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"The Greatest Detective Story Ever:" An Interview with Dr. Erella Hovers
Sam: When did you become an archaeologist?
Dr. Hovers: After I finished my first degree, I took some time off from archaeology, and then I decided that this was really what I wanted to do most.
Sam: What got you interested in archaeology?
Dr. Hovers: It is difficult not to be interested in archaeology in a country like Israel when you see it around you practically all the time.
Sam: What training or education has helped you most as an archaeologist?
Dr. Hovers: Field work and watching lots of people who knew what they were doing is the best training.
Sam: What field of archaeology do you work in?
Dr. Hovers: I work in prehistoric archaeology, where basically what you see is what you get: There are no other stories to be told about those early periods except the ones you dig out from the ground.
Sam: Can you tell me about any interesting field experiences you've had?
Dr. Hovers: I really think that there are no uninteresting field experiences. Each site one works on is a continuous challenge from day one to the end of the excavation. My favorites are the discovery of a 10-month old Neanderthal baby in Amud cave in Israel, and working in 3.5- to 3-million-year-old paleontological sites and 2.3-million-year-old archaeological sites in Ethiopia, as part of a multi-national team organized by the Institute of Human Origins. I've found my most interesting artifacts in these two sites. Each is interesting for different reason and requires different frames of thinking.
Sam: How many hours a day do you work at a dig?
Dr. Hovers: As a student or volunteer it would probably be 8-10 hours. As director of a dig, work would take up every waking hour (and there are not many in which I sleep...)!
Sam: What tools do you use?
Dr. Hovers: Eyes and brain, first of all. We mostly use trowels, small brushes, archaeological hammers, and ice picks. In prehistoric excavations, we rarely use pickaxes or hoes-this occurs only at the beginning of the excavation when a lot of dirt needs to be moved in preparing for the season.
Sam: What is your favorite thing about archaeology?
Dr. Hovers: It is the greatest detective story ever, and every answer leads you to new questions. Modern archaeology requires that one works with many experts from many different fields in order to understand what we see, and this is a fascinating intellectual experience
Sam: Is there anything you don't like about archaeology?
Dr. Hovers: There are some tedious moments in the lab, when analyses of lithics or faunal material seem to go on endlessly for years and years.
Sam: What would you say to a child who was thinking about archaeology for a career?
Dr. Hovers: Intellectually, this is a great profession.