Tuesday, April 15, 2014

No dinosaurs!

I cannot tell you how many times someone has asked me what I do, and after I tell them I'm an archaeologist, he or she asks, "Found any dinosaurs lately?" What's shocking about this is how often the interlocutor is an educated person. I first remember this happening when I was an adolescent and my optometrist thought that archaeology was the study of dinosaurs. In the decades since then, I have learned that this experience was not an anomaly. Many people with graduate degrees do not understand that archaeology is about studying ancient cultures, and therefore is a social science, while paleontology is about studying extinct animals and plants, and is a branch of geology.  There's very little overlap between the two fields, although paleoanthropology (the study of our human ancestors, a sort of paleontology of the human lineage) and certain instances of zooarchaeology come to mind.

I don't know if paleontologists get asked, "Found any pyramids lately?" or, if they do, whether it annoys them.

Perhaps archaeologists are overly sensitive, but being taken for a paleontologist evidently annoys some of us. Here's the video that proves it:

Yes, there's a song about it on Youtube.

But what really takes the cake is that the American Association for the Advancement of Science, publisher of Science, doesn't seem to appreciate the difference. On their science news accumulator site, EurekAlert!, under the category "Archaeology" they brazenly include paleontology articles.

More great science journalism! For shame, AAAS.

1 comment:

  1. I get this all the time as a student! Shared on facebook to educate my friends and family!