I believe it takes a certain kind of person with a certain kind of passion to be an archaeologist. Just the sheer amount of red tape one must cut through to be able to wield a mere shovel anywhere there’s a government is enough to make most people say “Forget this. I’ll just sate my appetite for archaeology and adventure by watching Indiana Jones movies in my cubicle. (I’ll definitely skip that last one, though.)”
Aside from being cool, archaeology is one of the most important fields for the understanding of ourselves, in the past, the present and the future. Even more than passion, archaeology requires patience from start to finish.
Nowhere do these requirements become more important, however, than when the place you want to dig in is a place ravaged by war and chaos, where the red tape you must cut through is one of impossibility that only time and a changing world can eliminate, and where an entire world of humanity’s beginnings lies under your feet in every direction.
Jane Moon, an archaeologist, and, I’m proud to say, All Mesopotamia fan, pointed me toward this enriching video that introduces the first international dig team to work in southern Iraq in more than 20 years.
As the last American troops were exiting Iraq late last year, international scholars were entering. Professor Elizabeth Stone of Stony Brook University in New York is one such scholar and is leading a team bent on finding a window into the everyday lives of ancient Mesopotamians near where the Great Ziggurrat of Ur stands.
Stone’s team comprises of archaeology students, including an Iraqi PhD student studying under Stone in the United States, and locals, all who are learning new techniques and using the latest technology in excavation. The team sleeps, eats and works just a few yards from the commanding structure of the Ziggurat, racing against time to find artifacts and cataloging them before the season is over. You can hear the passion in all their voices, and see it in their eyes as they talk about this opportunity they’ve been afforded as archaeologists.
More than documenting how the team does what it does, however, I felt the video shows how an interest in the past, combined with involving those whose past it is being explored, can build a brighter and more united future for a country searching for its identity in a sea of different religions and ethnicities, all sharing a pride in the rich past of their land.
I repeat, archaeology is one of the most important fields for the understanding of ourselves, and better yet, the betterment of ourselves, so that we may have better and brighter futures.