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Archaeologists Stupider Than Chickens

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Archaeology fieldwork makes me look old.

“Fit as a fiddle,” is how Fruugal gently describes it. “Old” is how I do.

I wear my 8 seasons of archaeology fieldwork on my face. The sun, heat, cold, wind, rain, snow — all of nature’s moods in the extreme — greet me in rapid succession whenever I go out to work, and they take their toll on my face.

A telltale mark of an archaeologist is that they look a decade older than what they really are. This is because the profession is one that weathers you quickly. There is no leaving the extreme turns of climate — no, you work outside through anything and everything weather can throw your way during the day.

Self prortrait of an archaeologist

Self portrait of an archaeologist

My grandfather once told me a story about how he was a construction foreman and he had his crew working out in the rain. Eventually, one of his crew — a big black guy — walked up to him and said:

“Walter, do you know how big a chicken’s brain is?”

My grandfather was taken off guard by the questions. “Yeah,” he said, “I know how big a chicken’s brain is.”

“How big is it, Walter?”

“Well, it is about this big,” my granfather replied while forming a small circle with his index finger and thumb.

“That right, Walter, a chicken’s brain is real small, but yet that muthaf’cker has enough sense to get out of the rain.”

Archaeologists are, apparently, stupider than chickens.

“Working outside always sucks,” my father once told me, “it is always either too hot or too cold. It ain’t ever just right.”

This is true.

In the desert it was too hot, nights in the Tonto forests are too cold. I can feel my body expanding and contracting with each bounce of temperature from one side of the termometer to the other. And I watch my face age.

For 18 months — besides a stint at Copan in Honduras — I sidestepped the archaeology fieldwork, and I observed how my aging seemed to halt its progress during this time, giving my age the opportunity to catch up to my apperance. Now that I am back to the archaeology I look in the mirror and find a face looking back that is sun tanned, weathered, and grissled.

Archaeologist working in Southwest

My face is back in the saddle again.

Note: This is an anecdote that I wrote a couple of months ago and delayed in publishing. It is out of temporal order.

Read more about archaeology field work

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Filed under: Archaeology, Arizona

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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