Maeve Tobin talks to SmartFutures about her career, a career which gives her the opportunity to work with her ancestors!
What is your job title?
I am project officer, osteoarchaeologist at Irish Archaeological Consultancy.
What does an osteoarchaeologist do?
If human remains are found and authorities decide they are historic, an osteoarchaeologist will be involved in any excavation and recording of the remains. They then analyse the remains to try to discover who these individuals were – their sex and age – and how they lived and died.
What is the best thing about your job?
You work directly with people from the past. You are looking at the remains of your ancestors and people who inhabited the country thousands of years ago. What interesting projects are you working on? We recently excavated 16 skeletons at Swords Castle. They seem to predate the castle, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they were 1,000 years old. They are full skeletons, very well preserved, so we would hope to get a lot of information from them.
What would be a typical day?
It depends. Now I am working on the Swords skeletons; I will analyse the remains and write a report. Another week I might go into the archives of the National Museum; look at records in the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; conduct site inspections; or do research and write a report.
Why did you choose archaeology in University College Cork (UCC)?
When I was in arts in UCC I thought I’d focus on psychology, but archaeology took my interest after first year. It stemmed from a general interest in history. Then I went on to do a master’s in osteoarchaeology.
Have you any advice about archaeology courses?
Look at the universities’ websites for archaeology; they all have a slightly different focus. UCC has a practical, hands-on excavation-oriented degree; Trinity would be more looking at the Greek and Roman world. Sligo IT takes a scientific approach with lots of lab work. UCD would be similar to UCC.
What advice would you give to students interested in becoming archaeologists?
Get out on site. There are a lot of community archaeology schemes across the country, real archaeological excavations, and they are always looking for volunteers for a week or two.
What Leaving Cert subjects turned out to be especially helpful?
Obviously history, as it is always great to have a general background. I found geography to be really helpful as well and biology.
In your spare time what do you like to do?
I am into craft works, so sewing and crochet and all that malarkey.