Home History What Is It Like to Be an Archaeologist Today?

What Is It Like to Be an Archaeologist Today?

by Enochadmin

Archaeologist and bestselling creator Simon Elliott is not any stranger to historical past — from co-directing a subject investigation at a Roman villa within the Medway Valley in England to exploring historic riddles just like the destiny of Rome’s lacking legion, he’s captivated with rediscovering the traditional world. Featured on many broadcast media together with the BBC, the Nationwide Geographic and Discovery channels, in addition to in Navy Historical past journal, Dr. Elliott shared his experiences with Historynet and insights about what it takes to be an archaeologist right now.

MHQ: What motivated you to grow to be an archaeologist?

S.E: Way back to I can keep in mind I’ve all the time had a love of historical past, the classical world, and archaeology. Certainly one of my earliest recollections is drawing an image of a Roman chariot with wax crayons! Later, when writing the thesis for my A Stage in Historical past, I selected the topic of Neanderthals and their relationship with fashionable people.

Then, once I was simply 18 years outdated, I keep in mind choosing up a duplicate of the Council for British Archaeology’s publication in my native put up workplace, selecting my first dig within the listings there, and that summer time going for 2 weeks. Wonderful! It was a Mesolithic axe manufacturing unit atop Hengistbury Head in Dorset. What an journey! And going full circle, I’m now honored to be a trustee of the CBA.


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What abilities does an archaeologist want right now?

Many and diverse, given there are such a lot of various kinds of archaeologist and archaeological exercise. For instance, I describe myself as a panorama archaeologist, utilizing an analytical private skillset to tease out each final piece of interpretative information from a web site or artifact, after which presenting the large image overview of what we’re taking a look at.

Different nice buddies within the self-discipline love sensible archaeology, excavating a web site for months on finish, whereas others use all types of science to supply tutorial rigor to our self-discipline and career.

Above all although, it actually helps to have an inquisitive thoughts!  

This Roman knife found by Dr. Elliott got here from the ruins of a Roman kitchen that had burnt down, which was positioned on the former web site of a Roman villa within the Medway Valley in England. (Courtesy Dr. Simon Elliott)

What are essentially the most attention-grabbing artifacts you’ve labored with?

I’d say that my prime three finds whereas excavating or researching are a good looking Mesolithic axe discovered whereas strolling Hector (my golden doodle archaeological sidekick), a Roman knife I discovered whereas serving to lead the excavations on a Roman villa site in the Medway Valley (this got here from a Roman kitchen which at some stage had burnt down catastrophically), and the rim of an enormous Roman amphora, which I discovered by tripping over it whereas analyzing a potential Roman burial web site, given it was coated in foliage!

A lot of your analysis focuses on historical Roman navy historical past. What sorts of Roman navy websites have you ever analyzed?

Virtually too many to say! My favourite in Britain is the Saxon Shore fort web site at Richborough on the east Kent coast, which is a time machine for your entire Roman occupation of Britain. It was seemingly close to right here that Caesar twice landed, then later that the Claudian invasion came about in AD 43, the place Domitian constructed his monumental arch to have a good time Agricola ‘conquering’ the far north of Britain, and eventually the place the final coin hoard present in Britain was positioned. This was an early 5th century AD pay chest despatched there from the continent, however when it arrived the navy unit it was for had left. Given the cash had been base metallic, they had been ineffective to the area people and so had been buried.

In the meantime, lately I used to be fortunate sufficient to twice go to Timgad and Lambaesis in Roman Algeria. These had been a colonia veteran settlement and legionary fortress for legio III Augusta, the Roman legion there.

Each are instantly north of the attractive Aures Mountains. Simply standing there beneath copper blue skies realizing the Sahara was simply to the south was superb.

Dr. Simon Elliott, proven right here within the subject at Nea Paphos, the Roman capital of Cyprus, is a panorama archaeologist who analyses interpretive information from websites and artifacts to realize insights into historical past. (Courtesy Dr. Simon Elliott)

Is there a specific web site (or websites) you’ve investigated that you’ve discovered most intriguing?

My villa web site within the Medway Valley, given we have now been there for over 5 years and each season brings alongside one thing new to ponder. Most lately, crop marks in very dry climate appear to point our personal villa was changed in direction of the tip of the Roman interval with one twice the dimensions!

fashionable tradition creates myths about historical warriors, just like the Vikings. What are the most important misconceptions in regards to the Roman military?

I believe individuals usually overlook how superb Roman legionaries had been as engineers. Within the Roman world, with no nationalized industries, civil service of the size we have now right now, or free market to lift capital for main engineering initiatives, the one asset the Roman state might flip to do issues was the navy.

Has your subject work modified the way in which you view Roman navy historical past usually?

A incredible query! Truly my subject work has actually helped me to problem some acquired wisdoms!

For instance, my latest work in Roman Algeria helped me determine that the post-Vandal Byzantine part of a lot of the main city facilities wasn’t a revival of the rich late Roman part, however somewhat a navy occupation.

New buildings constructed there at the moment are small forts with enormous numbers of water troughs, often constructed proper on prime of the sooner Roman discussion board at every web site. This tells me that when the Byzantines got here again to “save” the locals, they weren’t welcome and had been decreased to policing this huge area with cavalry.

Inform us extra about Your forthcoming e book, “Roman Britain’s Pirate King,” which focuses on a Roman naval chief turned outlaw?

Carausius is a key determine in British historical past, initially misplaced within the mists of time as a result of he took on the Roman imperial heart within the type of the emperors Maximian and Diocletian, finally misplaced, and was successfully canceled by them.

I discovered his story fascinating and due to this fact determined to dig deeper, discovering each single up to date reference about him. I then set this in opposition to the newest archaeological information and was capable of write this biography of him — the primary.

Learn the complete interview about “Roman Britain’s Pirate King” in Navy Historical past Quarterly‘s digital publication unique. Join the publication in case you’re a subscriber. If not, subscribe to MHQ now.

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