Treasures of the past
Thanks to Indiana Jones, one of cinema's most revered movie characters, archaeology has long been associated with adventure.
Images of Harrison Ford playing out every boy's dream have no doubt planted the seeds of an archaeology career for thousands of people around the world since the best-selling 1981 film, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
And while the reality of an archaeologist's life is far removed from this cinematic classic, the profession still offers one of the last "great adventure" careers, according to University of Adelaide Classics lecturer Dr Margaret O'Hea.
Dr O'Hea is also quick to point out that men do not have a stronghold on the profession.
"Women have a very strong tradition in archaeology - particularly in the Near East," she said.
As one of the world's most respected Late Antiquity glass specialists, Dr O'Hea has recently returned from a dig in Turkey where she joined a team of British archaeologists analysing material from the Roman Empire.
She was called in to examine glass excavated from the ruins of a Byzantine church to identify its age and thereby shed some light on when Islam ended Roman rule in Turkey.
Identification is usually possible through dating coins and pottery found at sites but, in this case, neither was useful.
"There are very few coins in the Islamic period and also very few pieces of pottery found in churches, so the glass - found in the windows and lamps - is the most useful dating tool in some cases," she said.
"It is quite easy to date churches if you are a glass person because when you build the church that's when you put the lamps in. If any have been replaced during the church's lifetime they stand out like a sore thumb so you can also date their replacements."
Dr O'Hea was on her second season at the Alahan and Kilise Tepe sites in Turkey with a team from the University of Cambridge and University of Newcastle, cataloguing glass as a part of a three-year, multi-million-dollar excavation project.
She is one of only a handful of archaeological glass experts from the around the world - the majority located in Israel - and while she is based thousands of kilometres from most excavation sites, Dr O'Hea is living proof that it is possible to have a career in archaeology while based in Australia.
"It does require a lot of travel, patience and flexibility, however, so that is the advice I give to students interested in pursuing a career in this field."
Dr O'Hea said Australians punch well above their weight when it comes to their archaeological contribution and knowledge.
"Since the 1930s, Australians have established a very strong reputation for archaeological expertise in Cyprus and the Near East, and continue to work on a number of high-profile projects.
"There is also a grand tradition of female archaeologists, the most notable being the late Dame Kathleen Kenyon, a British archaeologist best known for her excavations in Jericho in the 1950s."
Dr O'Hea is confident the University will see a resurgence in Classics once the new national school curriculum is rolled out across Australia.
This year, secondary schools in South Australia introduced a compulsory Ancient Studies subject for all Year 7 students. From 2012, Year 11 and 12 students will have the option of studying Ancient History.
"Once this filters through the pipeline, we can expect to see students enrolling in Classics at university who at least have a basic knowledge of Greek and Roman history."
Apart from working in the field on digs, potential careers include curatorial work in a museum, working in heritage studies, cultural resource management, academia and even tourism.
"It's a fascinating life and a career which offers some amazing experiences," Dr O'Hea said.
For more information about studying Classics, go to: ua.edu.au/hss/classics
Story by Candy Gibson