Please welcome Jens, the archaeologist behind “The Vagabond’s Log”. Jens’s work takes him to ancient sites waiting to be discovered. In his blog he chronicles his work and findings and the journey through his discoveries however insignificant they may seem. I would like to thank Jens for taking the time to share his passion and giving us a little insight into his life’s work.
I hope you enjoy this short interview!
LaChouett: Did you always want to be an archaeologist? When did you decide it was the career for you?
Jens: Actually, yes. Well, at least the idea of becoming a scientist and explorer grew pretty early on me (but when again I guess that would be true to quite some kids). I was quite interested in biology as well as a kid and student, but in the end dusty field expeditions won over lab work. And I don’t regret it to this day. I remember one of my earliest museum visits, together with my father. There were these Neolithic (i.e. younger Stone Age) burials – just some bones and pots, stone tools and a stone ring or something. That really hit a nerve and kept fascinating me. The question who these people were, how they lived and how they are related to us today. The old question of “Where are we coming from?” probably …
LaChouett: Can you share one highlight of your career with us?
Jens: I am actually still at the beginning of my career (yes, I consider myself still rather young … somehow), but I am lucky enough to indeed being able looking back (and forth) at quite a highlight as I am involved in some quite fascinating research. In south-eastern Turkey we are excavating a complex of huge circular enclosures consisting of monumental T-shaped pillars dating back to 12,000 years ago. According to our interpretation these are very early sanctuaries of groups of still highly mobile hunters and gatherers meeting here for ritual feasts – at the dawn of agriculture and thus an important transition phase in our very own cultural history.
LaChouett: Have any of your findings completely contracted what you thought was the truth? Could you share an example?
Jens: Again I would bring up our excavations in Turkey. Until recently it would not have been thought possible that those small early hunter-gatherer bands would have been already developed a significant social stratification, but yet we are confronted with large scale community building projects asking for the involvement of more than one of these groups. But this would then have asked for some degree of coordination and cooperation, differentiation of labour and so on. Also, the implication of these monumental constructions for ritual – and not domestic! – purpose seems to somehow contradict the thought, that organized religion may have developed as result of larger communities permanently living together. At current state of our research, the picture somehow seems to be reversed … with religion at the beginning of this development.
LaChouett: What was your favourite as a child and did it have any influence on your career choice?
Jens: I was an avid reader. A real bookworm. In particular adventure stories would open up the gate to far away continents and dangerous journeys. Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Alexandre Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson – you name it, I read it. Later the classics like Jack London, Herman Melville, and Henry Rider Haggard followed. I also started to develop a fondness of historic travelogues and read every old expedition report I could find, from Burton to Bingham to Fawcett and the like.
Of course, I could hardly deny that a certain movie archaeologist may have been some kind of … inspiration as well.
LaChouett: What is your ultimate archaeologist dream?
Jens: The thing about great discoveries is that you actually can’t dream them. If they’re unique, you just cannot picture them in advance. But if I still would be able to participate and lead one or another expedition in the future, Easter Island and some Arctic research destination definitely would be among my ‘dream’ destinations.
Thank you so much Jens, this has been a real eye-opener and I am sure that this interview has piqued some of my readers interest!
The Vagabond’s Log will feature on Chouett for a whole week and you can find him on Twitter @vagabondslog. I leave you with some of his posts as a taster but make sure you go and visit him: