Archaeology- the Dyslexic Profession or the Profession of Dyslexics

Posted on August 12, 2014


I don’t know why this is but Archaeology attracts an abnormally high number of people with Dyslexia. The 2005 survey that I mentioned in my last post found that 16% of Professional Archaeologists with disabilities had dyslexia. What is more striking is the number of archaeology students at University with dyslexia, 63%. That is of course out of all students with a reported disability which makes up about 14% of all archaeology students. 42% of Archaeology academics with a disability have dyslexia, though this is out of a small number academics, only 12 (see my post on archaeology not being disability friendly).

(This is part of a series of posts on Disabilities and Archaeology- see rates of disability in professional archaeology, my personal experiencesdisclosing to your employer )


I have tried finding numbers of the number of people in the UK with dyslexia but the numbers range from 2% to 15% depending on how one defines it. What is probably more valuable is to compare like data. At the time of the survey, 2004/5, only 6.5% of the general population of University students in the UK had a registered disability. Archaeology appears to attract a large number of students with disabilities, twice the average. I should say these numbers come from two different datasets so they may not be comparable. Still 3% of all University students report dealing with Dyslexia while for Archaeology it is 8.6% (out of all Archaeology students).

My perspective may not be typical but I have gone to 3 Universities for Archaeology degrees and would never have guessed that 1 in 10 archaeology students has dyslexia. I have also taught at a University and graded papers in which there is a mention of the student having a disability (we give a grading dispensation for some disabilities, mainly more time to work on the paper) but that is not 1 in 10, it is closer to 1 in 40.


Like I said, I don’t know why. My first guess would be that Archaeology can provide more hands on activity which is easier to be successful in, than one that requires lots of reading, writing, and working with numbers. However, anyone who has worked in Archaeology knows that there is an incredible amount of reading, writing, and a fair amount of working with math. Moreover, in UK Archaeology 47% of archaeologists have a Masters or PhD. Writing 20,000-70,000+ words and reading a ton of papers and books is not exactly conducive to people with some types of dyslexia.


Has anyone experienced such high number of students with dyslexia? Anyone with dyslexia want to share their experiences of dealing with it at University or working in Archaeology? Anyone have thoughts as to why so many Archaeology professionals and students have dyslexia? To go back to the title of this post, does archaeology benefit those with dyslexia (Dyslexic Profession) or for some reason we just have a high number of people with dyslexia (Profession of Dyslexics)?

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