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  • Writer's pictureCameron Barnard

The Best Conference for Student Archaeologists | CIfA Early Careers

When I decided I wanted to become an archaeologist, I scoured the internet for groups, magazines, websites, and communities to join that would help further my interest and career. However, it's not always the easiest thing to do - especially if you don't live in Europe, where most resources, funding, and interest lies.

So, when I discovered the Early Careers Conference hosted by CIfA, I immediately got to work.

This post is to tell you who CIfA is, what the Early Career Conference is, why they're important for aspiring archaeologists, and why you should start preparing for the next one.

Chartered Institute for Archaeologists

The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) was created in 1982. It is a professional body representing archaeologists working in the UK and around the world. They act as a voice for archaeologists, with the goal to bring recognition and respect to the profession.

The Institution also provides guidance and advice, introduces the career to those interested, and trains individuals to achieve the necessary skills needed for the profession.

Early Careers Group

CIfA has developed an "Early Careers Group" specifically for anyone in the early stages of their career in archaeology. The Early Careers Special Interest Group (SIG), as they call it, is meant to act as a space for young/new archaeologists to come together to support one another, share their experiences, and share their voices. CIfA ensures members are represented at the Advisory Council and that opportunities are shared to support members' early careers and/or studies.

To join the group you can become a CIfA member for £10 annually; joining the Early Careers SIG is then free to members. Or, you could become a student member* for £20 annually; student members are automatically enrolled.

*(To sign up as a student you must be undertaking a full or part-time course of study in subjects relevant to archaeology and the historic environment or undertaking an unrelated course of study but with an aspiration to pursue a career in archaeology and the historic environment)

Early Careers Conference

So, what is the actual conference hosted by CIfA? The Early Careers conference is presented digitally, so students and peers can join from around the globe. The goal is to create a platform for students and young archaeologists early in their careers where they can gain presentation experience.

Other bonuses of attending the conference are learning from other people's presentations, keeping up to date with the latest research, and discovering areas of interest for your own career or studies.

Additionally, you can volunteer to chair a session - in which you host that specific session of the conference, which entails introducing the presenters, staying on schedule, asking questions, and making sure the session runs smoothly.

Presenter or chair, you gain and exercise great skills needed for your career (or to look good on a resume), such as research, public speaking, and professional participation.

Who is it for?

Well, everyone! Almost everyone, let's get specific. As this conference focuses on archaeology, speakers are often students studying archaeology or related subjects, such as anthropology, and cultural heritage management. Also included are individuals undertaking an apprenticeship in any of those previous fields, or individuals who are in the early stages of their career (first 18 months). These guidelines relate closely to those of the Early Careers SIG, so it is well-suited for most people likely to read this post. However, you do not have to have a CIfA membership to join.

What is presented during the conference?

So far there have been no set themes for each conference, instead, it is encouraged to present on any topic of your choice (obviously relevant to the field of archaeology). How you present your topic is also up to the speaker: you can create and go through a presentation, you can present a poster, or you can even show a pre-recorded video.

It can be daunting to devise an interesting and relevant topic, especially if you've never gone on a dig or done your own research. This is noted by the creators and is another reason why any topic that interests you - whether it's own your own research or not - is welcomed. The internet can become your best friend - just remember to cite your sources!

However, CIfA has identified several areas of interest that have been strong themes for presentations of the past, these might give you an idea of where to start:

  • Ethics in archaeology

  • Conservation and destruction of heritage sites and assets

  • Inclusion, diversity, and equity in archaeology

How can I join?

The conference is open and free to join for everyone. There is a deadline for submitting an abstract of your topic. On this website, important information like the date and time of the conference is given. Additionally, before the deadline has passed, there are resources for those wanting to participate in the conference, such as a guide on how to write an abstract for your topic/presentation, instructions on how to apply for the conference, and videos of previous presentations to set examples of how the conference runs.

Remember, you don't need to be a member of CIfA to participate!

Although the deadline to participate in the 2022 conference has come to pass, the success of the conference and the number of applications means it's likely there will be another one next year. Therefore, that gives you a year to discover and prepare a topic to submit for the next one. There is even enough time to do some of your own research! Just remember to enjoy what you're researching, that will ensure others will enjoy your work too.

Closing Words

I truly hope that this article has been instructive and inspiring! It can be difficult to take the first steps into establishing yourself in the field of archaeology (and those related), or even to know where to begin. Conferences, groups, and content like this intend to give some direction, practice, and experience to those students and individuals in their early careers.

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