I’m A Celebrity, Make Me An Archaeologist!

By Brigid Gallagher 18/09/2011

As if the archaeological world were not excited enough by the news this year that Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter) and Megan Fox (actress from the Transformers Movies) are thinking about a move into archaeology…

Now the English Rugby Captain, Lewis Moody, here for the World Cup, is expounding his interest in the subject.  In the headline for his interview  with the UK newspaper The Daily Mail this week it was announced,

‘Lewis Moody — I always wanted to be an archaeologist — I think I watched too many Indiana Jones Films!’

So what is this sudden public display of affection for archaeology by the celeb set all about? 

Is it a flash back to childhood fantasy and dreams that are often revealed by everyday New Zealanders and Brits when I say the words,  ‘I am an archaeologist’? 

Are the exotic and adventurous escapades that Indie and Lara Croft find themselves in also inspiring and influencing these young thespians and sports heroes, as they do thousands of tourists that visit the Deserts of Egypt, Indian temples  and Cambodia’s, Angkor Watch each year?

Is the idea of a tv documentary or action film journey into the ancient, mysterious past or treasure hunt followed with all expenses paid wanton abandon, a professional dream come true.  With a few choice sound bites declaring integrity and intent, this might be a good career move to wet the interest of production executives? (Apologies if any is cynicism detected).

Or is it as simple as this…that archaeology is cool, and now that it appears on such a regular basis on the likes of the History Channel, Discovery, National Geographic and some mainstream channels…it has made it more accessible than it has ever been, and even cooler?

So what are the Celebs Interests?

          Lewis Moody is quoted in his interview as saying, ‘As a boy I’d spend hours digging holes in our garden and get really buzzed finding clay pipes and old bottles. I watch Time Team with Tony Robinson religiously.’ 

The Analysis: A reality based factual series, without all the whistles and bells of Indie, Lara and Martial Art moves is the motivator….real people, all weather, variable exciting on the finds front and alot of dirt and humour wins the day.  Go Time Team!

           Daniel Radcliffe, was reported as saying to interviewers when asked what he had planned now the Potter series was done,

‘I watch a huge amount of stuff on the Discovery Channel and have started considering doing an Open University course because I’m becoming more and more fascinated by archaeology.’

The Analysis: Not so much a commitment to archaeology as an interest at this time, but Daniel will have been influenced by UK archaeology programmes Time Team, Meet the Ancestors, Two Men in a Trench, Time Flyers, Digging for Britain…and even Bonekickers.  Like Moody, he will be aware of the difference in archaeological reality from big budget blockbuster adventures, and factual tv investigations and scientific application.

Saving the best for last…

          Megan Fox was quoted in an article on the Celebs Gather website a few days ago,

“If I was lucky, then what I want to be doing is I want to be an archaeologist. And I want to still do that now. It’s the best.”

In the full interview with Scott Feinberg (see 11min55 onwards) Megan said that she obviously did not have time to spend years getting a degree, but she would love to shadow somebody on a dig…and said ’I think it’s amazing: it holds the answers.”

She also admitted she was obsessed with Ancient Aliens [the series] which she could watch over and over, and that she wants to go on a dig without cameras for her first time, to see the real stuff that they [archaeologists] aren’t willing to show the rest of the world. 

‘They hide all the real stuff they don’t want to show us because humanity would panic’, she said.

It was reported in 2009 and 2010 that Megan Fox had repeatedly turned down offers to play the ‘new’ Lara Croft due to the constant comparisons with Jolie.

The Analysis: Lashings of biblical expectation, ET fantasy, conspiracy theories, secrets and exciting quests appear to dominate for Megan, ideas that the archaeological world should fear.  These are the things people see on the big screen and hear about in tabloids.  They captivate the imagination, but will probably lead to later disappointment if she finds herself trowel in hand…though the hope for her employer is that she can still present it well?!

What does it Mean?

Given there are only 3 people in my analysis…probably not a lot.

But on the face of it we have:

2 men, 1 woman

2 Brits, 1 American

But more importantly; 2 different cultural, social and political contexts.

In the final analysis it is the opinion of this archaeologist that all 3 celebs are saying,

  1. We see you archaeology, you are on the radar, and it has relevancy to us…so it must be cool.
  2. We watch tv and film, therefore it is important for archaeology to be there.
  3. Following a journey of discovery is fun and rewarding, even if the finds are small and personal rather than huge and unique.
  4. Archaeology and its detective work are changing our ideas and respect for the past.

As for some of Miss Fox’s thoughts…perhaps she is right on some level, that archaeologists have not traditionally had a commitment to feed out their discoveries and findings and therefore appear secretive…but this blog is not going to go into some of her other thoughts at this time….

Where Next?

To either continue being inspired, or to start the road to being inspired by archaeology, here is a webpage funded by the US National Science Foundation on the SAA (Society for American Archaeology) website which lists movies with archaeological content. 

And for those of you, archaeologist, celeb or regular earth dweller, who want a lovely read by Brian Fagan (Emeritus  Professor Anthropology, University of California) here is, “So You Want To Be An Archaeologist?”.  It starts,

‘It might not be as glamorous as you think.’

And contains this wonderful paragraph of wisdom,

‘Please, don’t be content to become a technician and quietly vegetate. What archaeology needs more than anything else is team players who are leaders, people with multidisciplinary expertise, a sense of humor, and the ability to be versatile. You may never have a job with a pension or security of employment, which adds new challenges to the already difficult path that lies ahead, but you should have a fascinating life, full of rich challenges.’

And if life as an archaeologist still does not live up to your expectations, perhaps it is the turn of the archaeological community to shout ‘We are archaeologists, Make us celebrities!’

0 Responses to “I’m A Celebrity, Make Me An Archaeologist!”

  • she wants to go on a dig without cameras for her first time, to see the real stuff that they [archaeologists] aren’t willing to show the rest of the world.

    ‘They hide all the real stuff they don’t want to show us because humanity would panic’, she said.

    Oh dear. I think your analysis of …Lashings of biblical expectation, ET fantasy, conspiracy theories, secrets and exciting quests appear to dominate for Megan, ideas that the archaeological world should fear is spot on. I’ve had a great deal of trouble over the years debating pseudoarchaeology, having had one or two run-ins with the Doutres (Cerltic NZ) and Hilliamses (Egyptian-hybrid and Spanish) and Newmans (Celts and/or Chinese) of NZ’s paranoid junk-science fringe. Such talk seems disturbingly popular in NZ, and off-hand celebrity comments probably don’t help the situation. Still, it’s good to see archaeology so popular.

    • Fringe archaeology had never really been on my radar, but it is a popular subject here when archaeology is mentioned. Everyone seems to have a pet favourite. I confess, my interest is growing too, how has it captivated general NZers? Are ‘we’ hankering for a more ancient past??? Is this a political scapegoat for some? I dont know. Anyway, as the saying goes, all publicity is good publicity, and I think it generally can not hurt to have a few well known faces crowing about archaeology. If we can demonstrate that it is not just for the over 60’s (apologies, no offense to anyone intended) who live in the past, but relevant to the current forward thinking youth adult crowd…is that a term…OMG I sound old! Thanks Ed

  • I’m sure it’s all down to connections. Back in my student days, it wasn’t possible to study archaeology in New Zealand, and subjects such as Antropology and Sociology were so dry………
    There’s a new realisation that archaeology does exist in new Zealand, even though we’re such a young country. And with archaeology programmes on TV piquing our interest, it is inevitable that people have become interested in this fascinating discipline. To top it all off, the unmistakable Kiwi accent that popped up in Time Team made it must-watch viewing in our house. Well done Brigid, and welcome home……

    • Thanks Glen. Apologies for not acknowledging this earlier, I have been rather lax of late regarding Digging the Dirt due to growing work committments. Archaeology has so much to offer and the seemingly mundane can reveal an interesting story about human history, even if only 150years old. It amazes me how much information is missing from the written and pictorial documents in NZ once you starting digging in the ground. Its what TT does so well, it puts the flesh on the bones of history. Hopefully there will be a greater opportunity for this to happen here. Cheers and I hope you continue an interest in archaeology. Brig