Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Lesson for Students

I would ask any students (of mine, at least) who read this blog to look at the articles I cited in the last couple of posts. What do they have in common? The research articles (as opposed to the commentaries) are all strongly interdisciplinary, drawing from a variety of sciences, such as physics (entropy) and genetics. Now, almost all archaeology is interdisciplinary. That's one reason why I find it fun. I get bored easily and the far-ranging scope of archaeology helps hold my interest. The lesson for students is this: build a strong general background in science and read eclectically. Many (most?) truly interesting discoveries come from the serendipitous intersection of apparently unconnected ideas. More specifically, note the rise to dominance of archaeological science. Dave Killick and Paul Goldberg (2009) wrote about this trend in a recent edition of the SAA Archaeological Record. If you're thinking about thesis or dissertation topics or trying to choose a graduate program, consider how you will develop expertise in some branch of archaeological science. When you read the job ads, see how many solicit researchers with expertise in some form of archaeological science, from GIS to paleoclimatic analysis, to archaeological chemistry to microscopy. Do you want to be the job applicant whose expertise is limited to digging square holes very slowly?

Reference cited

Killick, David and Paul Goldberg (2009). A Quiet Crisis in American Archaeology. The SAA Archaeological Record Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 11-13.

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