Archaeology Fieldwork

What kind of training does a geoarchaeologist need?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. It sounds like a term that's a bit different from the job Indiana Jones held (and let's hope it's a bit less risky to life and limb, too), so before we delve into the kind of training a geoarchaeologist needs, let's first define what one is. Geoarchaeology is the application of earth science methods to archaeological research problems [source: Thieme]. Its practitioners analyze the human and environmental components that comprise and archaeological site's creation. They also look things such as a site's soil and sediments, how the landscape evolved, the climate at the time the site was "live," and even remote sensing and GIS data. University geoarchaeology programs may also use the latest in high-tech equipment, including a variety of GPS receivers, laser transit, GIS software and computers [source: Washington University in St. Louis]. And, depending on the school, other resources may also be available, such as electron microscopes and image processing equipment [source: University of Arizona].

    A geoarchaeologist may be formally trained in numerous disciplines. The newness of geoarchaeology as a recognized branch of science has a lot to do with that fact. Because of this, many researchers interested in the field arrive at it through other, related programs. Some, for example, hold degrees in geology and are licensed geologists in the states where they practice. Others are anthropologists. And still others list themselves as material scientists or engineers.

    Today, a number of schools allow students to study archaeological geology, or geoarchaeology, in a dedicated program or in an interdisciplinary program known as quaternary sciences, which integrates anthropology, biology, geography, geology and environmental science. As its name suggests, a quaternary science program focuses on the last 1.7 million years of Earth history, the time when humans and their closest ancestors evolved. With almost 2 million years of potential data to study, it's a safe bet geoarchaeologists will have plenty of work on their hands.


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