First off I do Not have a Phd. I do have a Master’s degree in paleoanthropology and the equivalent of a minor in geology. My thesis is titled: The Adaptive Radiation of Plio-Pleistocene Hominds: An Ecological Approach.
When I went off to college in 1969, I was expecting to major in history (or maybe biology). Spring of my freshman year I read a book called: A History of the Ancient World, in 244 pages. I was seriously disappointed. I was expecting to improve my understanding of ancient history but it covered the Sumerians, Babylonians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Chaldeans,and all the others before the Egyptians in about the first 6-7 pages. And then the Egyptians themselves in about the next 6 pages. I wanted to know more about what had happened before the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Especially I wanted to know more about what had preceded those earlier civilizations which the book completely ignored. A short while later I found and read Robert Ardrey’s African Genesis, and this did cover what I had really wanted to know. This is when I learned about the difference between ancient history and prehistory. Ardrey was a proponent of what is known as the “killer ape hypothesis.” Basically it is no longer a valid idea but there was, at the time, a lot of discussion and arguing about it. Because of the book, I became very interested in what is now called paleoanthropology and chose it for my major. In ways, paleoanthropology is a combination of human history and human biology.
After I graduated I spent about 15 years working for a living in various jobs when I decided that working for a living wasn’t any kind of a living and went back to school to get an MA. In all those years I had continued to read things about human evolution. In fact I probably had a better background in the literature than my fellow grad students. When I had graduated from college, I remember thinking that I was just beginning to know the basics about anthropology when they “kicked me out” saying “you’re an anthropologist now.”
Grad school included attending Harvard University’s Koobi Fora Field School. I sent the summer in Nairobi, Kenya at the National Museum of Kenya (founded by Louis Leakey) and in the field in northern Kenya at Koobi Fora, staying in the camp established by Richard Leakey on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana. It was there that I came up with an idea for the topic of my thesis.
After graduation, I spent most of my professional career as an archaeologist in Montana and Wyoming doing what is called CRM, cultural resource management. I did a lot of field work for companies deal with federal regulations dealing with historic and prehistoric remains as part of the environmental impacts statements. Paleoanthropology jobs are in short supply if you don’t have a Phd and aren’t willing to teach at a university or live back east.
I have also traveled a fair bit, 25 countries and 6 continents (Australia is the one I haven’t yet been to. Besides seeing fossil sites at Koobi Fora, I have seen Olduvai Gorge, other sites in Kenya like Olorgesailie and Kariandusi. Also I seen several Paleolithic caves in Spain and Zhoukoutien in China. While not as old as the fossil man sites, I have seen Stonehenge, Carnac, and other megalithic standing stone sites in Wales, Scotland, the Orkney Islands (including the Neolithic site of Skara Braye.
Since the day I read Ardrey’s book I have never stopped reading and studying evolution and human evolution. I have several book cases (book cases not book shelves) full of books and five file drawers full of xerox copies of journal articles. It is said to write about what you know, this is what I know.
I will digress a lot in my writing and I cannot think of a better thing to do than cite one of my favorite authors, Mark Twain, on the subject:
“I would apologize for this digression but for the fact that the information I am about to offer is apology enough in itself. And since I digress constantly anyhow, perhaps it is as well to eschew apologies altogether and thus prevent their growing irksome.” — Roughing It, 1962:265