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The life of an archaeologist: What I am currently up to (2021)


So this is kind of a strange post format. Instead of talking about my research or interesting productivity tips, I want to talk about what I am doing at the moment. Basically about the life of an archaeologist. I don’t do this to tell a personal story, but to give a glimpse into a modern-day academic work routine. As a scientist, you need to work a lot, while not making so much money. Many might ask, why then? Well let’s have a look.

What I do usually

I have a regular job at the university for 20 hours a week. That is a so-called half position. At the university, I am an assistant, the first step towards an academic career I guess. So what I do here is work for a professor and do some teaching. Usually you need to have a PhD for that, but not always. Luckily, I had the skills needed, what was more important than the title. In Germany, I am part of what is called “Mittelbau”, so the ones in between students and professors. I do general student advisory service, take care of accessibility to rooms, organise events and teach. To be honest I love this job, but it is limited.

The other 20 hours a week, I work as a freelancer in my own company called Artefacts. I do this since I was a student, but I like the work and am pretty good at it by now. In my company, I basically create virtual reconstructions of ancient architecture with the help of 3D software and other tools. Recently I also dove into creating Virtual Environments. I did a lot of work for the Archaeology of West Asia and still do. At the moment, I am involved in a project on the reconstruction of several interesting buildings in ancient Girsu, Iraq.

What I do additionally

Then I have this blog. I try to write one article a week and sometimes, when I miss the goal have to write two. The reason behind this blog is not to get famous or similar, but rather to foster a writing habit for myself. I plan to write a lot in the future and am in desperate need of training. I do this blog for a while now, but am also writing on a second blog called Archaeoinformatics, where I try to post an article once a month. Then there is the blog of my company Artefacts, where I usually do not write so much, maybe once or twice a year.

Last but not least is my PhD. So far I have written over 90.000 words and I am near the end. I enrolled for my PhD a while ago, but really starting writing two and a half years ago. You can imagine, with all the stuff going on, it was quiet hard to find the time to write the PhD. Fortunately, I chose a topic that I am very familiar with and that helps. I changed the direction of the PhD quiet often, but feel comfortable now, it seems to form into something special I think. My plan is to finish writing this summer, well as soon as the time allows.

What I gain from it

So this is what I do professionally. Not to speak that I have a family, friends and need – to not loose my sanity – some leisure time too. Why do I work so much? Well, the regular job is my basic income. It is basically enough to live. The freelance work is for everything else, so I can do some holidays, buy me stuff I want, but don’t need and put some money to the side (as everyone should). The PhD is for the future. I am not so keen on the title (I quiet frankly think it is overrated), but in Germany you need a PhD to get money from public sponsors like the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

I also love what I do. Not all of it, that is for sure, but I generally like studying the past. Doing projects with different people and even think about how to transform a science like Archaeology in the future. I think a lot can be done here and I am genuinely happy to be part of it. When I was starting my studies, my first professor told me, that there is no money to be made and if I want to drive a BMW, I should study something else. I was a bit shocked at the time, but think now, it was quiet accurate. I am still happy to have chosen something interesting instead of something lucrative.

What will happen the next couple years?

So where to go from here? My regular job will end next year and I am not allowed to stay in that position (fuck the WissZeitVG). That is why I do my PhD. With the title, I can apply to create my next position. I can think about a project that I like to do (and that makes sense) and apply for a grant. With grants, I still can work at the university within some projects for another six years. Then I need to find something permanent. Maybe a professorship? Maybe somewhere else? I don’t know. This uncertainty is endemic in the humanities and many other sciences and it kind of drags on the fun. I really want to write about this in more detail sometimes.

First I need to finish my PhD, that will take a lot of pressure. Then I need to apply for a project, so I have work after my regular job at the university ends. Additionally, I need to keep up my freelance work, so that I have enough money for everything else than rent and food. I talked to many people who can’t really understand this way of life, without knowing what comes next and where the money comes from. I live like this since I moved out from my parents and started my studies over 20 years ago. To be honest, I do not know any other way and to be “stuck” in one job for the rest of my life is something that scares me.



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Sebastian Hageneuer

Hi! My name is Sebastian. I am an archaeologist, a university lecturer, freelancer, guitarist, and father. You could say I am quiet busy, so I learned to manage my time and energy to build good habits and still have space for myself and my family. Sounds difficult? Read here how I do it. Every Friday.

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