March 8, 2017 at 7:57 am

Anthropology Alum on the Challenges and Rewards of Archaeological Fieldwork

Sarah Karpinski

Sarah Karpinski

Sarah Karpinski graduated in 2012 with a B.A. in Anthropology, specializing in archaeology, and a minor in Spanish from the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio University.

She looked for museum work for the first few years of her post-grad life, but that didn’t quite pan out.

Karpinski started working in Cultural Resource Management (CRM) in 2014 and worked on a number of projects in different areas along the East Coast and heads back once Spring truly arrives to begin her forth field season.

In contemplating a possible move away from constant fieldwork, she has begun reviewing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) certification programs.

Classroom to Fieldwork

The transition from classroom to fieldwork was a challenging one for Karpinski.

“It’s kind of a sink or swim type of field,” she says. “The number of people who make it past the first field season is surprisingly low. It’s hard extremely hard work; with 10 hour days, with the occasional project requiring 12 hour days, 6 days a week. It takes a toll on your body, and sometimes your mental health, as well.”

“You hike all over the place and dig upwards of 20 pits a day, sometimes even more. Heaven forbid you forget to pack enough water or your lunch for the day, because once you’re in the digging area YOU’RE THERE. Very rarely are we given the luxury to run to a gas station to grab a meal or even use indoor plumbing.”

She says that it seems many people do not understand the role of Cultural Resource Management, which results in projects that are frequently contested by someone who sees the archaeologists and field techs as “part of the evil corporation that’s there to tear up the land and put in a pipeline, highway, power line, etc.”

“I love what I do,” she continues, “but many times it seems to be a thankless job.”

The Best Part

That said, Karpinski would do it again.

“I have had amazing experiences working in the field! I have traveled to some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and met some of the most amazing people and made the closest friends – people that I never would have met if I worked a regular desk job.

And she has uncovered artifacts that seemed like they jumped right out of a text book!

“Working in CRM is hard, dirty work, but it is so rewarding!”

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