From Hobby to Vocation: New Deal Archaeology

Recently, archaeologists have felt pressured to prove that their discipline is not just a purely academic pursuit, but rather a practically relevant and useful profession.  As it happens, during the Depression Era archaeology did prove to be just that.  New Deal work relief programs were designed to spend more funds on labor than equipment, to provide minimal competition with businesses in a normal economy, and, for the most part, to invest in American culture.  All of these criteria made archaeology a perfect candidate for inclusion in work relief programs, and the field would gradually transform from a hobby into a profession.  During this time, archaeology was done on a scale unprecedented in the US and rivaled some of the larger excavations in the Old World, such as those in Egypt, the Near East or Europe.  Join our host and special guest Dr. Bernard Means and find out how New Deal archaeology set changes in motion that affected the way we do archaeology in the US – from the development of standardized procedures to the founding of the SAA – as well as the research potential for the collections obtained through work relief investigations.

100_5244Dr. Means is the author of Circular Villages of the Monongahela Tradition (2007) and editor of and contributor to Shovel Ready: Archaeology and Roosevelt’s New Deal for America (2013), as well as numerous articles on the Monongahela tradition and New Deal archaeology. Dr. Means currently teaches archaeology courses at the School of World Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and is director of the Virtual Curation Laboratory, which is creating three-dimensional digital models of archaeological objects (you can learn more about virtual curation on one of our past episodes!)


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