If I had the luxury of having any career in the world (and some magic guarantee that I’d be able to make a living at it), I would be an experimental archeologist. I love to learn by doing, and there’s no other job in the world that allows you to do just that to such an extreme degree. There’s so much that we don’t know about how things were done in the past, and the best way to figure it out is by actually getting in there with the tools and materials that were available at the time and working it out as you go along.
For example, there’s a medieval castle construction site in the Burgundy region of France that I’d love to check out. It’s called Guédelon Castle, and it’s been a work in progress since 1997. There was an excellent BBC series on it called Secrets of the Castle that I highly recommend. You can watch it on Youtube. It gives you a strong sense of the many things that they’ve learned about the castle building process that were previously unknown.
When you think about history, you tend to think it was all about kings and lords and popes. These were the people whose lives were written about. You also get the impression that life was all about one long series of wars. Those were the events that made the “headlines.” Very little is known about the day to day life of the commoners and laborers. They either couldn’t write themselves or didn’t have the time or supplies. But their lives are worth knowing about as well.
There’s so much to learn from the past. And sometimes the only way to learn it is to actually try to live it. Oh yeah. That’s the job for me.