Book Excerpt: 'Lives in Ruins'
By Marilyn Johnson, http://www.marilynjohnson.net/new__i_lives_in_ruins__i__123545.htm
Chapter 1 Field School: Context is everything
Field school is a rite of passage. If you are studying archaeology, or even thinking about it, you need to apprentice yourself to an excavation specifically set up to help train field-workers. This usually takes place in a desert or jungle, a hot and often buggy place at the hottest and buggiest time of year. A century ago, field school meant signing on to a dig under the supervision of an archaeologist, who would teach you the fine art of excavating while hired locals did the hard labor. Now the locals work as translators, drivers, guides, or cooks, and the students do the heavy lifting, moving rocks and hauling dirt and slag—for instance, in a foul pit in Jordan that, back in the tenth century b.c., was a copper smelt. "I can't prove it," the lead archaeologist at that site told National Geographic, "but I think that the only people who are going to be working in this rather miserable environment are either slaves . . or undergrads." Students not only work without the prod of a whip, they pay for the privilege. Field schools got that school in their name by charging tuition, quite a lot of it, usually thousands of dollars. Where would archaeology be without these armies of toiling grads and undergrads? Are they the base of a pyramid scheme that keeps excavations going with their labor and fees?