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Archaeologists dig what they do!

05 November 2023

You might not believe it from watching the movies, but archaeologists don’t just spend all their time digging. To find archaeological sites, they must first do a lot of research. Then, once a site has been located, archaeologists will be involved in cleaning, recording, and researching all of the artefacts they recover. Following the excavation, there will be time spent writing up reports, caring for the objects they uncovered, and sharing their new found discoveries.

There are all sorts of different types of archaeology, and not all of them are concerned with ancient cultures. For example, a forensic archaeologist will study skeletons, and an underwater archaeologist studies shipwrecks. Most of the artefacts in this online exhibition would be of interest to Classical archaeologists, who deal with the remains of anicent civilisations like those of ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt.

Here is what some local archaeologists think about what they do...

Kirsa Webb, Underground Overground Archaeology2013

"I love archaeology because it’s such an amazing window into ordinary people’s lives in the past - it tells us about what they ate, what they drank and how they lived. It tells us things we can’t learn about in another way, through the things people left behind or threw out. It’s awesome to be able to find out exactly who lived in a particular house and what rubbish they threw out and then to learn more about their life. I really love looking at people’s houses (which is what we call buildings archaeology), and looking at all the little details that made up the house and thinking about what it must have been like to live there.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as an archaeologist is the sheer volume of work after the earthquakes in Christchurch - no one expected there to be quite so much archaeology or for it to go on for quite as long as it has, but we’ve found some incredible things, and it’s been such a privilege to learn so much more about both Maori and Pakeha in Ōtautahi. It’s also been fantastic to share the results of this work with people, through exhibitions and the blog Christchurch Uncovered.


Katharine Watson, Christchurch Archaeology Project

Field notebook, Christchurch Normal School excavations
Kirsa Webb, 2012-2013
Underground Overground Archaeology Collection

"I don’t really remember when I decided to become an archaeologist. In fact, I don’t think I ever really made a conscious decision to become one. It all really just happened by accident, as a result of a series of coincidences. I have always had a fascination with old landscapes and the ruins of old, long abandoned buildings. As a free-range child growing up on Otago Peninsula I used to spend all of my time roaming the hills and exploring the remains of abandoned agricultural buildings, stone walls and farm machinery. By the time I reached university I had the opportunity to research the history of these sites and investigate them from an archaeological perspective.

Field notebook, 2012-2013, Kirsa Webb, Underground Overground Archaeology

Some days when you find yourself up to your waist in a bog, or scrambling through supple jack wondering if you are going to wind up down an 80-foot-deep mine shaft, or just sitting at your desk hammering out yet another dry archaeological report, you wonder what it would be like to have chosen another career path. But then you look back at the amazing locations you get to work in, the exciting finds and the interesting histories and you realise that it is these things that, without question, make it all worthwhile."

Kirsa Webb, Archaeologist, Underground Overground Archaeology

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