Why I do #freearchaeology and maybe a reason why you should too

Posted on August 21, 2013


I do #freearchaeology and I do it all the time. This is not some sort of trick statement like I do #freearchaeology, its called a degree, ha ha ha. I have literally done months and months of #freearchaeology.

Why? Because I like to do archaeology. I like the people I do it with, shout out to David Connelly at BAJR (please, no one tell David I wrote this, he will never let me forget I said so). The single worst thing you can do to kill your love of archaeology is to get a job in it. Here is a very common conversation I have with professional archaeologists-

Me- Doing some archaeology this weekend do you want to come along?

Archy- How much is the pay?

Me- None, its a volunteer dig.

Archy- @#$%  that  #%hit. I am not going to spend my weekends doing work for free.

Almost, with out fail people never say I won’t spend my weekend doing archaeology, it’s always I won’t spend my weekend doing work. When you are employed to undertake archaeology, you are employed to undertake archaeology. Rarely, do you get to choose what you do or how you do it. Talk with most managers at CRM firms, they have not been out in the field in years (by out in the field I mean shoveling, not site visits). They are literally business managers and spend their days talking with clients and setting up projects. Being out in the field is not much better as you have to dig fast and dig according to how someone else dictates. Academia involves 60 hour work weeks and about the same amount of job security as a shovelbum job.

Now this post is not a gripe about how bad an archaeology job is. I personally don’t mind working fast and digging whatever other people want me to. I have loved my archaeology jobs. There are many ways to make your archaeology job a dream job. I won’t go over how to make it your dream job in this post but will say that the reason I do #freearchaeology is because I can do archaeology how I want. In #freearchaeology you can dig very interesting sites. Sites that in commercial or Academic archaeology would never get dug because it would be too expensive. I can talk with people during #freearchaeology and work at my own pace. Honestly, #freearchaeology, as the saying goes, is the most fun you can have with your pants on. There are literally tens of thousands of people each year who do archaeology without the expectation to be paid, most pay themselves. Archaeology is fun and most people are willing to pay to have fun. Some of the best archaeology in the world is #freearchaeology so it might be worth doing if you like to do archaeology.

What are other reasons for doing #freearchaeology? David said it best-

I need to drive to work… do I demand that the driving instructor pays me to learn? should the government pay for my driving licence? same with all the other practical skills…. I am afraid students have to realise that opportunities to get experience are either paid or free. but very very rare will you get paid to learn.

You are not going to get paid to learn archaeology (aside from some funded PhDs) but you can do it for pretty cheap. It could be getting a undergrad degree, it could be trying to learn a new skill, no matter what it is chances are you will need to do #freearchaeology.

#freearchaeology != #dumbarchaeology

Now when I talk about doing #freearchaeology I am talking about spending my time, not my money. I find projects that are not going to charge me to work because I can’t afford to. If you do #freearchaeology right you can do it for free (moneywise) and get trained. We train everyone on our digs and have even been known to get some people  jobs too. What we need is a way to train people how to do this better, cheaper, and smarter than the current system. I know everyone is talking about unpaid interships and how they are horrible things, I think so too. However, just because something is bad has yet to stop it from ever happening in the world. There are exceptions to this, we have yet to have a nuclear war, but for the most part people try to screw over people all the time. What archaeology needs is better training, at least career-wise, about how to avoid being taken advantage of (it could be argued other disciplines could use this too). If people read everything has written on the topic we probably would have fewer, scam inter jobs. I think such training could solve the problems around #freearchaeology, at least that is my humble opinion.


I would finally like to add that you can still get screwed over while undertaking paid work too. A salary does not preclude anyone from getting roughed over, thrown under the bus, taken advantage of, etc. In fact, getting paid probably increases the chances as people now believe you owe them or they own you.