Here’s a really good primer on the institutional landscape of US archaeology by Michael Dietler. Some of the perspectives he offers are just mind-boggling.
“There are at least 450 colleges and universities in the United States that offer a B.A degree in anthropology … . Of those institutions, 98 universities offer PhD programs in Anthropology” [which includes archaeology].
Imagine a country where an archaeology PhD has hundreds of potential academic employers, all of them speaking the same language… If I looked at the nearest 450 undergrad programs measured radially from my home, I’d find them being taught in about 20 different languages all over northern Europe, of which I understand six and speak only two reasonably well.
In the US, there are about 1.5 undergrad programs and 0.3 PhD programs in archaeology for every one million inhabitants. In Sweden there are eight undergrad programs and five PhD programs, translating to 0.9 and 0.6 per one million inhabitants. The US and Swedish figures aren’t necessarily commensurable, since we don’t know if an average US archaeology subdepartment has a similar level of student throughput and teacher involvment per student as an average Swedish one. But we can probably assume that the Swedish figures are very high seen in the global perspective. Thus it looks like the US has a strangely high output per capita of anthropology BAs. What on Earth can they be using them all for!?
Sweden, meanwhile, seems to have twice the US output per capita of archaeology PhDs. Here, we know what they are used for: they’re re-trained as archivists and librarians or sent back to their old digger jobs on the highway projects.