Sunday, 20 March 2016

I was that kid!

I read this lovely post the other day, "We were all that kid" about a little girl who brought her collection of objects to a museum for the curator to look at. It made me smile, as it reminded me of myself, and how I ended up being this thing called a geoarchaeologist. As early as I can remember I was fascinated by the natural world. My biggest obsession was with rocks and gemstones, though I also loved insects. I still have a lot of my collection - the rocks and gems anyway. I did have a red tailed bumble bee and a stag beetle that I tried to preserve with my non-exist childhood conservator skills, but they didn't survive.
I have a distinct memory of a school field trip to London. I bought a book from the NHM on gemstones, and I remember how it had all the chemical names of the minerals, and how I tried to learn them. I still remember my birthstone peridot is magnesium iron silicate. The NHM is huge with so many flashy displays and interactive things, but I was quite happy to spend all day in the little side room full of rocks and neat little labels with their names and origins.
When I was making the choice about which subject to study at university, I was undecided between geoscience and chemistry. Archaeology actually never even crossed my mind - although I was also very keen on castles and monuments, I don't think I had any real awareness that archaeology was something you could study, and certainly not that it included a lot of scientific and environmental work. In the end I went for geoscience, as I was not very confident with maths and I had heard that there was a lot of maths in chemistry (maths still haunts me as the one subject that did not come naturally to me at school!). And in the end I what I actually studied was geography. Although at that point in my life I was way more into rocks than people, I distinctly remember being daunted at an open day talk in geosciences on oxygen isotopes - again with the maths, the isotope ratios seemed so daunting. Which seems so silly now, as I use and teach isotopes myself! But it just goes to show how a little thing like not being confident at maths really impacted my career path. It all turned out well though - by doing geography I got to do a lot of geoscience whilst also studying people, which turned out to be the perfect preparation for becoming a geoarcheologist. I always say that my philosophy of geography module was probably one of the most useful I ever did, even though I hated it at the time. I doubt I would have done something like that in pure geoscience. Now I get the chance to be the researcher who sits at the interface, trying to link ideas from geosciences, anthropology, archaeology. There is so much overlap and so much to learn from each other.

NOTE - this post needs to be updated with a picture of my childhood rocks collection, coming soon when I get a chance to rummage at the parents'!