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Archaeology/Daughter head over heels for Archeology


Dr. Shea,

I just stumbled over the AllExperts site and I wanted to first, thank you for taking the time to answer young persons questions.

I have read over your advice (opinions) about what one should do to "get into" Archaeology as a profession. Specifically, what college/university to attend - because, my high school junior daughter is head-over-heels about Archeology as a major.

I was glad to see that what I have been telling my daughter for the last year mirrors what you have told others. (Answer to Cori's question dated 4/2/10) I have told her that since an Archaeologist is a professional position, where you go to grad school is more important than where you go to undergrad.

As we (she and I) have been searching for the "best fit" for schools, your advice from other answers has rung true to her. While I would love to send her to SUNY or Stoney Brook or BU, or even any of the ivies, the reality is, the tuition at those schools is out of our reach. (For full disclosure, BU is her #1 dream school for Archaeology) She is a good student, 4.5 gpa, dual enrolled in high school and taking core college education requirements at the local community college and participates in school sports. She has also traveled to Europe on a class trip where she got to see the ruins at Pompeii, and Athens. This summer, she will either do a four week "Summer Ventures" program sponsored by the UNC system or a one week bio-archaeology program at Appalachian State University.

So, what's my question?

The answers you gave to previous questions about "what to study" undergrad were from a few years ago. Does that information still apply now?

Does attending a small state university that has an archaeology program hurt her chances for grad school at one of the top tier schools? (like BU)

Again, I wanted you to know that it feels good to think that as a dad, I gave my daughter some of the same advice a well respected teacher has given to others seeking her same path.


Dear Carl,
Most of what I said in the previous responses to these questions is still valid.
Send you daughter to a good undergraduate school, and make sure she takes good science classes among her liberal arts training.  Do look to see if the school has an anthropology department with an archaeologist or two on the staff.  They can be helpful not just in teaching the curriculum, but also in guidance about grad schools.
Only BU and a few other US schools have Archaeology departments. (In interest of full disclosure, I am a BU alumnus [BA, 1982, Archaeology and Anthropology]).
Early on, maybe freshman/sophomore or sophomore/junior summer, be sure she goes to an archaeology field school so that she gets a sense of what fieldwork actually involves.  Having her do a study abroad semester would also be a good idea, as we archaes. travel a lot.

You'll get more value for your return from sending her to a good state school or a smaller liberal arts college.  (Most of our successful grad school applicants come from such schools, and ours is a graduate program with very competitive admissions.)  When you visit schools (do so while classes are in session), ask to see their anthropology/archaeology departments.  If the place is squirreled away in a basement somewhere and looks like a dump, it is not a strong program. If the department is easily found, well-staffed, and looks like a professional office/lab, it is a strong anthro/archaeology program.  Also ask to interview one or two of the anthro staff.  If they are polite, normal-acting and professional, that is a good sign.  If they are otherwise, wave off.

Do have a look at Stony Brook or one of the other SUNY flagship campuses.  They are some of the best bargains in higher education on the eastern seaboard, even for out of state students.  We have lots of study abroad options, good science classes, and field schools.
John Shea


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John J. Shea


Questions about Old World prehistoric archaeology (mainly Europe, Near East, and Africa during the Paleolithic period/Pleistocene Epoch). IMPORTANT: I do not give advice about colleges. I do not appraise the value of artifacts or fossils. IMPORTANT: Between February 14 and September 01, 2014, I will be on sabbatical leave. During this time I will have limited access to email. This means that there may be very long periods (i.e., weeks) between your posting a question and my having time to answer it.


University professor of anthropology/archaeology since 1991. Dozens of publications in peer-review anthropology journals. Director of archaeological-paleontological expeditions and excavations in Israel, Jordan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Kenya. See my main profile under Allexperts` "Anthropology" section. Professional website: Personal website:

>20 years as faculty at major research university

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