journal, university

Intro to being a pro

In first lecture of Introduction to Professional Archaeology, they went into the discussion of what it means to be a “professional”.

This is something that surprised me. In all my years at school this was only mentioned once in passing as “being paid for your knowledge”. That was it!

Who knew that there is a whole oeuvre about professionalism out there in the world.

There is no hard definition about what makes a profession, but there is a consensus that the criteria include:

• having an established system of technical skills and knowledge in a specialty

• having your skills toolkit transferable into a different setting fairly comfortably – if you exclude this criterion, what you are doing is then a job.

• community sanction*, as in, an in-group that agrees you can work as one of them

• a standard of ethical conduct.

When I think of the word “professional” my mind wants to conjure an image of a suit and tie, which is probably not necessarily in the criteria.

Professionals tend to be thought of as having a healthy income, but Archaeology is an example that we should really regard professions as “an attitude, not a rate of pay”.

A good question they asked was: would you consider painting as a profession, or a trade?

I mean, houses do get professionally painted so I would have said both.

What do you think makes a profession?

Some fun archaeological facts uncovered during this week’s content:

• Beer was invented over five thousand years ago, as is confirmed by the discovery of breweries in Ancient Egypt. Drinking beer was safer than drinking water because the fermentation process stopped people of antiquity from getting dysentery.

• A lot of what we know about modern landfills was confirmed by archaeologists. I know from background reading this is called garbology.

• It is a complete myth that biodegradable items going into the trash is better than plastic (because of methane being released), and

• Hot dogs have been found entirely intact in landfill strata estimated to be several decades old. Ew…


More fun stuff to come! I will do my best not to make this blog a repackaging of the whole university course.

*how the word sanction can mean both approval and political ostracism, I am very interested to know.

All images from


17 thoughts on “Intro to being a pro

  1. I’m not sure if it’s the same in Australia, but in Canada, more specifically in Ontario, ‘profesional’ in relation to archaeology carries with it additional meaning. We have here a set of graduating licences, with ‘profesional’ sitting proudly on the top of the ladder. To be a professional archaeologist in Ontario you need to have a combination of education, field experience, and publications. As a professional archaeologist you can carry out an archaeological assessment under your licence and receive payment for it from the private sector, for example, by a developer.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for this comment! This is an important distinction, and quite possibly one that’s true in Australia but that I didn’t read/absorb yet!! 🙂 It makes perfect sense and would align with various health professions and law professions. Not entirely sure that painters have a Board…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dr B says:

    Agree with the previous comment. Being a professional psychologist gave me a license to practice, though in reality different licences were required, for example one for psychological testing, a different one for counselling. The baseline is membership of the recognised professional body, usually with chartered status here in the U.K. with really rigorous standards set.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “With really rigorous standards set” – as they should be, as it protects the profession and the public! (More stressful for students/examinees in the lead-up but overall for the greater good 😂)


    • It was! Garbology was mentioned due to it being an example of applying archaeology to modern problems, which ties in with what the professionals get up to, but not a class specifically on garbology this semester I’m afraid!


  3. Interesting post and you’ve given me food for thought. I knew about beer being the referred drink in olden times due to the bad water and in the UK ‘small’ beer was breakfast beer. In Victorian times The farm workers also used to have what they called ‘second breakfast’ at about 10.00 am when got a small repast from the farmer. That’s if they had a good employer.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Haha, love the word “Garbology”. Actually I have to say there should be a profession called garbology since the disposal and recycle of garbage is a very important element of modern life, but nobody pays attention to. I have to say each week, each family is having such a big container of garbage that the earth is going to become a giant landfill soon since most of those things in the garbage will not be degraded by microbes …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it will look like the garbage cities in Wall-E.

      There is always hope that nature will prevail given that, millions or billions of years ago, wood was not biodegradable until microbes evolved to be able to digest it. We can see it in the fossil record.

      However by the time that microbes can digest plastic as easily as wood, any organisms bigger than an amoeba might be long gone thanks to human activity. I hope we can clean up after ourselves with rapid technological changes soon…


  5. Professionalism is multifaceted. Some point to knowledge, others focus on passing certification exams, and some insist it is all about appearances. I think it is all that plus a moral compass with a strong sense of ethics!

    Liked by 1 person

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