Yes, you read that correctly: I am in the process of giving up archaeology. Mostly. Sort of. In a way. Allow me to explain.
Ever since Egypt last Fall, and for a while before that if I’m honest, I’ve been wrestling with what to do with myself. As I mentioned in this confessional post, my views on the practice of archaeology have changed over the years and went through something of a “revelation” while there and immediately after. And starting back at Global Health — and quite happily actually — recently made me realize that my interests have shifted somewhat lately. The CRM world, at least around here, is still half-dead, the same way it’s been for the last 3-4 years, so I haven’t even been doing much of that. And, you know, as much as I do enjoy being out in the field at times, all the driving and being dirty and wet and cold has lost its appeal. . . .and you know that when one is reasonably young, it does have an appeal!
At any rate, between all that and a lot of other things, it all came to something of a head inside my head this past weekend, and I decided to mostly quit with archaeology and concentrate on health/biomedical research. Again if I’m honest this isn’t that big of a shift, really. I’ve never really made much of a living at archaeology, have done most of my scientific publishing in biomed, and probably have more of value to contribute there than in archaeology. After all, I have been contributing for most of the last 20+ years. Admittedly, this whole archaeology thing has, in some ways, held me back in health research since for a long time I really felt like I was just doing it while I got my archaeology PhD; afterwards, as I relate here, I more or less held myself back in public health work from not knowing whether I should be pursuing archaeology with my degree and feeling a bit out of place in public/global health.
I imagine it’s more of a mental shift than anything else. I still have the Kom el-Hisn monograph to finish up, and there are still the odd CRM projects that I’ll be working when time permits (going out next Tuesday as a matter of fact), but I don’t really have anything going that I’ll be stopping. It might end up not being that much of a change anyhow, although at least in my own mind it’s a HUGE transition — am I actually giving up something that I started on in 1983? Something that cost me 15 years of grad school?
In a way, I imagine it’s something like a divorce from someone you’ve already grown apart and separated from for a while; not much physically has changed, but actually deciding to end it is a bigger deal psychologically then it looks from the outside. At least from my day to day existence, there won’t be a huge difference. Then again, I’ve spent much of this morning getting rid of the remaining old photocopies of papers and what-not that I’ve been keeping around all these years; and I have a case full of books that will soon get sifted through as well. And there’s quite a bit of excavation documentation materials that need to be deposited somewhere secure. So at least here in ArchaeoBlog Manor, there will be fewer overtly archaeological materials cluttering up the joint.
But, you know, it’s not really a complete end; more of a change of focus. I’m still going to work on health and disease in past populations, albeit more from a modern health perspective than a purely archaeological one. I’ve found that knowing the health status of our forebears can put a lot of what passes for health information nowadays into perspective. The whole Paleodieting fad is probably the most obvious example of that, but I think that studying the health and health practices of past populations can lead to practices today that give the greatest health bang for the least buck, especially in low-resource areas.
So. What to do about ArchaeoBlog? At first I thought I ought to just quit and remove it entirely. I mean, how can I claim to run an “Archaeo”-blog when I’m not thinking of myself as an archaeologist anymore? But. . .it’s so much fun! I’ve already started running fewer posts, and really concentrating on things that I find interesting rather than throwing out anything and everything archaeological. So I’ll still be posting items that I think are interesting or fun in and of themselves, but changing focus to more past-health-related items and papers. Probably end up being more in-depth in the long run.
OTOH, now that I’m not seeking employment or anything in the field anymore, I guess I can probably be a bit more opinionated on a few things. In some ways, I felt like I haven’t “fit in” with archaeology ever since the early 1990s when a lot of anthropology departments — especially mine — started getting very overtly political and what I and many others consider distinctly anti-science. Back in the 1970s and into the 1980s, there was a big movement to make archaeology much more explicitly scientific, and it has in a lot of ways; that’s a large part of what attracted me in the first place. Hence, I may end up being a bit more controversial, although for the most part still non-political, and I’ll remain more of a purveyor of interesting links than of opinion.
So, for what it’s worth, there you have it. You, gentle readers, are probably witnessing the biggest life transition I’ve had since. . .1983! That was when I dumped computer science for archaeology and began this weird 30-year odyssey in the first place.
UPDATE: The long and short of it is, I’ve spent the last 12 years after getting my PhD trying to manage with one foot in archaeology and the other in health/biomed, with both more or less suffering for it. . . .and me as well. Something had to give and my interests and life situation made the health route the more attractive and, let’s face it, more practical. It had to be done and it probably took much too long to do so, but it’s all good. Don’t cry for me, Argentina. =)
UPDATE II: Edited somewhat for clarity.
UPDATE III: ‘Course, just watch, by summer the health gig will have fallen through and some archaeology place will make me an offer or something. . . . .