Indiana Jones. Need I say more?
You hear that theme music and you know you’re in for an hour and half of whips, last-minute hat grabbing and Nazis. But my love of digging up old things started much earlier – like Raksha and Lisa, when I was little I loved dinosaurs. I had loads of illustrated books on dinosaurs and fossils. Looking back, I must have seemed like Ross off Friends.
But it wasn’t until I saw that movie with a guy in leather jacket, running around temples, (and the process vandalising them, which I do not encourage or endorse in any way!), saving relics from the forces of evil, did I really get interested in archaeology. I was particularly enthralled by the ancient Egyptians. I even started to learn hieroglyphics (obviously a very dumbed down version – I was only eight!). From then onwards, history and particularly the Egyptians, filled my imagination. It also helped that I had an awesome history teacher, who like me, was interested in Ancient History. We even founded H.A.R.D. (History and Archaeology Research Department – I know cool, right?!) at my school.
When it came time to go to university, I naturally wanted to study Egyptology and archaeology. I decided to go to the University of Birmingham as it offered such a wide range of sub-disciplines, and it was here that I was first properly introduced to prehistoric archaeology. I split my time between prehistoric archaeology and Egyptology and once again learnt hieroglyphics – this time the proper stuff! I then went on to do my MA at the University of Sheffield, focusing on the Bronze Age in North West Europe. Upon completing MA, I set my sights on doing a PhD; however the dreaded recession means that funding is very hard to find, so I decided to enter the real world of work. But the dream has not died, it merely been placed on the back burner for now.
After uni, I joined a commercial unit in East Anglia before moving to London and joining MOLA. There I met the infamous Raksha Dave (She is a lot shorter in person then she looks on TV!) and became involved with DigVentures. One of the highlights of my time working in commercial archaeology was meeting all the wonderful people. If a site has a great bunch of people, it can make the difference between an OK time on site and a great one. One site in particular stands out in my memory: it was a multi-period site near Liverpool Street. It went through from 19th century Victorian back gardens, with a little Tudor and ended on part of a Roman cemetery. Despite the cold, rain and snow, I had a blast.
Unfortunately, steady work in commercial archaeology can be hard to come by, and as a result I was let go. It was at this point I had to make a difficult decision – do I wait around for another job in archaeology and more than likely have to move away, or should I try for another career? I had to take a very difficult decision and step away from archaeology for a bit. For me digging has always been a love/hate relationship; there are moments, such as when you find something amazing like a burial or beautiful artefact, that you can’t dream of doing anything else. But there are also moments when you are stuck in the middle of a construction site in the cold and rain, your waterproofs are not so waterproof anymore, and you have a hole in your boot! Not to mention the toll that digging everyday takes on your body.
In the end, none of that really mattered, but it was the uncertainty of whether I would have a job next week that was too much. I needed a job with security. I was also at a point in my life where I wanted a career in which I could get ‘plugged in’ and really drive towards something. As much as I love digging, working in commercial archaeology didn’t give me that drive and sense that I was working towards that big goal or aim.
Going forward I want to keep my options open; I have not said goodbye to archaeology forever, but I also know I must be realistic about what it offers, both the good and the bad. For me (and this is a personal preference as everyone is different) I need a plan B that offers me the stability I want right now in my life. I have decided to train as a History teacher. I have always enjoyed working with young people and teaching. Teaching History therefore was the logical step. It combines both my love of the past and teaching. Once qualified as teacher I will weigh up my options and see what to do next.
There are a number of things I miss about digging since I moved into the confines of a building. First, I miss being outside (at least when it is sunny anyway). Second, I miss not getting to dig things up! There is always a sense of satisfaction when you find something interesting and connection to the past. And lastly I miss the on site banter; as I said before, there really is nothing better than when you are on an interesting site with your friends shifting mud…
Want to get in touch with Matt? Drop us a line email@example.com and we’ll pass it along.
DigVentures crowdfunds archaeological projects that everyone can be part of, in the UK and overseas. With help from people all over the world, we investigate the past and publish our discoveries online for free. Become a DigVentures Subscriber and be part of great archaeology - all year round!