submitted by George Poulos on 25.12.2004
From the National Archaeology Week website:
What is your current position?
Director, Cosmos Archaeology Pty Ltd - a consultancy, which specialises in maritime archaeology.
Where did you study archaeology?
University of Sydney, 1984 – 1987 where I graduated with a BA (Hons) in archaeology. Graduated from Curtin University (Perth) in 1990 with a Graduate Diploma in Maritime Archaeology.
How did you become interested in archaeology?
When I was young I travelled around Australia with my dad prospecting for gold and gemstones. I wanted to be a geologist but at school I found that I preferred reading history to maths and chemistry. It was only natural then that I went into archaeology. I did the maritime archaeology degree because at the time, 1989, I was told that I could actually get a job doing maritime archaeology – I was one year into a masters degree on establishing an absolute chronology of 7th century BC Rhodian Bird Bowls. I remember the thinking I was too young and active to sit in a library; it's better to do that when you can’t be a field operator anymore. I applied for the course, got accepted, did a diving course and two weeks later hopped on the train for Perth. I suppose it was inevitable that I would do archaeology in the sea, as my family come from a Greek island, my dad was a fisherman and I grew up on Sydney’s beaches.
What archaeological projects are you working on at the moment?
As a consultant I juggle half a dozen active jobs at any one time, all with their particular deadlines and troublesome clients. Most of these jobs deal with the impacts of development on the archaeological resource, whether they be buried remains of buildings or shipwrecks. Sometimes I do management and conservation plans. I also work on excavations run by other consultants just to get me out of the office and to keep fit. At the moment I am doing a fair bit of work in Hong Kong. They work on a big scale there, 22 km long bridges and land reclamations for the purposes of housing 500,000 people!
Tell us about one of your most interesting archaeological discoveries.
Finding a 6,000 year old bone needle in the demolished remains of a 4,000 year old building. Was pretty chuffed at my digging skills!
Tell us about a funny/disastrous/amazing experience that you have had while doing archaeology.
Maritime archaeology deals with the sea and the sea has to be respected at all times. There have been occasions that I thought my time was up because of a lapse of concentration or a stupid act of bravado. I have seen a few things; ships and yachts absent mindedly trying to run me over, crocodiles sniffing around where we diving, irate and crazy guys with guns… One cliché involves my first dive on a shipwreck in my new job in South Australia. Kitted up on deck I was in the process of rolling back into the water when a fin belonging to a White Pointer cruised past the boat. Needless to say, we didn’t dive that day. My boss exclaimed that he had done over 1,000 dives in SA and at least 100 on that wreck and he had never seen a White Pointer. I think he was worried that he had just employed a shark magnet.
What’s your favourite part of being an archaeologist?
The variety of the work and solving problems. There are days where I just write like mad to meet deadlines, other days I am diving or digging. Piecing together an archaeological puzzle by digging, surveying or piecing together field data in the office is most gratifying, On the underwater side of things, sometimes you have only half an hour to do a task in the most extreme of environments. It’s a real buzz when you work with a team to get the job done in such conditions.
Follow up reading:
Check out the AIMA website - http://aima.iinet.net.au
(I'm the current President).
Teacher, journalist, poet and author, Sydney NSW Australia
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