Archaeomath’s advice for archaeology graduate school

Fish skeleton tattoo by Russell Fortier. Source:

I linked once before to the excellent quantitative zooarchaeology blog written by a mysterious anonymous figure.  Turns out the anonymous fish guy also has some great advice for graduate students – two pages worth, tailored to different stages.  I found myself agreeing with quite a bit of it.  Here are a few excerpts, but there is much more in the two excellent posts here and here.

For the starting graduate student:

  • Get training in soils, geomorphology, statistics, and GIS. Having knowledge in these topics will give you tools for fieldwork and laboratory analyses, regardless of the areas where you will work and the issues that you will study.
  • Get diverse field experience. Take a couple field schools in different parts of the world. It will give you exposure to some different ways of running projects and to the methods appropriate to different settings.
  • Get some real-world experience prior to graduate school. Graduate school will always be there. You need not rush straight from your undergraduate institution to graduate school, and many graduate programs prefer that applicants get some real-world experience prior to graduate school. This experience will allow you some time to affirm your commitment to graduate work in archeology and to develop your ideas about the type of archeology that you would like to undertake in a graduate program.

For the mid stages:

  • Tailor your coursework to your thesis research. Work with each professor to tie your class paper or project to a chapter or portion of that thesis.
  • Work with an existing artifact assemblage or data for your thesis. Ideally, you should only spend a couple years working toward your Master’s degree. To meet this schedule and produce a publishable thesis, you would be very hard pressed to acquire enough data through fieldwork to write a thesis worth publishing.

For the advanced graduate student:

  • Collaborate with your advisor. Your Grand Theory of Stuff will be much more likely to gain acceptance if you co-author it with another established silverback. [emphasis added – editor]

As I say, there is much more here and here.

Crow skeleton tattoo. Source:

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