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Archaeology Field Work in USA – Searching for a Project

Searching or an archaeology project in America, searching for inertia — I am searching for an archaeology project to work on in the wild west of America. I have been sending out my CV to the Shovelbums.org listings as well as contacting old friends in the profession. I have turned up a few leads, soon, [...]

Searching or an archaeology project in America, searching for inertia —

I am searching for an archaeology project to work on in the wild west of America. I have been sending out my CV to the Shovelbums.org listings as well as contacting old friends in the profession. I have turned up a few leads, soon, I hope, I will harness the inertia to leave Maine.

I have bitten this bullet through in Maine. I have now stayed here as long as I have ever stayed stayed anywhere in one go. For four months I have been in Bangor. Only one other time have I ever stayed anywhere for this long:

Hangzhou, China, 2007 —
I was sick and ailing from a dose of travel in India that went on a little too long. I was near dead when I borded a flight out of Karnataka for Hong Kong. In my fever delirium I yelled very loud insults at the Indian flight attendants when they just bobbled their heads at me when I tried in vain to explain that I was having a medical emergency and needed medicine to break my fever. They bobbled their heads and then charged me money for a drink of water. Clearly, I needed to get out of India; clearly,  I needed China.

I needed to go and see my old Chinese medicine doctor in Hangzhou. I got better, but it took four months of an intense herbal regiment.

I can remember how far away the horizon appeared from my sickbed in Hangzou. I thought that I was never going to travel again, I was so sick for so long. But before too long I was back to wandering. I hopped a train up to Mongolia and then hitchhiked back down through China to Vietnam. I was back.

Now I am again looking at a horizon that seems far away. I am saving money to by a sailboat, but I fear that the logistics inherent to sailing are going to take time — lots of time for learning and experience to set in.

This far away horizon is scraping at my guts — I need to move.

Back to the old archaeology strategy of travel inertia.

archaeology fieldwork

archaeology fieldwork

For my first 7 years of wandering, I would travel around the USA working on archaeology projects for a few months and then travel abroad with the spoils of my labor for the rest of the year. Sometimes I would go to university abroad, sometimes I would work abroad just for the kicks of doing so, but it was the archaeology that fueled these travels.

The archaeology also lent impetus to going: the archaeology always presented an ever ready escape plan. Whenever I would feel idle when backpacking for months on end in those tentative first years of travel before I began the Vagabond Journey.com project, I knew that the archaeology working season was always only a step away. Whenever I would return from travels abroad to visit my family with pockets as empty as my heart, a few emails would land me a job in some far off nowhere part of North America.

If nothing else, the archaeology always kept my wheels turning. It was my profession — what I knew how to do — and I had to travel to do it: there was never another option. I must admit that I owe much to the archaeology profession for mashing me into a traveler. If I did not feel hamstrung into always having to travel for work, I may have stayed in the North Country woods and lived out my mountain man fantasy in ’01.

(Though I doubt it.)

Now I need an escape plan again — I need the archaeology. Most archaeologists do not have families — as it is a traveling profession, and most family men do not wander with a wife and kids in tow — but I do not think it would be too difficult working these jobs with Chaya and Petra. If fact, this should not be so difficult at all, as my wife and child can just hang out in a nice, clean (ideally) hotel room while I roll around in the dirt making us up some travel funds.

This horizon does not seem too bad from here.

The notion of a half way jump could be the inertia that we need to get moving again. Right now, the jump from Maine to a foreign country — any foreign country — seems far away. My family is not ready for this sort of move, my baby is only three weeks old. But to go out for a couple of months working archaeology jobs as Petra’s skull solidifies . . . well, this seems doable.

I know that once we begin traveling as a family the dynamics will work themselves out, and everything that now seems obtuse and difficult will soon be wrapped up into a clean and tight standard operating procedure.

Though I am not so bull headed that I overlook the fact that it is NEVER going to seem like a GOOD time to begin traveling with a baby.

Fact: any single point of time between now and 18 years from now, will probably not seem right to begin traveling with Petra. What we need is inertia, a booster step to get up on the ladder, a bridge to the other side.

Working a transitory job for a few months may serve to be the blow horn of impetus that we need.

The only thing left to it, is to do it.

The only thing left to it, is always to just do it. The first step is always the most difficult. I know this as any one else . . . though I also know that the second step is never as hard as it once appeared when standing still.

When you start walking, your feet and body do the thinking — you are on the roller coaster, you take your situations as you get them, and quickly find that you move right through em.

When you are standing still, you are stuck in the shoots and ladders of conjecture. The human mind is cautious, it will always produce more reasons to stand still than to go . . . until you get it rolling.

An object at rest tends to stay at rest. An object in motion tends to stay in motion.

The archaeology has always been the great purveyor of inertia. And once inertia strikes, everything will be alright . . . forever and ever and ever.

This is the great wisdom of traveling: you learn that things have a way of working themselves out — there is no knot that is not eventually unraveled, no brick wall too thick to chew through — if you just do it.

If you just go. Spinning wheels have the tendency of running over any obstacle in their path.

And so I look for a job in the Southwestern deserts of the USA — a single tick from Mexico. I look for archaeology fieldwork.

So I resubscribed to the Shovelbums, and the archaeology job postings came flooding into my inbox. I also made some phone calls and sent out an email or two to a few old friends of the profession.

A few jobs seemed to fit what I was looking for:

Southern Utah

BS/BA or MA/MS in anthropology or related field or demonstrate considerable experience in field techniques, data recording, mapping and surveying. Responsibilities include intensive survey, recordation and site testing.Must be able to walk 5 to 7 miles a day across various types of terrain carrying necessary gear. Employees will acquire at least 40 hrs a week and the schedule is 8 days on and 6 days off. Wage is between $13.00 and $16.00 depending on experience/education . . . Per diem is $35.00 a day; food will be provided for all meals . . .


A paleontological monitor is needed for a construction project in the Las Vegas Valey (Nevada). The position would last for approximately 80 days beginning in September or October, 2009. Employment could continue for a longer period if the project is not complete. Wages would be in the vicinity of $20.00 per hour


An old friend sent me this email:

I heard that a firm out here called . . . is going to be hiring soon as they have alot of jobs coming up. They recently merged with another big company, so they are a pretty big firm. This is their website link . . . have a look at it. If you do apply for a job, make sure and use my name (and company info) as a reference.

So I sent out my CV, and now I wait. I wait for the compass to stop spinning and fall on a direct heading. I wait for the map of the road ahead to draw itself.

Vagabond Journey on Archaeology

Filed under: Archaeology, USA, Work

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 87 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 3347 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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