Becoming an Archaeologist: a guide to professional pathways (2nd edition)

Review by Edward Biddulph

Ask most people what comes to mind when they hear the word ‘archaeologist’ and, if not immediately going to Indiana Jones, they will most likely imagine an academic poring over artefacts or heavy tomes, or carefully brushing the soil off an item at some exotic site. It would be a rare person indeed to imagine an archaeologist as someone who works in local government, or public or community organisations, let alone alongside developers ahead of construction in cultural-resource management, the sector that employs most archaeologists by far. Joe Flatman’s book reveals the sheer diversity of the archaeological profession as he navigates a map through the many pathways into it.

After an introductory view of what archaeology is (very much broader than traditional fieldwork) and a look at the general skills and training required, each sector – academic, commercial, and so on – is examined in turn. The book is a guide to pathways into archaeological careers, yet, as demonstrated by several of the testimonies from archaeologists whose own experiences are showcased, pathways are rarely straightforward. Some archaeologists began their career in commercial archaeology before moving into academia, others began with one specialism before changing tack to work in another. The common message is to be flexible and not to neglect opportunities to learn new skills and develop your knowledge.

The chapters on the various sectors are a fair representation of the modern profession, although the part about cultural resource management (CRM) seems a little out of date in places. The days of digging ‘days, or perhaps even minutes’ ahead of a site’s destruction are long gone, at least in the UK, and the differences between academic and CRM archaeologists are a little overplayed. In today’s commercial practices, certainly the larger ones, research is a key component of work undertaken. Delegates at academic conferences will be as likely to hear papers by commercial archaeologists as university-based ones, and there is increasing collaboration between commercial practices and universities on research projects. But this is nit-picking. The book is packed with clear, essential information. It is what every career advisor and anyone seeking a career in archaeology must read.

Becoming an Archaeologist: a guide to professional pathways (2nd edition)
Joe Flatman
Cambridge University Press, £24.99
ISBN 978-1108797092