Interview with D. Clark Wernecke
We found information about Mr. Wernecke on a website called www.archaeological.org!
If you want to contact an archaeologist, go to the above website, click on a link called Internet Resources for Teachers and Students, and finally click on Scholar Outreach Program. When you click that, a list of archaeologists will come up with their names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses etc.
Our group interviewed Mr. Wernecke and below are the questions and answers.
1) What made you decide to become an archaeologist?
I have wanted to be an archaeologist as long as I can remember. I have always been very interested in history and I have always felt that archaeology brings history "alive." The earliest recollection I have of thinking about it as a career came after I read a book by James Michener called "The Source" which is an account of a site in the middle east (patterned after Hazor in Israel) through the ages. For many years I was unable to practice it full-time due to economic reasons (there is not a lot of money in it and, until recent years the only secure jobs were with Universities) and I worked in the business world - my first degrees were in history and business.
2) Is it a hard job?
It can be but it depends on what kind of archaeologist you are. Some archaeologists only work in laboratories, museums or teaching and, while these jobs themselves are challenging, I wouldn't say that they are harder than any office job. Field archaeology (the guys who dig) can be very difficult. We often are far from the modern amenities that we all take for granted (like showers, TV, refrigeration, A/C etc.) and are often away from home, family and friends. Conditions in the field can be dangerous due to political or environmental conditions. The days are very long (one job I worked on in Israel started at 3 AM) and tiring and there is always a tremendous amount of paperwork to do. Of course, if you truly love archaeology you tend to shrug these things off and miss it when you are not in the field.
3) What are some of the most exciting things you have discovered?
This question is often asked and the stock answer that archaeologists give is that it is not about the "things" but about the information they can give us. While this is true, we are only human and we all do have stories of our favorite finds. I'm especially fond of one of the first things I ever found - a small painted Mycenaean vase. My specialty is monumental architecture and urban design so I would have to say that the discoveries (large sections of a previously unknown city) on my current project at El Pilar would have to be the most exciting.
4) Where do you do most of your expeditions?
Because of my specialty I have worked in many places including Israel, Egypt, the US Southeast and Southwest and Mesoamerica (Guatemala, Mexico and Belize). The last seven years I have been working on a project in Guatemala and Belize.
5) How do you get funding for your expeditions?
A lot of begging and a lot of paperwork. We apply for governmental and non-governmental grants and talk to a lot of private donors. This includes such sources as the National Science Foundation, Ford Foundation, Heinz Foundation, World Monument Fund, MacArthur Foundation etc. Some of our volunteers pay for the privilege of digging and learning with us as well .
6) How long does it take to plan an expedition?
To get a new one off the ground may take two-three years to plan, get together the right people, raise money and get permits. After that it is a constant process. I normally spend about five months a year down in
Belize now and work the rest of the year on paperwork, reports, fund raising etc.
7) Is digging and doing the expedition fun?
I think so - I love it - but it is not for everyone. We have often got volunteers who worked with us thinking it was like an Indiana Jones movie where you continually turn up neat things. Usually it involves a lot of hole digging, hauling the rocks and dirt and then filling in the hole again. I like to look at the outside corners of buried structures, for instance, which can tell me the condition, orientation and type of building but for many all you see is a little bit of ruined stone wall. neat for me but boring for others. One of the first jobs I worked on I was sent to work in an area where the city wall had stood. We would dig with picks and shovels until we came to manmade structure and then spend a couple of weeks with trowels and whisk brooms cleaning it all off. Then the boss would come and draw it and photograph it. After that he would hand us sledge hammers and tell us to remove it all and go deeper to the next earliest stone wall. Very repetitive, very boring, very hot (110 deg.) but the walls were more than 2000 years old! I thought it was fascinating but some of those working with me couldn't wait to get out.
8) Are there any other things I didn't ask that you think are important for my website?
It is important to understand that archaeology is not like the Indiana Jones movies (though we all wish we could wear cool clothes and get the girls) but is much more like a Sherlock Holmes story. We look at all these tiny little clues and all the other tiny little clues that are associated with them and try to piece together a more complete picture of past lives. It takes a clever mind and a lot of time but can be fascinating.
To learn more about Mr. Wernecke's work click on the following links: