Day After the Day of Archaeology Musings

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Well, here we are, the day after the day of archaeology. I’m writing on the day after the day of archaeology because I spent all of yesterday in planes and airports wrangling a ten month old, and the week before on a remote Canadian island with no computer or internet. So there you go. This year I bet you’re wondering what the Struggling Archaeologist is up to and if she’s, well, still struggling. To be honest, the short and most honest answer to that question is: yes. In a manner I suppose this career is one which we are all likely to struggle in from time to time. As needed and important as archaeology is in the world, it’s still a small and competitive field and there are more brilliant minds (and trowels) in it than jobs. Or at least it feels that way. This day of archaeology my mind is preoccupied with my future, continuing to build my skills and experience, and staying relevant two years out of grad school with a new baby. I’m not in the field this year. I am doing as so many archaeologists do repeatedly through their career, sitting at a computer working on what I hope will help me keep my career growing for many years to come. Definitely not the sexy part of the job. I guess it’s more like the morning after a great party part of the job– when you wake up feeling foggy and wondering whether whatever you did all of last night was worth the headache you have right now.

You know what my problem is? I’m a sedentary woman in a nomadic world. I won’t bore you with the details of my personal life or play a tiny violin as l lament what choices brought me to this weird and unfulfilling time in my career (I have a full-size violin which I do play, incidentally. Not to brag, but I could play the violin and lament all day if I wanted to). The point being, in order to find more fulfilling work and a job in which I feel I would be much happier it would behoove me to leave my current home and go wherever that work is. This, sad to say, is not an option for me at the moment. Call me crazy, but being a 35 year old nomad is not as appealing as it was when I was a 25 year student embarking on my archaeology career. I have a family, my husband has a good job, and giving up that stability seems pretty darn stupid to me. Alas, there are very limited job opportunities in my current community for academics and archaeologists alike. So here I sit, updating my linkedin, taking online skills development courses to improve my wretched history with technology, looking for jobs and research opportunities, preparing a paper for submittal, reading blogs and planning a new podcast, unpacking, making dinner, and enjoying the giggles escaping my son as he wobbles across the house to explore some new wonder.

I feel perhaps, as usual, there is something here than I am missing. Some hidden spring of employment that other M.A archaeologists are swimming in. But I think the truth is that this field is so varied, random, diverse, and the opposite of normal that there is no one path to success. What kinds of jobs can archaeologists do? Where do they work? There are about as many answers as there are archaeologists. Finding not only a job but knowing where the opportunities for jobs are is an added challenge in our field. I have come to a place where, much like with my podcast, I am almost convinced that for me the answer is to create the opportunity for myself. I consider myself, first and foremost, an educator, and so today I am also thinking of designing online educational materials about archaeology and history. I am tweaking the design on an infographic I have been working on to accompany my next podcast episode. I am also considering the creation of new media projects aimed at introducing young people to anthropology. As much as I love to dig, this is what is really exciting me right now.

As I reread it hits me that this post is a major downer. Sorry about that. Well, not really, as I have never wanted to be anything other than my own genuine self in all of my Struggling Archaeologist related materials. The truth is that we all struggle, and today– this day after the day of archaeology– this happens to be my reality. I know we’re all supposed to look brilliant and successful and have it all figured out all of the time, but the truth is that we don’t. Not most of us anyway. Still, I end this blog and this day feeling hopeful for my future. I get to be a part, in some small way, of a world that seeks to preserve the wonders of the past and to do good things for humanity. I think of my son and the things he’ll get to learn and the awe it might inspire in him as a result of what we do. It makes the giggles outweigh everything else. That’s all that matters in the end.



Episode 26 “The REAL Game of Thrones”



Hey everybody! I’m back for the 26th episode of the Struggling Archaeologist’s Guide to Getting Dirty, and this is a pretty cool one, it’s time for the “REAL Game of Thrones!”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve probably noticed that it’s Game of Thrones time once again. So while you’re catching up on life in Westeros this season why not enjoy a bit of the history behind George R. R. Martin’s addictive series. While there’s lots to choose from, this episode focuses on the links between the Lannister/Stark feud and the English monarchy during the Wars of the Roses.


As I mention in the podcast, my inspiration for this episode came from the excellent docu-history special “The Real History Behind Game of Thrones” from the 5th season Blu-ray special features. It’s a great look at the Wars of the Roses and GoT with interviews with Martin and historians like cutie McCutie Dan Jones. I suggest you go buy the Blu-ray to have access to the special, but I will add that it may or may not be available on YouTube by some dubious means which I don’t in any way condone. But you know us history lovers, we do what we’ve gotta do.

I’ve taken some examples from the special and done my own research to expand upon them, so you can use the podcast as a companion to the special. Or, just listen to me because I’m awesomer. I will warn you that I have mentioned events from the series through the end of season 4, so major SPOILER ALERT, you will be spoiled if you listen- and believe me- you don’t want to be spoiled, so maybe don’t listen if you haven’t seen the show yet. If you watch the special there are spoilers through season 5, so be ready for it and don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Finally, here is a handy chart of the royal lineages most relevant to the history and the podcast from the Wars of the Roses. Study it, you will be thankful when I’ve mentioned the names Edward, Henry, and Richard about 500 times each.

plantagenetsCredit: Royal Family History @


Now here are some links for funsies:

Dan Jones’ Book The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors

George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire Series

Game of Thrones Season 5 Blu-ray featuring The Real History of Game of Thrones special

The Hollow Crown series on Netflix

(I’m not being paid to peddle any of these things, but you might enjoy them and it only feels right to recommend them after referring to each in the podcast)

So there you have it, sit back and enjoy this badass Game of Thrones podcast. Comparisons will be made, heads will be lost, and spoilers will abound. So beware, but enjoy the awesomeness that is the REAL Game of Thrones!

McNiven OUT!

Interview on The Career 100 Podcast!

The Struggling Archaeologist is being featured on The Career 100 Podcast! 

Hey you guys! Long time no… write? Well then what better time for The Struggling Archaeologist to make a comeback! I’m here to let you know that I did this thing recently and maybe you should check it out. The “thing” is an interview I was fortunate enough to be asked to do by a podcast called the “CRF Career 100” which is run by Felicia Gopaul of If you are interested in knowing more about a career in archaeology, and more specifically about my career in archaeology, then this might be a great listen for you. This podcast takes experts from many of the top careers and goes into how they became professionals in their field, as well as what students and individuals who are considering following in their footsteps should know about going into these professions. Felicia’s own daughter would like to be an archaeologist, so we talked a lot about what she should know going into school and preparing for a future as a shovelbum.

So have a listen or pass this on to anyone you know who is thinking about a career in archaeology. It was a great opportunity for me and lots of fun to be featured on another podcast, so I am happy to be able to share it with you now!

Happy Listening!

McNiven OUT