The Path to Becoming a Historical Archaeologist

The Path to Becoming a Historical Archaeologist

Are you interested in the field of historical archaeology and wondering how to pursue a career in this fascinating area of study? Becoming a historical archaeologist involves a unique blend of historical research, archaeological excavation, and preservation of cultural heritage. In this article, we will explore the various steps and educational requirements necessary to embark on the path to becoming a successful historical archaeologist. Whether you are a student considering a major in archaeology or a professional looking to make a career change, this guide will provide valuable insights into the exciting world of historical archaeology.

Education and Training

Becoming a historical archaeologist requires a combination of education and hands-on training. Here are the key components to consider:

Undergraduate Degree

To start a career in historical archaeology, it is recommended to pursue a bachelor’s degree in archaeology, anthropology, history, or a related field. Coursework in these disciplines will provide a solid foundation in archaeological theory, methods, and practices. Additionally, taking classes in geography, geology, and sociology can also be beneficial.

Graduate Degree

While a bachelor’s degree is a good starting point, many historical archaeologists choose to further their education by obtaining a master’s or doctoral degree. Graduate programs in historical archaeology offer more specialized coursework and research opportunities, allowing students to deepen their knowledge and expertise in the field. These advanced degrees can also open up more job opportunities and higher salary potential.

Field Experience

In addition to formal education, gaining hands-on field experience is essential for becoming a successful historical archaeologist. Participating in archaeological field schools, internships, and volunteer opportunities can provide valuable practical skills and networking opportunities. Fieldwork allows aspiring archaeologists to apply their knowledge in real-world settings, learn field techniques, and gain experience working on archaeological sites. This hands-on experience is highly valued by employers and can help individuals stand out in a competitive job market.

Skills and Qualities

Historical archaeology is a fascinating field that requires a unique set of skills and qualities in order to be successful. Here are some key attributes that are essential for anyone looking to pursue a career as a historical archaeologist:

Attention to Detail

One of the most important skills for a historical archaeologist is attention to detail. This involves being able to carefully examine and analyze artifacts, documents, and other historical evidence in order to piece together the story of the past. A keen eye for detail is crucial in order to accurately interpret the significance of archaeological finds and understand their place within a historical context.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is another essential skill for a historical archaeologist. This involves being able to evaluate and analyze information, draw logical conclusions, and think creatively in order to solve complex problems. Historical archaeologists must be able to critically assess the evidence in front of them, consider multiple perspectives, and come to well-supported conclusions about the past.

Research Skills

Strong research skills are also key for a successful career in historical archaeology. Historical archaeologists must be able to conduct thorough research, locate and analyze primary sources, and synthesize information from a variety of different sources in order to build a comprehensive understanding of the past. Good research skills are essential for developing well-informed interpretations of historical events and making meaningful contributions to the field of archaeology.

Job Responsibilities

As a historical archaeologist, your main responsibilities will involve conducting site excavations, analyzing artifacts, and writing detailed reports on your findings. This profession requires a combination of fieldwork, laboratory work, and academic research skills.

Site Excavation

One of the primary tasks of a historical archaeologist is to excavate historical sites to uncover valuable artifacts and evidence of past human activities. This involves careful planning, surveying, mapping, and digging at specific locations to uncover buried artifacts and structures. Site excavation requires attention to detail, patience, and the ability to work in a team with other archaeologists and field technicians.

Artifact Analysis

After excavating artifacts from historical sites, the next step is to analyze and interpret them. This process involves cleaning, cataloging, and studying artifacts to gain insights into the culture, lifestyle, and technologies of the people who once inhabited the site. Artifact analysis may also involve using specialized tools and techniques such as carbon dating, X-ray analysis, and 3D scanning to study artifacts in more detail.

Report Writing

Once the site excavation and artifact analysis are complete, historical archaeologists are responsible for writing detailed reports summarizing their findings. These reports typically include descriptions of the site, analysis of artifacts, interpretations of the data, and recommendations for further research. Report writing requires strong writing skills, critical thinking, and the ability to communicate complex archaeological information in a clear and concise manner.


In conclusion, the path to becoming a historical archaeologist is not always easy, but it is certainly rewarding. By obtaining a solid education in archaeology, gaining fieldwork experience, and honing research and analytical skills, individuals can pave the way towards a successful career in this fascinating field. Historical archaeologists play a crucial role in uncovering and preserving our past, providing valuable insights into ancient civilizations and societies. As such, pursuing a career in historical archaeology can be a truly fulfilling and enriching journey for those who are passionate about unraveling the mysteries of our collective history.