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Dream Jobs: Archeologist

Diggin' It

What route did people take to migrate from Africa to Europe? How were bronze tools used 5,000 years ago? These are the questions Paul Goldberg ponders when he's not in the classroom or the laboratory.

Goldberg is a professor at Boston University. He spends school breaks in international destinations including Israel and South Africa, seeking answers to questions that have long confounded humankind. That's the life of an academic archaeologist - and Goldberg definitely digs it.

Some archaeologists spend all their time in the field, like Goldberg's colleagues at Boston University who run field schools in countries like Belize, which contains important Mayan sites.

Goldberg has an unusual specialty: geoarchaeology. He studies the physical history of an archaeological site as opposed to the cultural history. He works with historical archaeologists to help locate a site based on the geological changes that have occurred in a particular area and interpret the artifacts found there. Most major projects have a geologist on the crew when one is available.

Goldberg recently traveled to a site outside Beijing, China, where the remains of "Peking Man" were found, to analyze the soil for signs of the use of fire. While there, Goldberg sampled fried scorpions: he has an adventurous palate to match his spirit. Traveling to exotic countries and eating rare delicacies are definite perks of his work for him.

Heavy Lifting Required
On a dig, archaeologists do more than dust off ancient artifacts like pottery bowls or crude utensils. They do the heavy lifting - shoveling dirt with a trowel to unearth remains. If it's a big site with perhaps a building or structure to unearth, workers are hired to help. But the archaeologist is always there to make sure that care is taken not to destroy possible finds.Incredibly, archaeologists have only begun to scratch the surface of the historic remains scattered around the globe. Even in Greece, a country synonymous with archaeology, there are still many untapped sites to explore.

A College Degree Will Suffice
You don't have to spend years in graduate school like Goldberg to experience the thrill of working on giant treasure hunts. Major new construction projects, like building a road, have funds mandated for "cultural resource management" to determine whether the area contains historic sites that will be affected by the construction. If it does, a dig is commissioned, often under tight time constraints. "Sometimes, you're digging in front of the bulldozer," says Goldberg. Engineering firms and other firms specializing in this work hire people with only a bachelor's or master's degree in archaeology. These projects are generally in the United States.

So if you want to spend your time unearthing important cultural relics and eating fried scorpions, put on your work clothes, pack your bags for foreign travel...and dream on!