Here’s to absent friends


We’ve been thinking a lot lately about career paths in archaeology.

Mostly because we’re staffing up for our summer site, and we’ve lost some of the team to other professions. You can set your watch by this process: come Spring, many of our peers will have had enough and for one reason or another, chucked in their trowel for pastures new. Their names become legend, and those of us left behind hear about their fabulous exploits – earning enough money to have to pay back student debt, buying a car, taking a holiday, or just generally being employed on contracts longer than two weeks. You can’t blame them, really, but it’s always sad to lose another bloody good digger to silly things like stability (pah!) and career progression (wimps!).

But our perspective on that is for another blog post – and in response to the recent #freearchaeology twitterstorm (stay tuned). What we’ve got to share today are two different sides to the story: one from our very own Matt Juddery (who has now gone into teaching), and another from a lovely blogger we’ve stumbled across called Rebecca Farbstein – who is just coming back into archaeology after a period away.

We think that both stories are inspirational. And running through them both is a thread of something…kind of…well…hopeful and necessary: experience of the outside world.

The more of us who do know about other ways of working, who are familiar with work life and professional expectations outside archaeology, who can hold their own in a water cooler conversation about anything BUT archaeology, the better.  Most of the DV core team have had to make this choice at one point or another in their careers, and it was this awareness of wider horizons that largely led to the idea for Flag Fen Lives: people were out there, doing things, exciting things, that were WORKING. Why not for archaeology?

Because let’s face it: the changes being made to the UK as a result of the current government and wider world economic climate means that things may never be the same for any of us – not least of all archaeologists in search of a career in archaeology. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen – OF COURSE IT CAN – but we need to adjust our expectations and our skill sets to meet opportunities on their own terms, rather than assuming that the old ways and means, and infrastructures, will be able to support us in the future.

And in Rebecca’s case, her life has been enriched by something she started out having to do – but now loves to do, and will keep on doing even after she begins her post-doc. Having that outside interest and passion will make her a better archaeologist – heck, probably even a better person (though we haven’t met her so she’s probably pretty awesome to begin with!). And as for our Matt, he’s a grand teacher already, and we know that he has that gift for sharing knowledge that will unquestionably inspire loads of little kids to study history, as he himself was once inspired by his teacher.

And someday, archaeology will have sorted itself enough that there will be an end market big enough to retain these passionate, talented and interesting people, so they don’t have to leave to get a life. Until then, Rebecca and Matt, thanks for sharing your stories. We wish you well on the way out of, and the way back into, archaeology. You know there’s always a pint waiting!

DigVentures is digging this summer: come and join us!

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Lisa Westcott Wilkins

Written by Lisa Westcott Wilkins

Co-founder and Managing Director of DigVentures, Lisa makes sure the boxes are ticked, the diggers run on time, and that everyone has a *really* good time along the way. She is responsible for the Americanisms, ridiculously strong site coffee and early morning DV dance parties.

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