Thinking about Field School yet? You should be…

Hey guys, it’s me, your friendly neighborhood struggling archaeologist, here with a public service announcement: START PLANNING FOR FIELD SCHOOL NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY.

I know in the podcast world we don’t usually talk about field school until spring or summer because, duh, that’s when they happen, but in reality if you are someone looking for guidance on field schools the time to talk about it is now. Maybe not minutiae like what you should pack or whether to go with the wool socks or the cotton (eh, I know everyone says wool, but I hated mine so I stuck with cotton and the world didn’t end). Rather, it’s a good time to decide if you want/need to do one at all and figure out 1. what field school to do 2. if you can get into it 3. how you’re going to finance it, and 4. if it’s what’s in your best interest at all.

Think about where you are right now and what you want. Are you already in school? Have you made your mind up about pursuing archaeology professionally? Do you have a career focus or are you just rolling with whatever the program you got into is doing? Does your school have or require you to go to their own field school? Do you need college credit that will transfer to your home school? Can you finance your own way if you decide to go to a remote field school and if not, what options do you have? Does the program have scholarships or aid available to you? Do you even want to go to field school? I know this seems like a lot to think about, but trust me, you’ll be glad  you did it now. So sit down with a notebook and write out the answers to these questions. Then let it guide your next steps.

Personally, I think if you are seriously considering a career in archaeology and you have no experience actually digging then it might be a good idea to do some volunteer work at a local excavation to see first hand what archaeology is really like. It’s no joke- there aren’t motorcycle sidecar chases- there are lots of shovels and heavy buckets of dirt and awkward equipment to haul around- and there aren’t always bathrooms nearby! I’ve seen people go straight to college and sign up for an archaeology degree and get to their first field school and… hate it. By that point there has been a lot of wasted money, energy, hopes, and time spent to learn a lesson they could have figured out long before. You can usually find out about local digs from nearby universities, historical societies, museums, the National Park Service, archaeology magazines, and many other websites and organizations like the Archaeological Institute of America. The AIA is a great resource for finding volunteer work, field schools, scholarships, and jobs.

If you aren’t even sure if you need a field school or not then check the requirements of your school’s program; most will require one to be completed by a certain point in your degree. If you’re not sure if it will help you- it will. You will lean HOW to be an archaeologist in field school, you will probably learn what kind of archaeologist you want to be, and you will learn what kind you don’t want to be. If you plan on working during or after college a field school will be incredibly important to have on your CV. If you have little experience, an employer will be looking to make sure you have learned the skills needed for the job, and that field school is what’s going to sell it to them. If you want to specialize in a specific area it will give you a lot of credibility going forward to have studied there, and a field school can give you a leg up and introduce you to people within that field who will give you guidance going forward and create an important network for your future career. These are only some of the reasons why I recommend a field school to everyone who is serious about working in archaeology.

Think about it. Talk to your trusted professors, mentors, or friends in the field. Tweet your favorite professional a question about where they recommend you find the right field school. Go to blogs and the websites of professional archaeological organizations. Do your research and I know you will find exactly what you need.

Also, I forgot to mention it, but field schools rock. There’s really nothing like the experiences, friends, and lessons you will come away with. Just be ready to commit yourself to working hard, learning all the things, and getting really, really dirty. You’ll be fine.

McNiven out.

Field School is Fun!

Episode 5 “I See Dead People”


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Welcome to Episode 5 of The Struggling Archaeologist’s Guide to Getting Dirty, “I See Dead People!”

And boy do I ever, well, at least while researching for this episode! I tried but I just couldn’t avoid more mention of mummies, but I think after our discussion of archaeological execution sites and bog bodies you won’t mind a boring old mummy or two!

The discovery of a pit full of 14th century German execution victims is why today is all about death, so I felt it necessary to delve into the world of bog bodies as well- since who doesn’t love those, am I right?! Don’t worry, in today’s shorty news I figured I should talk about something full of sunshine and rainbows to make up for the macabre first act of the podcast- so I briefly consider the merits of space archaeology…. yes, space archaeology.

Oh yeah, and if you were planning on doing a field school this summer you should get your booty on it asap! Check out,,,, and other similar such sites for field work opportunities around the world for this summer!

And for your viewing pleasure here are some pictures of well known bog bodies and a naturally preserved Incan mummy… and please show them some respect and don’t go posting them on your facebook page!


Tollund Man – 4th century BCE, Denmark








Courtesy of Sven Rosborn





Tollund man —> the rope that was used to kill him is still around his neck!









“Red Franz”- 3-5th century CE, Germany

  <—- Throat was sliced and stabbed in shoulder, hair turned red from bog acids




Courtesy of Robert Clark



Sergeant Boris Lazarev- Russia, 1943 —>









Incan child-Chris Openshaw

<—- Incan child sacrifice,  16th century CE, Chile







Courtesy of Chris Openshaw

German execution remains- Ben Behnke (Der Spiegel)


Remains from the Alkersleben execution victims –>






That it folks, check us out on iTunes and these other awesome sites!

Here >  on Stitcher

and Here > on PodBean

and Here > on Alltop




Episode 2 “Change Up”


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Welcome Friends! It’s another exciting episode of “The Struggling Archaeologist’s Guide to Getting Dirty,” so get ready for episode 2 “Change up!”

In this episode I take you on a journey into the exciting world of mummies. Just your average, run of the mill, organ-less, mummified human beings. Well, at least that’s what they thought at the Redpath museum of Montreal, until recent images from a CT scan of three mummies from their collection revealed that one of them wore a fancy schmancy hairstyle to the afterlife. I heard it was all the rage in the Roman era, so I thought I’d try it out for myself (a little experimental archaeology never hurt anyone… unless you count flint knapping, which I believe is up there with shark attacks on the kill-o-meter). So here is a forensic artist’s reconstruction of the Redpath mummy (a woman around 20 from the Fayum)… and myself with a truly awful reconstruction of her hairdo!











Now, I remind you that I had to do this to myself while the Egyptian woman probably wasn’t very bothered during the whole process because she was dead… but I bet if she were still kickin she would have had help because this is actually quite a difficult look to pull off. I made the mistake of doing too many braids and then smushing the poof I had created in the back with the million bobby pins I had to use to secure the braid ends. So kudos to you Egyptian ladies, you’ve one upped me in the battle of the hair- although I will remind you that at least I have hair, which is more than I can say for many of you, so there. Here’s some shots from the front for you kids, just so I can say I didn’t get all dressed up for nothing.

mummyhairsmall IMGP0648

  So the Egyptian thing was fun      (especially when I went to Wal-Mart later  and everyone stared at me), but then we had to move on- so I was happy to bring you some cool CRM news out of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Researching this story kind of got away from me, I pretty much ended up giving a history of Danish royalty so…  yeah, that happened. But seriously, I have a cool scoop from the author of the article about the future of the project too.

Somewhere in there is a new segment I call shorty news. It’s a short news story that I find amusing. This one’s about soup. Enjoy.

So there you have it folks, the official episode wrap-up. Make sure to like “The Struggling Archaeologist’s Guide to Getting Dirty” on facebook, and send me some tweets at @strugglingarch. I realized when I said that I’d “tweet” you back on the podcast it sounded mildly dirty- so just to be clear- that’s when I write you back to tell you something insightful that changes your life. If you’re comment can’t be contained in 140 characters then send me an email at

Enjoy the show. Oh yeah, and check out that braid action from the back! IMGP0634