Sunday, August 4, 2013

Experimental Archaeology

Out of the five weeks of the Gotland Archaeological Field School, only five days remain. It is strange and wonderful to think that I have been living and working here on this gorgeous island of Gotland for a nearly a month, but at the same time, I am glad it is winding down. I've been travelling in Europe for more than seven weeks, and was travelling in the States before that, too. I've had a very busy summer - I've learned a lot, had some great experiences, and it has all been worth it so far - but very busy. I'm ready to head home for a short break before diving to the last year of my undergraduate career and finish my two degrees.

A Viking bead made of amber, found in our dig last week!
In the mean time, one of my main goals in attending this field school was to determine whether archaeology is a discipline I wish to pursue for graduate studies and a following career, or to get an idea of what other options there are if archaeology's not for me. For the last year or so, I've been trying to decide whether to pursue graduate studies in Medieval Studies, Archaeology, or something even more specific, such as Anglo-Saxon and Viking Studies. But I didn't want to end up locked into a program only to realize that it isn't really what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. Thus, I decided to dive into this field school.

After the first few weeks, I quickly realized that although I enjoy the field work involved in archaeological excavations and searching for remnants of civilizations long gone, I get much more excited about the idea of studying the artifacts uncovered - even to the extent of trying to figure out how such artifacts were originally produced, how they were used, and the ever-important question of why. While discussing this with a few fellow students, one asked if I had heard of Experimental Archaeology. I had not.

Experimental Archaeology is relatively new as its own discipline, and is the combination of archaeology with experimenting with methods of construction, metal-smithing, craftsmanship, etc. to replicate period buildings and artifacts using only tools and materials that would have been available at the time in question. This is like a dream come true for me. I knew that I loved to work with my hands, both to study artifacts and to create new ones, and that I also love the more academic side of the historical and theoretical study; I just never imagined there was an actual academic discipline that combined the two.

Some handmade beauties I've bought in Sweden
So how does that work for grad school? There are only a few universities that offer programs in Experimental Archaeology, and after some research, I really like the looks of the program at the University of Sheffield in England. I've never before found a Master's degree program in which every single course looks fascinating and exciting to me.

Does that mean I'm applying to Sheffield? Well, no.  I'm not sure that a Master's in Experimental Archaeology would be such an immense help in getting an experimental archaeology-related job, but I'm sure the degree would be great if I wanted to teach such a discipline (which I don't). There are a lot of historical sites and open-air museums practicing such experimental-historical methods around, and I'd be very, very surprised if I'll need a masters degree to get a job at one. It means that if I do decide to go for a Master's degree, I'll definitely apply to that one first. For now, I'm just happy to have finally found a degree program I can get excited about, and if it works out that I will actually study Experimental Archaeology in the future, then that's awesome. If I get a good job at a historical site or reenactment place that I can get excited about and share my passion for the past with others (while carrying out my own research and writing on the side), then that's just as awesome. :)

No comments:

Post a Comment