM STOP TALKING!!
FC: So how’s the job hunt going?
AG: Um, I’m not hunting… there are no jobs.
FC: Oh, but you said there was archaeology on your island.
AG: Um, yes, but no money to dig it.
FC: Oh, but I’m sure if you just go into the museum, they’d be thrilled to have you!
AG: Um, no, no they would not.
FC: Have you tried?
AG: Actually, yes.
FC: Oh, but I’m sure if you try again…
Okay, I’m going to explain this once and only once.
1) I’m an archaeologist with experience in the Near East and an education in Roman culture. I know jack shit about the archaeology of Denmark. Why would someone want to hire me to dig? (Don’t answer this, you need to read reason 2 first)
2) Local museums do not have the money to hire archaeologists, no matter what their training.
I’m so sick and tired of explaining that I am not qualified for the job that doesn’t exist. Even if there was a job, I would be hesitant to take it because I wouldn’t know what I was looking for if I was to start digging. Hey, look ceramics! But is it a clay sewage pipe from 20 years ago or a storage jar from the late Iron Age I don’t know. I actually give enough of a crap that I don’t want to ruin archaeology that we have here, so no, even if a museum wanted to hire me, unless there was going to be a supervisor or other archaeologist above me who could help me with interpretation, I wouldn’t want to do it. Secondly, how come people will just not understand that if there is no money, there is no money? Do people suggest to out-of-work construction workers to drop into an architect’s office and say “hey, I’m here to build houses, let’s go!” Do people really think that by going in somewhere slightly related to what you do and saying “here I am, hire me” that suddenly a job will appear? If that worked, I could solve the unemployment problem right now!
Please, just no more suggestions! No more “maybe you could write articles about the archaeology and then people would be interested and give money and then you could organize an excavation and do it yourself” or “maybe if you read up on Danish archaeology, the museum would want to hire you” or “you could start up your own archaeology business!” No more "I'm sure if you just..." and "But couldn't you try..."
It has become the center of all the conversations I have these days. Right after “how’s Danish?” comes the discussion of what I should be doing to get a job in archaeology. To the point where I grab my child and say some outrageous parenting thing in order to bring the conversation around to what a horrible mother I am or what I’m doing wrong as a parent, anything to change the subject.
No more suggestions!! Shutupshutupshutup!