Archaeology Personal Statement
I have always enjoyed learning about different cultures and civilisations, reflected in my enduring love of history, and more recently, archaeology. Compared to modern history, archaeology carries a sense of enigma which makes it much more stimulating for an imaginative and inquisitive mind. I also find that, by focusing on physical remains, archaeology gives us a more accurate impression of societies, unlike written history, art and monumental architecture, which show what their creators aspired to be or wanted others to believe they were.
I have undertaken work experience related to archaeology, working for one week on the Hungate excavation in York. This included both 'hands-on' work as part of a team of other volunteers, supervised by professional archaeologists, and a number of lectures on other aspects of archaeology- lab work, wood conservation, pottery, finds and site records and matrices- giving me a valuable knowledge of the many aspects of archaeological excavation. I have also completed two week's work experience in the Lancashire Fusiliers' Museum and, although not strictly archaeological, it did give me experience of heritage work in general, based around the administration of the museum's physical archives and digital records.
Outside of archaeology I have developed an enthusiasm, and aptitude, for politics, through both my Politics and History courses. This has involved studying the workings of political systems and the changes they undergo, alongside political ideologies and movements; this study has been both contemporary and historical, giving me a sound knowledge of governmental systems and international relations that I can apply to my studies. I have since become more active in this field, joining a political party, and follow a number of political blogs and forums, contributing regularly to the latter. I intend to increase this activity in the future, and look forward to participation in student politics.
I am also fascinated by the manner in which civilisations change over time and the driving forces behind these changes. One of my favourite aspects of Barry Cunliffe's ‘Europe Between the Oceans’ was his emphasis on trade as a driving force behind societal change, particularly the Mycenaean palace-based economies, who were brought great prosperity by the same exploitation of Mediterranean trade routes that would contribute to their downfall. I have also read Francis Pryor's book ‘Britain BC’, and found myself particularly interested in his more abstract and spiritual interpretation, and the recognition by himself, and those others whose work he references, that prehistoric societies and their remains must be viewed using a religious slant, rather than in purely material-oriented terms, to be fully understood. Although, after reading the Nacirema paper, I would be sceptical in interpreting societies this way, without tempering such a view with practical concerns.
Furthermore, despite most of my reading being around primarily European prehistory, I would greatly enjoy the opportunity to study different time periods or regions; perhaps this is because I have been able to experience many different cultures first-hand, travelling to various countries with rich histories - the most notable being Peru, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. Although I greatly enjoyed all of these, I found Cambodia, and to a lesser extent Thailand and Vietnam, to be the most engaging, not least because of the expansive and relatively unknown history of the Khmer Empire in this region; I would relish the opportunity to embark on further study in the area at some point later in my archaeological career.
Archaeology represents one of the final frontiers of human knowledge and one of few true unknowns in left the world. I plan to continue studying at a postgraduate level, and believe I have the rigour, curiosity and dedication to excel academically, and would love the opportunity to pursue such excellence in your institution.