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Careers in History: Archaeology

Benjamin Hoksbergen

Installation Archaeologist, US Army

I am one of those lucky people who always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I recently discovered my third grade journal in a box of old elementary school papers where I’d written “When I grow up, I would like to be an arkeoligist.”  I never wavered from that goal despite plenty of admonitions that I’d never be able to make a living at it.  It was only natural then, when I came to Calvin College, that I sought out Dr. Bert de Vries as a mentor.  I majored in history, and was one of the first students to take advantage of the archaeology minor program at Calvin.  I participated in the 1996 Umm el-Jimal field school and have been a professional archaeologist ever since.

In the years following graduation, I found work in the cultural resource management industry.  I put in my time in the trenches, making a decent living as a “shovel bum” - traveling around the country going from archaeological project to archaeological project.  I’d be excavating a 17th century English settlement on Chesapeake Bay one week, uncovering an 8,000-year-old lithic workshop along the Allegheny River the next, and slogging through southern Louisiana swamps to record sites along a proposed natural gas pipeline the week after that.  It was great fun living on the road, seeing country I wouldn’t see otherwise, living in hotels with a whole field crew of archaeologists from all around the country, and getting paid to do archaeological fieldwork every day!  In five years time, I managed to work in 13 states, Puerto Rico, and Jordan where I returned to once again for the 1998 field season at Umm el-Jimal.

By 2002, I’d decided to take the next step in my career and get my master’s degree in anthropology.  I attended Iowa State University where I received my MA in 2004.  Upon graduation, one of my former employers, Alexander Archaeological Consultants of Chattanooga, offered me a position as installation archaeologist at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. The job was through a five year contract, but after three years, the Army offered me a permanent government position. Currently, I’m employed as the installation archaeologist at Redstone Arsenal reviewing Army projects for potential impacts to significant archaeological sites, overseeing excavations on sites that are scheduled to be impacted, surveying the base for unrecorded sites, and orchestrating public outreach to teach local school groups, clubs, and other interested public about local archaeology and the importance of preserving America’s cultural heritage.

Jana Boersema ('93)

Project Manager, Seattle

I came to Calvin knowing I was interested in pursuing archaeology, but I graduated in 1993, before an archaeology minor was offered.  I found that geology suited my interests, and I sought out Bert de Vries in the history department and participated in an Umm el-Jimal field school.

After graduating from Calvin, I earned an MA in anthropology from the University of Minnesota, doing geoarchaeological research on several sites in central Alaska.  An interdisciplinary program in quaternary paleoecology supported my research, and I was able to utilize the rock magnetism lab at University of Minnesota to study the record of climate change in the wind-blown sediments that buried the stratified central Alaska sites.

Since graduating, I have worked in the field of cultural resource management.  In the first few years I enjoyed traveling the western US, conducting archaeological surveys to discover and excavate sites in Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa.  Finding myself in northwest Iowa for a few years, I taught an archaeology course at a summer camp for junior high students hosted by Dordt College. 

In 2001 my family and I settled in Seattle, and Cascadia Archaeology has employed me since 2005. Cascadia is a consulting firm that provides archaeological services for both private sector clients and government agencies, such as Washington State Parks and the Washington Department of Transportation.  While archaeological work frequently requires travel, I am able to primarily work in the Puget Sound region, which allows me to maintain a well-balanced family and work life.

As a project manager, I conduct archaeological surveys or assessments prior to development projects, such as road construction.  On larger site excavation projects I provide descriptions and analysis of site stratigraphy, soils, and geomorphology to develop models of site formation. I particularly enjoy using scientific inquiry to consider how the natural world affects and is affected by human behavior.

Graduate school

Many Calvin History graduates go on for advanced degrees. Here are some of the schools that recent History graduates have attended.

Boston College
Calvin Theological Seminary
Clemson University
Cornell University Law School
Davenport University
Fuller Theological Seminary
Grand Valley State University
Johns Hopkins University
Marquette University
Michigan State University
Ohio State University
Pepperdine University
Purdue University
SUNY College at Binghamton
Thomas M. Cooley Law School
University of Cincinnati
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
University of Wales
University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
University of Western Ontario
Wayne State University
Western Michigan University
Western Theological Seminary
Wheaton College – Illinois
Yale University