EDIT 2: I'll try to answer more of your great questions on the road tomorrow -it's 2am here and we're 10 hours ahead of EST-I'm using mobile internet so it may be a bit spotty but I'll try my best!

EDIT: It's now 11pm here in Kyrgyzstan and I have to head out around the lake early tomorrow. Thanks for all of your questions- I'll try to answer more in the coming weeks but in the meantime we're also having a Google+ Hangout next Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET. More details here: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/09/11/hangout-with-an-archaeologist-in-the-field. Thanks for all of your amazing questions, Redditors!

I'm Dr. Fred Hiebert, a National Geographic archaeologist andexplorer. I'm currently in Kyrgyzstan on the northern shore of Issyk Kul, one of the world’s highest and deepest lakes, to look for the underwater remains of a palace associated with the infamous conqueror Tamerlane. I've also led excavations at ancient sites across Central Asia and searched for submerged settlements in the Black Sea and South America. I've lived in yurts, eaten sheep eyes and had a museum built for the world's oldest grain of bread wheat found by our expedition in Turkmenistan. Verification: https://twitter.com/FredHiebert/status/248608666096381953. Ask me anything.

Here are links to recent National Geographic blog posts about our expedition:




Comments: 1240 • Responses: 52  • Date: 

Veeks349 karma

That's awesome. Do you ever feel like Indiana Jones? What did sheep eyes taste like?

fredhiebert478 karma

Indy was afraid of snakes, but we've got a lot of snakes at the lake and they don't bother me. Sheep eyes: it's kind of like biting into a Blow-Pop: crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside--but not as tasty...

westyfield328 karma

Please be honest - have you ever insisted that something belongs in a museum? :) If I were an archaeologist I'd do that all day, every day.

fredhiebert898 karma

Every day, yo.

dartmanx88 karma

Are you currently attempting to get John Williams to compose a theme song for you?

fredhiebert197 karma

Hah- waiting for Will.I.Am to craft my theme. You out there?

pokee2273 karma

Archaeology is just one of my childhood dreams never meant to be. How do you decide which sites to go to?

fredhiebert340 karma

Good question! It's all about connecting the dots--I'm fascinated by the Silk Road and we've heard about China and the Middle East but it's all about the places in between- that's where the coolest stories are.

kn0ck55 karma

So are you implying you will eventually travel to Afghanistan? I would love to learn more about its history, it is such an obscure country, yet it's smack-dab in the middle of everything regarding the Silk Road.

fredhiebert119 karma

Been in Afghanistan- worked on some amazing stuff there- it is the center of the Silk Road

MyCharlemagne99 karma

Never say never pokee2. You could retire at 65 and spend 20 more years digging up bones and cities.

fredhiebert163 karma

Absolutely, there's always great volunteer opportunities on digs for people of any age- it's always out there!

Veeks76 karma

Really? I had no idea! Could you link us to that?

fredhiebert165 karma

Google "volunteer archaeology"- you can contribute to great research all around the world!

metatronlevel5588 karma

If you live around Texas there is the Gualt Site like an hour north of Austin. It is the world's largest paleolitich site. It has produced millions of artifact mostly chert. If paleo is your thing they are uncovering "pre-clovis" remains. I've excavated in the pit, wet shifted, and bagged and tagged. You can get a real experince, and I have only taken Intro to Archaeology.

fredhiebert61 karma

Gault is a cool site- cool you worked there!

BusinessHugs256 karma

Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?

fredhiebert561 karma

Def not in Kyrgyzstan.

BusinessHugs91 karma

thank you. now for a real question.

did you grow up wanting to dig stuff up and measure it with calipers?

what is your favorite locale that you've worked in so far?

fredhiebert169 karma

Didn't know what a caliper was till I was 22.


bigjerm183 karma

how likely do you think you are to find the palace?

fredhiebert406 karma

crossing fingers

xalgorafan146 karma

Who was more badass, Tamerlane or Genghis Khan? From what I understand, Tamerlane conquered more territory than Khan but was one more ruthless or a better leader than the other?

fredhiebert228 karma

Heh great question- Genghis was a nomad, Tamerlane lived in buildings builts by the world's best architects, so as an archaeologist I gotta lean toward the buildings-In terms of ruthlessnes? That can be pretty relative, depending on what side you're on.

[deleted]84 karma

As an archaeologist working in early h-g I'd always lean towards the nomad.

NINJA EDIT: Also a question. Where in south america have you worked?

fredhiebert124 karma

Bolivia, Peru (Lake Titicaca)

daffydubs133 karma

Wanted to say I'm super jealous of you. I graduated with archaeology last December and couldn't find a job to save my life. I want to get my masters for underwater archaeology but I'm afraid with my new sales job (broker) I won't ever find the time to do it. Any advice for someone like me, either food underwater arch programs or places to look now for a career? And how do you get into working with Nat Geo? I me a journalist one time that works with the crab fishermen in Alaska, but I don't have journalism experience.

Edit: thank you everyone for the words of wisdom, ideas, support, and PMs! This is why I love reddit. Thank you all again and know that this doesn't go unappreciated!

fredhiebert237 karma

Career advice? Archaeology isn't a job, it's a lifestyle that will dictate everything outside of the dig. If you're ready to dive in with both feet and be willing to sacrifice, you gotta go for it.

jakeblues94118 karma

What got you interested in doing archaeology? What's the most exciting thing you've found so far?

fredhiebert496 karma

Actually, I was interested in art & ended up doing drawings for archaeologists and thought it was so cool that I went back to school for archaeology. There's nothing like holding a 3000-year-old artifact in your hand!

Most exciting thing I ever found? I had the chance to excavate in Egypt, where everything is so dry that even ancient wood is preserved. In front of the door of a houst that was more than 800 years old, I found a key with the name of the owner on it--under the doormat!

Daemonator195 karma

This guy had plans should he lose his keys, more intelligent than me.

fredhiebert189 karma

Which is why I love archaeology!

monanomura100 karma

Hi Fred and team, I really need to know: what does an 800 year old doormat look like???

fredhiebert308 karma

Omigod! You dig down through dirt and get down to a woven mat and you think, I can't believe I'm looking at this. It's ridiculous!

Wolfgang_00106 karma

What is the strangest thing you've uncovered during your excavations?

fredhiebert264 karma

Ah, good question...how about 6,000 year old toilets?

transportman84 karma

First of all, that sounds like the coolest job on the planet, and second of all, if all goes well and you find this palace, do you think that will give you the experience necessary to find the lost city of Atlantis?

fredhiebert128 karma

It's pretty cool- I'm a very lucky guy but make sure I remind myself of that all the time. Atlantis? Gotta love legends- there's a bit of truth in every legend

manutebowl276 karma

Are you afraid that, when you find it, the ruler of the palace will attempt to rip your heart out with his bare hands?

fredhiebert155 karma

Nah, I got snakes to worry about

skithehoop64 karma

Does a deep, high elevation lake such a Issyk Kul preserve artifacts better than a lake at a lower elevation? I would assume the oxygen content is somewhat lower in this lake and with it being so deep the sediment may not be disturbed nearly as easily.

fredhiebert121 karma

has to do with sediment and lake enviro, not elevation- dark and cold is a key to preservation

akachicago47 karma

HI Fred and team: What is the biggest surprise you've come across on this expedition? What is the average temperature of the water you're diving into?

fredhiebert75 karma

Biggest surprise? Probably how excited everyone here is about the project- everyone seems to know about the legends of the lake and they're really into their ancient history

Avg water temp: about 60-ish. We wear 7mm suits, hoods, and still get pretty cold

LtlAnalDwlngButtMnky46 karma

I am a photography student, do you have Nat geo. Photographers with you? If so how difficult is it to document what your doing underwater and above?

fredhiebert79 karma

Right now we have a great photographer- see BradVest.com-- and he is able to capture moments that absolutely fly by the rest of us. He's amazing and works just as hard as everyone else here.

billy82231 karma

was just really inspired from this guys work. thank you

fredhiebert48 karma

Isn't he great?

ThankUkarmagain45 karma

Is it hard not being ethnocentric while traveling and did Gary Busey inspire you to be who you are today?

fredhiebert111 karma

You're always a bit ethnocentric when you travel- it's human nature to identify with what you're used to- the key is being able to recognize that and try to transcend it..

Patternicity40 karma

How much money do you make a year? Don't get me wrong, I'd be wayyyy more excited about the traveling, digging, exploring aspect of this job than the money - but I'm just curious about the pay for something like this.

Do you take any pictures of the sites that get published in the magazine?


fredhiebert93 karma

I didn't get into this for the $$$, but I'm supporting a family and doing what I love- I'm a very lucky guy.

lospinas39 karma

The blow pop analogy made me cringe. How did you get into such a position? Ive always been told that working for Nat Geo is an extremely difficult thing to do. Have you always wanted to be an archaeologist?

fredhiebert63 karma

Sheep eyes are considered a delicacy in this part of the world for guests, so it's an honor to be offered one.

Have I always wanted to be an archaeologist? See reply above. Nat Geo is an amazing place to work.

JonBjSig38 karma

What is your opinion on the ancient aliens show?

MyCharlemagne113 karma

I get offended on behalf of our ancient ancestors every time somebody's like "humans couldn't have done that."

fredhiebert133 karma

Me too! We can pull off some amazing stuff when we put our minds to it.

fredhiebert52 karma

which one? :)

JonBjSig21 karma

All of 'em, do any of them actually present valid, logical evidence to support their hypotheses?

fredhiebert117 karma

look, humans are pretty damn smart. No reason to look to aliens for answers

LaunderingKarma34 karma

  • Dear Dr. Fred Hiebert ,


  • Sincerely,
  • The History Channel

fredhiebert42 karma

cough good one

misanthr0p1c31 karma

If you find a sweet sword, can I have it?

fredhiebert222 karma

Nope, 'cause IT BELONGS IN A MUSEUM! :)

Lillipout30 karma

How much do local politics affect your work? Do you have to include bribes in your expedition budget? Have you ever had a run-in with corrupt officials, holding your gear or documents hostage until they received payment?

fredhiebert37 karma

That's everywhere in the world and it's all relative, whether it's sitting down for three pots of tea and formalities or filling out forms etc

5secondmemory30 karma

Does Natational Geographic really say "we publish pictures, not excuses" when you're on deadline?

Also, if an amazingly talented travel photographer wanted to working with NatGeo travel, what would you recommend as a first step?

fredhiebert44 karma

Never heard the excuses line from my bosses- it's just about doing the best work you can in the field.

LarryNozowitz24 karma

How do you feel about the theory that there were advanced civilizations prior to 10,000 BC? i.e. Göbekli Tepe in Turkey

fredhiebert37 karma

Gotta love Göbekli- we'd love more sites like that!

Tozar22 karma

As a fellow archaeologist, I'd like to know how you started working with National Geographic ? Thank you.

fredhiebert40 karma

I applied for grants through their exploration committee- best way to start!

buttwiser19 karma

What excites you the most about archaeology?

fredhiebert43 karma

You know, everything that we don't know is open to discovery, and the answers are always ultimately out there- we just need to figure out the right places to look.

thewindisrising16 karma


fredhiebert44 karma

Be willing to travel anywhere, talk to everyone and eat everything. Sorry if it may sound trite, but adaptability everywhere is key

thombudsman16 karma

What discovery of yours has surprised you the most?

fredhiebert41 karma

Surprised? In terms of looking at the past, probably how much humans have changed the environment around them so that they can live in some really extreme places. So amazing....

ummguy15 karma

Do you ever worry about booby traps?

fredhiebert44 karma

Nope, worry more about being trapped on a rural bus for 10 hours with a bad stomach.

darktask14 karma

What's the worst or least pleasant part of your job?

fredhiebert83 karma

So, you've seen Indiana Jones. It's just like that except that Indy never has to:

-apply for $$ -apply for permits to dig -cook his own food -write reports -poop outside a yurt

RandomGeordie13 karma

Awesome! Hey Dr. Hiebert, what has been the hardest challenge so far as an archeologist in the east? Does your background hinder you at all? And what's so significant about this palace? Any treasure?

fredhiebert38 karma

I've worked in the desert for the last 25 years on the Silk Road, but working underwater now is an amazing challenge. Background is never a hindrance if you're willing to live like the locals and respect their traditions. Treasure? Not that there's any here, but we still learn a hell of a lot more from humble bricks and pottery than we would from any fancy stuff.

Levanter13 karma

What is the most interesting thing you've ever found?

fredhiebert30 karma

the wooden key- see above!

Minyme200913 karma

Do you enjoy the underwater exploration more or less than your average exploration?

fredhiebert55 karma

It's not as hot, but getting into a cold wetsuit every day isn't something I'm always looking forward to- but once in the water floating over an archaeological site is the most unbelievable experience I've ever had- it's like dreams of flying!

Brevenge9279 karma

Here I am sitting in my underwear while browsing reddit and munching on some doritos.

fredhiebert74 karma

Don't have doritos in Kyrgyzstan- kinda jealous

ericwight11 karma

Hey Dr., just a quick question, when you went back to school for archaeology did you focus on a certain (if there are) type or region, or was it just archaeology in a broad sense of the term? Either way, as a traveler, not necessarily just an architect, what has been one of your favorite locations to visit?

fredhiebert32 karma

I studied ancient trade: how people interacted and what they thought was valuable- fyi I ended up teaching a course on ancient economics to business students

vocabulator90009 karma

How deep are you guys diving? It looks like it could be anywhere from just beneath the surface to some significant depths. Do you feel like you are at the palace? or in some sort of settlement related to a similar time. Do you have any thoughts on the Bosnian Pyramid?

fredhiebert20 karma

Anywhere from 1cm of h20 to 20m. The site is all over the place.

eanhctbe8 karma

How much of your travel is assigned by the magazine and how much is freelance/contract? If you could lead an excavation anywhere, where would it be and why?

fredhiebert35 karma

We do our projects based on what's important in terms of science- hopefully the story is cool enough to be told in the mag, on tv etc.

If I could lead an excavation anywhere: it's kinda hard to top where I am right now. Then again, the next project is always the best one :)

Lore5148 karma


fredhiebert14 karma

Atlantis no- not as sexy. But we have historical accoutns as well as achaeological evidence.

Pro-tips for travel? Sleep well on plane, because you need to hit the ground running

Phil_E_Buster6 karma

What are the worst conditions that you have had to face while out doing a job?

fredhiebert12 karma

1) sandstorms 2)bombings 3)110-degree heat 4) -30-degree cold 5) grumpy officials 6) snakes

manutebowl26 karma

What is one thing that, if found, would change our knowledge the most?

fredhiebert13 karma

Writing is the main thing- can we figure out Linear A, for instance? Or the ancient Indus script?