Dealing With Fieldwork Withdrawal

Don’t be alarmed – I’m not an addict per se; just an archaeology grad student spending her summer in a classroom instead of in the field.

For the past two years, I spent my summers (or at least two months of my summers) picking and sifting my way through tons of dirt in the blistering Athens sun for seven hours a day – and I loved it. My first year working on the Athenian Agora Excavations felt almost overwhelming. I was trying to keep up with the social aspects of the dig AND work on the research I needed for my senior thesis so there wasn’t a lot of time to really let it all sink in. My second year on the dig was a lot different. Without the burden of assignments every day, I could really focus on what digging meant to me and on the progress we were making in the grand scheme of things. I could learn more about the work we were doing, and improve in my excavating methods and my pottery sorting. I could discover more about what I was personally interested in, like domestic space and ceramics.

One of my favorite experiences of the last dig season was getting a tour of the houses of the Agora from Dr. Barbara Tsakirgis, who is one of my domestic archaeology heroes (the other being a professor I am soon going to be working with and learning from here at the U of M, Lisa Nevett). I had forgotten my notebook (another big part of my learning experience on the Agora last year – I took notes at every archaeological site and museum I went to), but managed to take a lot of notes on my phone during our tour on the structure, the history, and the discrepancies involved with the houses she pointed out. It made me start thinking more about domestic space and while I haven’t had a whole lot of opportunity to look more into it in the past year, I look forward to doing so in the Fall, when I take a course in Theoretical Issues in Archaeology focused on domestic space.

Being in a different country on an excavation is like being on a whole other planet. It’s so freeing in a way because you not only are doing what you love for six to eight weeks, but you are getting a chance to fully immerse yourself in the culture outside of the dig. I feel so trapped here in America, watching from the outside as my friends post updates about their experiences in the field. I regret my choice not to return this season.

But one perk of being a doctoral student in archaeology is that there will always be more chances to dig. It’ll mostly come down to where and when – my biggest contenders are my alma mater, the Athenian Agora, and another Greek site, Olynthos, where they are excavating a house (!!!) and where I would get to learn a lot more about domestic space in archaeology first hand.

Some ways I’m dealing with my fieldwork withdrawal:

-Visiting our archaeological museum

-Listening to podcasts about archaeology/classics

Reading about archaeology

Other archaeological research interests: women in antiquity, ancient architecture, marriage in antiquity, and religious space.

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