Archaeology is not boring!

1 minute read

Colleen Morgan has a new post at Middle Savagery that may serve as an intervention to those who claim that archaeology isn’t a romantic field: “Stop saying ‘Archaeology is actually boring’”.

As more and more archaeologists become involved in science communication, whether by blogging, or television, or public lectures we cannot have the same failures over and over (and over) again. By calling archaeology boring you are not serving an important function in rectifying pop-culture. You are not imbuing your work with some kind of scientific importance. You are not showing a reaction against positivism with your post-modern indifference. You are stealing the limelight from the parts of your research that are absolutely fascinating. You are diminishing the reasons you became an archaeologist, and the reasons that you are compelled to tell people the story of your research.

I agree. I mean, what do teachers think they are doing when they say this stuff? Are they afraid that people will think archaeology is just like it looks in the movies?

News flash: Your students already know that movies are not reality.

And if they do think movies are reality, they probably think you are the pompous literature professor from Back to School. I mean, do economics teachers need to tell their students that economics is actually boring? “It’s not all like The Wolf of Wall Street, you know!”

I have had a wonderful experience seeing students in my massive open course react to our student field journals. The graduate students have some outstanding videos that they edited, showing their experiences working in the field last summer at Swartkrans, South Africa and Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. They show the reality of fieldwork, from the painstaking excavation process to the realities of life in camp. Many of the worldwide students have been fascinated to see this work behind the scenes. A few have been amazed at how little return there is to these field operations, very small moments of discovery within a long, tedious period of working. Only a handful of students have said that fieldwork is boring. And that’s because it isn’t – it’s work, not boring work!