Scott Tucker has recently finished his PhD in the CMA, studying the role of ships and harbours in the development of the seventeenth-century British tobacco trade with the Maryland and Virginia colonies. He previously studied at the CMA for his MA degree.
Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
I was born in Hagerstown, Maryland, USA, and grew up in a small town just outside of Hagerstown, about 80k west of Washington DC.
What was your first degree in? Where did you study it?
My first degree is in Anthropology and Sociology from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, a small public liberal arts college located in southern Maryland essentially on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. The college is located on part of the first settlement of the Maryland Colony, which was the fourth successful British colony in the New World. An archaeological park and museum, Historic St. Mary’s City, owns much of that land and is well integrated with the college. This is where my interest in archaeology began.
What made you decide to study archaeology at postgraduate level?
I first discovered archaeology partially by accident while taking the annual 10 week archaeological fieldschool at Historic St. Mary’s City. I took it as I needed college credit to finish my degree on time, but I found it more interesting than I expected, and it seemed I had a bit of a knack for it as well. I was hooked at that point, but knew that I wanted to do more than just dig. Postgraduate study is necessary to move beyond in the field.
Why did you choose to study at Southampton?
Deciding to come to Southampton was a difficult decision for me at first, as it meant leaving my home country, along with friends and family. There were few other options though for postgraduate study in Maritime Archaeology in the US, and as I looked I found more opportunities for me in the UK. It just seemed to fit. It turned out that I couldn’t have been happier with my decision. After completing my MA in Southampton in 2009, I have returned to take on a research degree.
Tell us more about which parts of maritime archaeology interest you.
What I find most fascinating about maritime archaeology is the way people in the past, as well as present, are connected by the sea and waterways. The water facilitates transport of goods and people in ways that nothing else could in the past, and allowed for huge, intertwined networks to form across the globe. That we can learn about these vast, worldwide networks from single sites such as a shipwreck is a huge draw for me.
Are you enjoying your studies? What do you like most about your degree programme?
My MA year was the most intense year of learning in my life, but also perhaps the most rewarding. I had a lot of great times, not just exploring a new country, but also sitting in the classroom or spending hours on end over my computer typing away at assignments. It was extremely hands on, and continues to be. An MA degree in Maritime Archaeology from Uni Southampton really does provide one with the skills and know-how to work in the field on many of the main aspects and methods commonly employed. The programme tends to also be very international, which is a huge plus. Meeting and interacting on a daily basis with people from a wide variety of nationalities and backgrounds makes for a very unique research environment with a diverse range of topics and geographical regions. The exposure to these areas of research was among the best parts of the programme.
As I have now started working toward a PhD, I am finding myself growing academically in ways I had not expected. Being given three years to research a topic allows for a huge amount of thought and project development. The staff is great and includes very prominent members of the discipline who are very happy to help the research along and develop ideas. The CMA Research Group is also an important facet of the programme which we have tried to get underway this year. It allows us to have more of a research community and stay in touch, rather than simply sitting at a desk day in and day out with little interaction. The community feel is one of the key features of study here with the CMA.
Do you get on well with the academic staff?
The staff here are excellent and provide students with the support they need for getting through their degree programmes. There is a push for interdisciplinary study as well, allowing us to reach outside of the CMA, or even archaeology as a whole to collaborate and bring the most to our projects that we can.
What’s the best thing about living and studying in Southampton?
It is often said of most anywhere that ‘it is the people, not the place.’ Southampton as a city is fine. It has the expected assortment of attractions and local flavour, but the people here are what have made my experience what it has been. Whether they be the lecturers and professors, coursemates or officemates, or people I shared residence halls with during my MA, they really made the difference. The community that we have at the university is a key factor in driving forward the research output and providing that sense of cohesion that keeps us all sane through those tough university moments.
What has been your favourite moment so far?
A highlight of the MA course is the annual trip to Roskilde, Denmark. It is a week long workshop, involving lectures by prominent researchers at an absolutely beautiful museum, followed by afternoon rowing and sailing sessions aboard traditional Scandinavian vessels and reconstructed Viking boats. My year included a lecture by Ole Crumlin-Pedersen, who along with George Bass is credited with starting the discipline. Ole passed away in 2011, making it more special that I had the privilege of meeting him and hearing him talk when I did.
What are you planning to do after graduating?
As a recently finished PhD student I hope to go on from this and find a post-doctoral fellowship and continue research, and later a university lectureship. I am very interested with teaching during my career and hope that I can help inspire some students the way a handful of professors have inspired me over the years.
Do you have any advice for people considering studying archaeology at postgraduate level at Southampton?
For prospective postgraduate students looking to go anywhere, my biggest bit of advice would be to make sure you are ready. It is a major commitment of time and at times quite draining. The most successful students are not necessarily always the brightest, but the most willing to put the effort in.
You can read more about Scott’s project and fieldwork on his blog: