Digging up the dirt

Adele Zubrzycka

Meet Adele Zubrzycka, a Master of Archaeological Science student who loves getting her hands dirty to piece together ancient mysteries. 

As a child, Adele Zubrzycka was inspired to become an archaeologist by National Geographic, but she says the next generation of archaeologists will more likely be Time Team fans.

“All archaeologists love Time Team!” she says of the British TV series. “Even though the reality is not quite like the show. It’s much slower. You need a lot of patience.”

Adele says she learned this lesson while at a field school in Vanuatu for her Master of Archaeological Science program.

“It was a field school set in a tiny remote village in the middle of nowhere. We were there for two weeks, at an old Lapita site, and we spent the two weeks digging pits, understanding the formation of the site, and the history of the site.

“It is hard work. That’s one of the most important parts about fieldwork: you realise it’s not easy. It’s physically hard, and it’s long hours. We worked every day from 8am to 5pm, in the hot sun, and there was an earthquake! A really big one as well!”

But, not even an earthquake could turn her off archaeology.
“It’s worth it,” she says. “It’s about piecing together a mystery. You have a question and you can somehow answer it, but in a way which is always elusive.” 

One of the most rewarding parts of the field trip, she says, was bringing back sediment samples and analysing them in laboratories at ANU.

“We looked at seeds, pollen, charcoal etc to get a better idea of how it all works. Being out in the field is the most interesting part of it - it’s the reason a lot of archaeologists do what they do - but most of the important work is actually done when you’re back in the lab.”

It is this hands-on, research-focused learning environment which originally drew Adele to the ANU course, and which has since inspired her to change her career path.

“It’s a very practical program, with many practical assessments.

“All the courses are directed towards research. In every lecture they’re talking about what researchers are doing at ANU and what you can do to help them, and the opportunities there are to do research in the field.

“I started off wanting to get into consulting, and now I’m more interested in research. After doing a really interesting cultural heritage elective course, I want to look more into the cultural heritage aspect of archaeology.”

To this end, Adele is traveling to India in her study break to pursue an internship with a conservation firm, and also to investigate options for a PhD.

Adele didn’t come to archaeology from a science background, having majored in history for her undergraduate degree, but she says the “great teachers” and inter-collegiate structure of the master’s program accommodates students from any background. The only necessary requirement, she says, is “an imaginative mind.”


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Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team