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National Archaeology Week Grad Spotlight: Zane Blunt

1. What year did you graduate from UWA?

I graduated in 2019 with an honours degree in archaeology.

2. Where do you work now, and what is your current role?

I currently work for Gavin Jackson Cultural Resource Management as a field archaeologist. This mostly involves travelling to remote areas of the Pilbara and participating in surveys with Traditional Owners in search of cultural material.

3. What was your school or career path before you studied archaeology at UWA?

Before I came to UWA I was working in the transport industry as a truck driver. I had always known that I wanted to study at university, but I could never figure out what I wanted to do. When I was 26 I decided I'd wasted enough time and went back to complete a bachelor's degree in history and archaeology online with the University of Southern Queensland. From the moment I took my first archaeology unit I knew I had found the career I had been searching for, and decided to pursue an honours degree at UWA.

4. What was your most memorable experience in your archaeological studies/career?

There are so many to choose from! As part of my undergrad studies, I participated in an archaeological dig in Tasmania where we uncovered the remains of a road station that was constructed in 1845 to house some of Tasmania's more mischievous convicts. We uncovered the remains of alcohol bottles, shackles, many different buildings including isolation cells that were barely 1 metre by 1 metre, and other evidence of day-to-day for convicts in 1845 Tasmania.

During my honours, I was very fortunate to have been taken to Murujuga where we visited several of the archipelagos islands, recorded artefacts, standing stones, and some of the most amazing and ancient rock art in the world. My thesis also involved looking at microscopic evidence of stone-tool usage and finding my first plant fibres and positive blood tests from artefacts that are more than 8,000 years old was also very exciting!

In my first year as a field archaeologist, I have been to places that I would never have dreamed I would visit. I have flown around the Pilbara in helicopters, walked the land with its Traditional Owners, and been very lucky to be taught by them about their culture. I think above all else, it has been the people I have met along the way who have made my journey into archaeology so special.

5. How has studying archaeology influenced your career?

Studying archaeology didn't just influence my career, it completely redefined it. I'm no longer a transport worker, instead, I spend my days developing my skills and learning as much as I can about Australia's Traditional culture and how we can as a nation can work towards a better understanding of the past. It's an amazing feeling to go to work every day and be excited, and to often be in disbelief that I actually get paid to do this!

6. What piece of advice would you offer someone who is interested in pursuing archaeology?

Whenever I meet someone and they find out I'm an archaeologist, they often ask if there is any work. This is something that I experienced during my undergrad too, where people would ask 'What are you going to do with that degree? There's no work as an archaeologist these days is there?', and this is so far from the truth. There are so many different opportunities all over the world in various different roles, and I think if I had known that when I was younger, that archaeology is a viable career pathway, I would have started soon.

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