In any job field, gender will undoubtably play a role in the experience that one has. Anastasia Temkina, an archaeology student, has had her own experience as a woman studying archaeology. Temkina received her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in Anthropology and Archaeology and is now receiving her master’s degree from the University of South Florida in Anthropology.
We spoke to Anastasia about her personal account of working in various labs and in the actual field. Anastasia wanted to make it clear that she is only speaking for herself, and not for all women. As for her experience, it has been fairly positive thus far for the 26-year-old. In archaeology, many women have paved the way for others to be taken seriously. There is a space for gender equality in this career, thanks to previous women archaeologists. Anastasia mentions, “In fact, most of my professors, advisors, and mentors were women.”
However, when it comes to fieldwork, Anastasia exclaims that everyone’s experience will be different depending on who the supervisors are. In her own experience, she has been treated equally amongst all participants, except for when it came to moving heavy wheelbarrows during excavations. Even so, Temkina says, “If they are not looking in your direction and if you are stubborn enough, you can experience the thrill of rolling a wheelbarrow full of trash and dirt onto a mound of other trash and dirt.”
Pictured: Anastasia Temkina at the Jimmy Carter Boyhood Farms in Plains, Georgia.
In her classes, Anastasia mentions that it has been mostly filled with women. In the field projects that she was a part of, being the Kea Archaeological Research Survey and the Doclea Excavations in Montenegro, there were more women volunteers than men. Anastasia believes that it may be a coincidence, or it may be a positive trend.
When we asked her why it is a positive trend, Temkina said, “I am sure a lot of elements of the field are still dominated by men, and in archaeology, gender bias can change a lot in the interpretation of the data. Diverse points of view are required to reach a better understanding of the past.” In the study of archaeology, there has been a gender bias when examining research as well. The feminist archaeology movement came as a reaction to materials related to women and their craft not being studied well enough or being misinterpreted.
Anastasia was able to break down exactly what feminist archaeology is, which it, “Puts a focus on women and their archaeological context, and allows for interpretation from the data presented, not from modern ideas on femininity and female gender roles.” To understand gender in archaeology, it is also important to note that gender and sex are different. Gender is expression, not biology. Anastasia says that to figure out someone’s gender, one would look at burial context, what biological women were buried with, and what tools or clothes were found in their graves.
Within her time studying archaeology, Anastasia has looked up to many female role models as an example of who she would like to be once she begins her career as a professor. During her undergraduate studies, she gained support from Dr. Linda Stine, Dr. Robyn Le Blanc, Dr. Joanne Murphy, Dr. Donna Nash, and Dr. Maura Heyn. All of the women mentioned are archaeologists who helped Anastasia along the way, while making her feel welcomed into the program and the field. Someone who Temkina admires but has never met is Sally Binford, who was a prehistory archaeologist and feminist, and was one of the founders of the processual movement in archaeology.
Pictured: Anastasia Temkina with Dr. Robyn Le Blanc at the Doclea Excavations in Montenegro.
Unfortunately, the archaeology field has not fully come to a place of gender equality when it comes to the workforce. While Anastasia’s experience has been a positive one, that is not the case for all women that work in this space. It is up to the new generation of archaeologists, like Anastasia Temkina, to improve the field and hold those who impose such restrictions accountable. To learn more about such matters, Anastasia recommends a study done by Clancy et al. called SAFE: Trainees Report Harassment and Assault.
For more information about Anastasia and to follow along with her experience, head over to her website.