Monday, 17 September 2012

Rebecca Farbstein: Archaeology Career Interview

Where did you graduate and what are you doing now?I earned my Bachelor's Degree in 2004 from Princeton University, in art history. After that, I came to the UK to start my MPhil in Archaeology at Cambridge, and continued on to complete my PhD in 2009. I held the Caroline Villers Research Fellowship at the Courtauld Institute of Art from 2009-2010, during which I studied the
Magdalenian portable art from France which is curated at the British Museum. Since then, I've been working on various projects as a visiting scholar at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research in Cambridge. Right now, I'm conducting research on the Palaeolithic
ceramic figurines found at the site of Vela Spila (Croatia), and, with colleagues, I'm studying the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic ornaments from the same site. And, as always, the search for a permanent lectureship continues!

When you graduated were you looking for a career in archaeology?

Yes. I thought I wanted to pursue archaeology through academia. When I
finished my bachelor's degree, I was still considering other careers,
including museum work in either art history or archaeology, but once I
started my graduate work, I became much more focused on an academic
career in archaeology. The challenging job market in the past few
years sometimes makes it difficult to carry on with the endless
applications, but I always come back to it because the field work,
teaching, and research is so rewarding.

How has a degree in archaeology benefited your career?

It's been interesting to switch from a first degree in art history to
graduate degrees in archaeology. I still try to maintain my
interdisciplinary links, and I believe that my background in art
history helped me during my year at the Courtauld Institute.
Additionally, I was invited to speak at a conference at the Institute
of Fine Arts at New York University, and having a background in both
fields allows me to engage more directly with my colleagues who are
art historians. But likewise, without my graduate training in
archaeology, none of my current research would be possible.

What has been the greatest success in your career so far?
My current research on the ceramic figurines from Vela Spila is
incredibly exciting. It's a fantastic opportunity to be the first
scholar to study such important finds. It's been especially gratifying
to have our first publications of that research (in PLoS ONE this
July) find so much popular interest. Our research was recently written
up in the New York Times (11 September 2012), and knowing that what
you are doing is of interest and relevance to people beyond academia
is very rewarding. I've also enjoyed ongoing conversations with
colleagues and non-specialists alike on twitter (@beckyfarbs) and
through my blog (

Who's your favourite archaeologist?
Indiana Jones, of course!

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