Topic ID #32945 - posted 6/19/2014 12:45 AM

How Many Archaeologists are in the US?: More than a couple, less than there should be.

Jennifer Palmer

Interesting post from Doug's Archaeology here

I have to say the numbers surprised me. Always thought there were many more. Thought I remember some article from the UAFT years ago that estimated something crazy like 100,000.

Post ID#20514 - replied 6/19/2014 5:03 AM


I think over the last 5 to 10 years folks have been abandoning the profession after realizing that we don't provide salaries similar to other professions that require experience, constant travel, and at least a college degree.  They aren't even similar to other professions within the overall compliance industry.

I know at least 70 per cent of the field techs I worked with when I first started in the late 90s have left archaeology altogether because they couldn't support a family.  Most felt like visitors in their own homes and simply walked away since the wages aren't worth the sacrifice.

Experienced field techs are becoming increasingly difficult to find, particularly since a lot of clients are putting an emphasis on the use of local crew only to avoid having to pay per diem or hotel costs.  I would expect the numbers to continue to drop, but the wages will continue to stagnate. CRM owners will start using uneducated labor directed by an MA field director more and more, which is often a topic ACRA brings up from time to time.

Post ID#20515 - replied 6/19/2014 3:21 PM


"Local archaeologists?"  Wow.

Interesting comment about "uneducated labor" given rescue archaeology in the UK and the fact that many people were trained through government-sponsored on-the-job-training.

Post ID#20517 - replied 6/23/2014 11:22 AM


We need LESS archaes.  Keep the ones still in it working more.

Post ID#20519 - replied 6/25/2014 5:30 AM


The problem with "uneducated labor," is it costs more to pay a laborer than a field tech. And good luck getting around the Unions then CRM. 

Post ID#20520 - replied 6/28/2014 6:10 PM


Given all the anthropology majors with an emphasis on archaeology I met in undergrad and grad school, I was quite surprised by the numbers Doug compiled. I wonder how many people with anthropology degrees work outside of anthropology/archaeology? It must be near 100,000+.

Post ID#20524 - replied 7/7/2014 10:32 PM


As someone that has been working for a brief amount of time (under 2 years as a tech, but have a lot of experience in other industries) I can honestly say from my experience the field tech industry is in shambles. 

"Local" techs are definitely the direction things are going, and many of these positions are still making $10-$12 hourly for sporadic work at best.

I find it interesting when employers state they are having trouble finding experienced techs when poor wages with no benefits and sporadic work are what is driving techs out of the industry. Forget about supporting a family, it is difficult enough supporting yourself. If you are lucky enough to live near a major metropolitan area where you can afford to work for four or five CRM firms, good luck affording the higher cost of living (that most cities have) there. 

So what can you do? 

You do the only thing possible. You get out or you go to graduate school. I have heard CRM firms complain about recent graduate school grads not having enough field experience. Does anyone really not understand why that is the case, or is this the elephant in the room? 

Post ID#20526 - replied 7/8/2014 6:27 AM


It is not the elephant in the room.  They know.  Most of them will say "I worked on 5.00 an hour in the 80s, so this should be plenty."  Or some such nonsense.  It also isn't just the CRM owners/employers to blame, though they share a lot of it, particularly with Lump Sum contracts where they try to squeeze maximum profit out the backs of their techs.  The clients also refuse to pay similar wages to archaeologists as they do to other compliance industry folks for a variety of reasons.  

It is tough to find field techs these days, but there are still enough out there as long as they keep cycling through the anthropology degree with a field school.

But, 3D_archaeology sums it up well.  If you aren't going to get the MA, then you should get out of the business if you want to have a family or something other than a hotel-hopping job.

Post ID#20527 - replied 7/8/2014 11:34 PM


Interesting update, particularly the info on UK and Scottish laws for the preservation of antiquities. It does seem to explain why there are so many more archaeologists working there. 

It also did a nice job of explaining why so many sites on private land are at such risk.


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