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Letter to Irish Independent Newspaper - Discuss
Picked this up from another discussion elsewhere. This was published in the letters page in one of Irelands leading National Newspapers in response to an article on archaeology as a career.

Quite damning really and one wonders why no one over here has ever written to the papers regarding similar archaeological issues that we encounter.

Interestingly, I am not aware of any replies to the newspaper to date nor have there been any follow posts in response to this posting.

This letter was published in a recent monday's Irish Independent

Archaeology a terrible job

Monday May 8th 2006

Regarding 'Dig This' by Caroline Allen (Irish Independent, April 20) as an archaeologist working in commercial archaeology, I feel qualified to criticise the content of the piece.

Ms Allen reports that archaeology is a lucrative and rewarding career
choice but does not reflect the realities.

The majority of workers in archaeology today have degrees, or some kind of qualification in the subject.

As there are very few opportunities to gain any experience in museums,
never mind finding paid employment in one, archaeology graduates go to
work for the commercial companies.

The option of doing a specialist masters in archaeology is almost
impossible in Ireland. Most universities in Ireland offer a basic
landscape archaeology course or a M. litt, practically useless if one
wants to work in the field or do scientific based studies.

This leaves the Irish archaeology graduate with no choice but to go
abroad to get a postgraduate qualification.

The UK offers hundreds of specialist courses and this is where many of
us end up. Your article tells us that the future of archaeology is in
research but fails to mention that you will need an extra qualification if you wish to move beyond the position of lackey in your career. This further study will cost anything up to £12,000stg per year for a masters course. Most graduates cannot afford this and so end up with the commercial companies.

What one can expect from a commercial company is a complete lack of
respect. Archaeologists are the lowest paid professionals in Ireland:
fact. We have no trade union protection and anyone trying to organise
people into a union will get their P45 in their next pay packet.

Our wages only go up if the minimum wage increases.

Wages do not go up with inflation. Most companies offer no contracts to their workers and when they do they are not worth the paper they are written on. An archaeologist can be sacked with no notice and if one tried to appeal this one would find that no other company will take them on. Archaeologists can more often than not find themselves working on a site where no sanitary facilities are provided, there is no cabin to eat lunch in and there is no where to shelter from the rain. These are conditions that are supposed to be accepted by us without question.

The article also gives the impression that as an archaeologist one can
preserve and help to preserve history. Sadly, as I found out myself,
archaeology in Ireland is not all Indiana Jones-style exploits but is in
fact a harsh business. Archaeology is secondary to money-making for
these companies and oftentimes the archaeology is not recorded properly. More information is being destroyed than is being recorded for good.

Archaeology is not for the idealist or history-lover and it is certainly not for anyone who wishes to reach pensionable age with savings in the bank, or anyone who thinks they are going to escape without arthritis or a back-injury.

Discuss -
Yep, it amused me recently when some recent immigrant workers were complaining about only being paid ten Euro an hour in the building trade which is below what their colleagues get. I am against foreign workers being exploited, and certainly believe that everyone doing the same job should be paid the same, but ten Euros an hour is what I get after nearly three years...
Lucy, thats Supervisor rates with some companies Big Grin

But seriously, I thought that this would provoke some discussion.
This reported situation in Ireland appears to be hardly any different to the UK and at the very least is a disturbing trend that I think we are all becoming aware of.


I think this should be the link to the original article which appeared on a jobs website in the careers advice section.

Apart from this, I'm not quite sure how to reply to this letter.

One point I want to reply to concerns the education of archaeologists in Ireland. There are four established departments, Dublin, Cork, Galway & Belfast, and one department in Sligo which has been running a diploma course for years and has begun a degree course. The university system here sees Archaeology as an Arts and Humanities subject, with the result that it is taken as one of 3 or possibly even 4 exceedingly different subject during the first year of an Arts degree. And, as in the UK, it is often seen as an easy and vaguely interesting option by many who will drop it after the first year of study. Even in third year, a number of those who remain in Archaeology are still taking it as a "cushion" against a more "demanding" or "acceptable" subject such as psychology, a language, or social sciences. There are very few options here for further study, mostly general Landscape MAs, m.phils/phd's if you know what you want to do, or even more general MAs suitable if archaeology is not your primary degreee. Aside from this, really there are virtually no choices. But in my opinion this is a reflection of the fact that there has not been a historical demand for more choice. As I said, there are 4 established departments, who between them have approximately 40 lecturers, and up until recently, i.e. the building boom and aftermath of the Celtic tiger, there simply wasn't the demand for practical, skills based training, because there were no jobs to utilise the skills in.

How and ever, this has now changed. In Dublin, university-wide restructuring is allowing for significant changes in departmental policies, concerns, research aims, and so on. Last week, applications were due for a post of Environmental Lecturer. In Cork, a new Professor is currently being chosen to start in the new academic year, which will also result in a departmental shake-up. Galway, I know less about, but if the new professor in Cork is appointed from Galway, it will also result in change. Sligo is focussing on more scientific approaches, but is still in its infancy. Belfast is separate, in that it is in the North and thus already follows British practices of teaching. The point is that yes at the moment, undergraduate degrees in Ireland are limited, and historically and factually based, rather than scientific. But this is recognised as a major issue, and it is being reviewed.

I'm still thinking about the rest of the points in the letter and original article, and will reply when I decide what I want to say...
Belfast does both BSc and BA, its basically the same course but you can do science subjects (palaeoecoloy) if you are in the Arts faculty and vice versa, but basically you can end up doing as much practical stuff as you want or end up doing only theory and period based classes.


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