I'm Dr. Fred Hiebert, National Geographic archaeologist and explorer, back at National Geographic headquarters to answer more of your questions. See my IAmA from last September, when I was in Kyrgyzstan looking for the underwater remains of an ancient palace: http://sc.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/10701n/iama_national_geographic_archaeologist_currently/

Besides sunken palaces on the Silk Road, I've also searched for Genghis Khan's tomb in Mongolia [http://exploration.nationalgeographic.com/mongolia/expedition], found lost treasure in Afghanistan [http://www.nationalgeographic.com/mission/afghanistan-treasures/], worked with Bob Ballard (discoverer of the Titanic) in the Black Sea [http://www.nationalgeographic.com/blacksea/ax/frame.html], and searched for sunken temples in Lake Titicaca [http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/06/0604_boliviashrines.html].

Verification: https://twitter.com/FredHiebert/status/299711634987966464

UPDATE: Thanks everyone for another wonderful AMA. I'll try to answer additional questions within the next day or so.

UPDATE: I'll be live today 2/13 from 630-730 pm EST to answer more questions- if I haven't answered your question, I probably already answered a similar one- check out the table here: http://newyork.craigslist.org/que/for/3615562282.html

UPDATE: Another great session- thanks everyone!

Comments: 422 • Responses: 70  • Date: 

MonsieurMeepo87 karma

Greetings, it's your esteemed child. Is general bubangida in or out?

fredhiebert72 karma

The general is in.

MonsieurMeepo45 karma

Thanks pops!

squeekybuddha74 karma

I have no idea what this exchange means, but I like to assume that General Bubangida is a code name for your mom/his wife.

Blue_Kill10 karma

I'm guessing cat.

fredhiebert5 karma

Yep! It's the cat!

JimenezVii39 karma

In your opinion what is the most interesting/astounding thing you've discovered and why ?

fredhiebert80 karma

The ancient doormat- (see my earlier AMA link in intro) it ended up on a starbucks cup: http://adayinthelifeoftheperkinsfamily.blogspot.com/2008/02/monday-morning-starbucks.html

fredhiebert37 karma

One of the things archaeologists have to deal with is working in sacred areas. For instance, we were allowed to do non-invasive surveys in Lake Titicaca, but we couldn't dig up what we found b/c the locals consider the lake sacred. Same with Mongolia- there's regions in the country that are off-limits to most people b/c Mongolians consider them holy.

OhBlackWater36 karma

What do you think of Indiana Jones? Cause that's how I imagine you and your blackened grain find.

An epic underground ancient bakery quest.

fredhiebert53 karma

Indy was a great Hollywood character who inspired a LOT of archaeologists, so I can't complain. And most everyone who was inspired kept w/ it even after they realized it wasn't all treasure and co-eds writing flirty things on their eyelids...

OhBlackWater22 karma

Can't we at least pretend? At least about the co-eds..

fredhiebert105 karma

Oh, we do.

boredlike36 karma

What's the highlight of your career so far?

fredhiebert84 karma

I found a 7000-year-old piece of blackened grain in Turkmenistan, and the president built a museum for it. The building is topped with a huge gold-plated grain. It's the Wheat Museum in Anau. Check it out.

boredlike17 karma

Wow, really impressive!

fredhiebert70 karma

BigSwerty32 karma

What are the pros/cons of working in NG over a strickly academic career?

fredhiebert56 karma

Pros- it's fun. I'm having drinks with the staff of Mongolian Cosmopolitan tonight. Cons- I don't get to work with students too often

BigSwerty26 karma

Isn't this con actually a pro??

fredhiebert43 karma

Not really- if you're new to the field you come up w/ outside-of-the-box ideas that can make a lot of sense.

BigSwerty27 karma

in that case... i have absolutely no knowledge in your field -are there any unaswered questsions you're working on that myself or reddit can help answer?

fredhiebert57 karma

Howabout where Genghis Khan is buried? We were actually crowdsourcing data for that one- pretty cool. Or if you could tell me where Atlantis is. I'll split the royalties on the documentary...

BigSwerty132 karma

It's obvious. Genghis is buried in Atlantis.

fredhiebert94 karma

Well, that makes it easy! THANKS!

LKWard29 karma

Have you ever been in a dangerous situation while on an excavation?

fredhiebert103 karma

Omigod yes: once I had a trench collapse on me and I almost suffocated. And my hotel in Afghanistan was blown up.

v3xxeD29 karma

Hi Dr. Hiebert thanks for doing this.

  1. I understand NatGeo funds you. Do you get paid enough to retire comfortably? (do you get paid like a normal career)

  2. When NatGeo funds you are you the one who handles the finances?

  3. Do you get to pick your own team?

  4. Have you gone to personal archae. to get bounties? (like treasures to sell) if yes what have you found? and how much did you sell it for?

  5. Any indiana jones moments?

  6. As my bucket list I always wanted to be involved in a dig (finding old civilization(cities),tombs) something that connects with the past. I want to know how to feels unearthing something ancient. I studied electronics eng. though. But are there ever opportunities to volunteer or be a part of a dig even though you might not have the qualifications?

Thanks very much and good luck

fredhiebert69 karma

  1. Yep, I'm already scoping out my seaside cottage in Mexico
  2. Yep, you should see my receipts.
  3. Yep, it's the best part of the job.
  4. No, because IT BELONGS IN A MUSEUM!
  5. See above
  6. Yeah, there's plenty of volunteer opportunities, especially for engineers like yourself. Google "archaeology volunteers" and you'll find a ton of stuff.

staticblues25 karma

What is the weirdest thing you have found during your travels?

fredhiebert70 karma

On a dig, probably a perfectly preserved dead cat from the Roman period, in a house in Egypt. Even the fur was still intact.

BrodyApproves21 karma

Where is El Dorado & can you take me there?

fredhiebert102 karma

That sounds like a bad pop song.

jaggazz20 karma

How did you come to work for National Geographic?

fredhiebert35 karma

I got a bunch of grants from NatGeo, and then I wanted to do an absolutely crazy project that took me to Afghanistan for two years, and NatGeo were the only ones who said go for it.

AVUnderwater20 karma

  1. How many countries have you worked in?
  2. What languages do you speak?
  3. What has been your favorite site?
  4. Do you have a family? If so, what do they think of your career?
  5. Who's the coolest person you have met through archaeology?

Thanks a lot for doing this!

fredhiebert68 karma

  1. 15 countries so far
  2. French, Egyptian Arabic & Russian
  3. That's like asking a shelter attendant to name their favorite puppy
  4. Yep, & they think I'm nuts
  5. Most of the cool people I study are dead, but you Redditors are pretty fun too

cocolap17 karma

Hi Dr Hiebert, do archaeologists also meticulously scan satellite imagery for finds? If so, can you give an example of a significant discovery through this?

fredhiebert20 karma

Absolutely. We've identified so many sites in the Amazon, Mongolia, Egypt, etc. Check this out: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/bios/sarah-parcak/

dandanthemuffinsman17 karma

Are there any tips/advice you could give an individual who wants to be an archaeologist, and what did you take in university? Thank you so much, you are a real inspiration.

fredhiebert63 karma

To be an archaeologist you have to make sure to take a lot of science courses since archaeology now is so science- and tech- heavy. You also have to be willing to eat anything and poop anywhere.

AVUnderwater34 karma

That last bit sounds like good advice in general.

fredhiebert24 karma


AethWolf14 karma

Weirdest place you've pooped so far?

fredhiebert52 karma

It's not really weird, but pooping in a featureless desert is tough. You can't just go behind a tree b/c there are none. You just have to walk really really far away from everyone to do your business.

StellaNeedleman16 karma

Hi there! I am really excited about the discovery of the pyramids in Sedeinga (Sudan). Hopefully, what the archaeologists uncover there will provide us with a more comprehensive understanding of Nubia. What are your thoughts? Do you think NG will cover this story? Thanks;)

fredhiebert19 karma

It is an amazing discovery. NG has been particularly focused on Mali right now, but you may find this interesting: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/02/black-pharaohs/robert-draper-text.html

Zeemann15 karma

Is there anything that you wish you had left undiscovered?

fredhiebert54 karma

Luckily- not yet. I keep thinking about the Russian archaeologist Gerasimov in the 1940s- he was determined to open Tamerlane's tomb in Uzbekistan even though the locals said it was cursed- sure enough, withing a couple days of opening the tomb the Nazis invaded the USSR. THATS a bad discovery!

nine7sicks15 karma

I don't have any questions, but I wanted to say how awesome your AMAs have been. Your first AMA is really the only AMA I think about often. Just the other day I was thinking to myself I wonder how Dr. Fred is doing with his dig. SO GLAD YOU ARE DOING ANOTHER ONE. I don't even do anything related to your field, but your AMA fascinated me so much. Thank you very much for the entertaining answers and intriguing stories. I can't wait for the next one. EDIT: BTW The Starbucks cup is awesome!!!

fredhiebert11 karma

Thanks! I love doing these and sharing what I do with you guys. You always have great questions!

arcanin14 karma

What's your best job related pickup line ?

fredhiebert88 karma

"Wanna hold my trowel?"

Reubenwilson14 karma

Is being a good archaeologist to do with having good instincts and following your gut feeling, or will reading and doing shit loads of revision help you further?

fredhiebert25 karma

You definitely have to rely on your Spidey sense, but at the same time you have to know a lot about the culture you're digging up, so it's a bit of each

Reubenwilson13 karma

Thanks for the answer, am i allowed another? Have their been any occasions where your imagination has gotten out of control in terms of what you could be digging up?

fredhiebert35 karma

Let me give you an example: once I was digging on a site and I thought I had found an entire building, I was getting incredibly excited- it was so well delineated...

...but it turned out to be an old pipeline.

perseus28713 karma

What is the split between historical research and time on the dig? Which do you enjoy more? What is your dream find?

fredhiebert29 karma

Well, can't do the dig without the research- they're both pretty cool. For instance, I'm heading off to Europe soon to track down a medieval manuscript describing the Mongol palace I'm looking for in Central Asia. Dream find, see above.

gtwy13 karma

Do you ever get into Indiana Jones type scenarios where artifacts are booby trapped?

fredhiebert51 karma

Never been chased by a boulder, but I've been locked in the basement of a museum once.

gtwy16 karma

Spent too much time in there and the staff locked up for the night? Did you wait it out or call for help?

fredhiebert47 karma

I set up camp between the mummies and the mastodons and waited it out.

justmytwobreasts12 karma

If there was one thing you could change from your adventure, what would it be?

fredhiebert42 karma

Looong airplane rides & the TSA

Spank_me_sideways10 karma

Why is the national geographic channel showing things that have no relevance to learning about the world?

fredhiebert24 karma

Geographic covers all facets of life on this planet, from tiger mating habits to doomsday preppers. It's all part of this strange little rock we live on, I guess.

sriram959 karma

Why do you find your job interesting?Are you always happy with your job?Are there moments when you regretted taking up archaeology as a career?

fredhiebert19 karma

Ha, good one. Sure, long periods of waiting while you dont find anything, but then you finally find it and the regrets go away

repaxton9 karma

What were your parents like?

fredhiebert16 karma

Mom, is this you?

repaxton13 karma

Hahaha how can I raise a child like you heibert?

fredhiebert12 karma

Very carefully!

Dreck19859 karma

Which do you prefer: Archaeology or Archeology? And why?

fredhiebert9 karma

It's odd: researchers in the New World prefer 'archeology', while those of us who work in the "Old World" generally use 'archaeology.'

PillowTalk4209 karma

I have heard that there are ruins, possibly Maya or Incan or Aztec (I am not really sure which), that are visible in South America, but have never been explored in (known) modern history.

Is this true, and, if so, why have they not been explored?

fredhiebert19 karma

Absolutely- satellite imagery--especially the kind that can penetrate jungle canopy--has revealed so many sites we haven't even been to, especially deep in the Amazon. It's a matter of time, money, and getting there.

LuKsC9 karma

Have you ever been really disapointed about a find?

fredhiebert27 karma

Sure, many times. Sometimes you think you have an important piece of pottery but it turns out to be dirt. And the best find of the dig is ALWAYS found on the last day...

Willb3tray4food9 karma

Cool, do you think the shamans were spying on you? (side note-the kids played with deadly snakes!?!)

fredhiebert16 karma

Well, they were smoking something!

And kids & snakes at our site in Turkmenistan: http://imgur.com/xet0wBE

Willb3tray4food10 karma

Great pic! Do you ever have trouble with the locals when you do digs? How do you solve issues if there are any?

fredhiebert22 karma

We always collaborate with the locals- we don't just storm in like imperial scientists. If they're not happy with us being there, we get out--it's ultimately their turf- we're just there to help them explore it

Willb3tray4food5 karma

How are the majority of the sites discovered?

fredhiebert23 karma

Basically, nothing is ever really lost- locals always have an idea of what's around

doctorassholetoyou9 karma

Are there any sites you still want to explore but havent had an opportunity?

fredhiebert34 karma

Good question. I want to find a shipwreck from before the time of Columbus in the New World. I want to find an even older grain of wheat. And the tomb of Cleopatra or Alexander the Great. Or Jimmy Hoffa.

Khromasoul8 karma

How much of the world still has secrets hidden away waiting for discovery? It amazes me that there is still so much out there left for people like you to explore and discover!

fredhiebert11 karma

Well, if we knew how much was out there, it wouldn't be a secret, no? But I think there's enough out there to keep archaeologists busy for a good while longer.

Hu_dat8 karma

when are they gonna open that pyramid with the mercury river in china?

fredhiebert20 karma

You mean the tomb of China's first emperor? Essentially, there's so much mercury in the tomb that it's a defacto Superfund site as well as an amazing ancient monument. Archaeologists are going to have to be super-careful going in there, once they have the technology to safely do so. Actually, we'll probably end up sending robots in. Shouldn't be that long, I think.

slyfox48 karma

What made you interested in archaeology?

fredhiebert17 karma

I actually wanted to be an artist, but the only place where I was getting paid to draw was on a dig in the Middle East. Kinda snowballed from there.

gsjbautista7 karma

What was your most strenuous excavation?

fredhiebert23 karma

Definitely Mongolia- searching for Genghis Khan's tomb. We had to survey a very steep, forested mountain by foot w/ a lot of electronics on our back during some violent storms. Then back to a yurt packed with 10 unwashed researchers and a horde a horseflies. Good times.

gsjbautista7 karma

how long were you out in the field?

fredhiebert12 karma

three seasons, 2 months per season- you can check out some of the footage here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohCCW4EWXaQ

uwarchaeology7 karma

Hey Fred, what methods are you using at Lake Issyk-Kul? The ethnographic stories claim the "mythical" sunken structures are quite deep, what depth range are you looking in? What period and types of material are you finding/looking for? Will it be an annual project or on a 5 year plan?

fredhiebert9 karma

We have a couple years on the project and depths range from 1cm to 10+meters- the shallow work is the most challenging. Try taking a u/w pic in 4 inches of water...and we're looking for Timurid material, so 14-15th century AD

Shadrahk6 karma


fredhiebert17 karma

Getting the trust of the Afghan museum guards, who ended up revealing to us the ancient gold treasure they had hidden for 20 years during the war. We all thought it had been melted down and lost forever. Wow.

ReadMyPosts6 karma

Thank you so much for doing this Dr. Hiebert. What do you feel is the worlds greatest wonder?

fredhiebert41 karma

I'm amazed at skyscrapers. The Burj Khalifa blows my mind- what will our skylines look like in a century or so?

And magnets, how do they work?

ReadMyPosts3 karma

Just took a look at The Burj Khalifa. I would pay anything to look out of it's highest window.

Do you have a favorite Natural Wonder?

fredhiebert9 karma

I really liked the state monument of New Hampshire...until it fell down:


It's the way of the world.

wyrmcrypt6 karma

If you were a graduating senior in college today with a BS in Archaeology \ Anthropology, where would you attempt to start your career? Are there any specific areas of study for higher education that you would suggest? Mainly, where would a very eager graduate find their way into the field?

fredhiebert3 karma

Best place to start is to put time in at a real field school and get real-life experience. The technology is constantly changing and you have to stay on top of it. Do the fieldwork, make contacts and then you'll know what you should pursue for your advanced degree.

Willb3tray4food6 karma

Do you have a crazy(or exciting) story about your work?

fredhiebert27 karma

Working in Turkmenistan- there were plenty of deadly vipers that would slither into the trenches every night. Our diggers--some of whom were like 12 years old--would jump down into the trenches every morning and play with them, then toss 'em out.

In our last season in Mongolia, we discovered a temple built by Genghis Khan's great- great- grandson. That day, 7 shamans showed up at our camp unannounced and started asking us about it. How did they know we found it that very day? Still trying to figure that one out.

AsksAboutMatrix6 karma

Have you ever discovered anything which might lead you to believe we are living in the Matrix?

fredhiebert20 karma

No, actually what Ive learned from archaeology is how much things stay the same- people were fighting and falling in love and worrying about their kids etc even 7000 years ago.

demoiselle-verte5 karma

Hi, I'm an archaeology student, and I'm curious about how you came to work for National Geographic.
1. How did you find out that they were looking for researchers, and not just photographers and documentary hosts?
2. Compared to other prospective jobs for someone with an archaeology degree (like working in a museum or being a professor), how much more fun is it to work with NG? Do you get to do things that you wouldn't otherwise?
Thanks for all this information!

fredhiebert6 karma

How I came to work for NG? See below.

Working for NG? It's a lot of fun but also it's amazing to be able to share my research with the world- there's so many archaeologists out there doing amazing things, but the public only really knows the tip of the iceberg. By the way, NG gave out its 10,000th research grant recently- we get to fund really important work. You can apply here to be an explorer with us: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/be-an-explorer

35nnnn4 karma

What would one need to do to become a National Geographic photographer? Is it all about knowing people, or is talent involved?

fredhiebert4 karma

Talent is definitely involved- here's more info: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/siteindex/careers-faqs/

LyingPervert4 karma

Are you friends with Ross?

fredhiebert19 karma

Of course. We go way back. Last time I saw him he was knocking back cheap Congolese beer in a dive near Kivu.

mattymo6294 karma

What do you think was the most important discovery, one, that you made personally, and two, that others have made in the past?

fredhiebert10 karma

Personally: finding a building at the bottom of Lake Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan was really amazing, because there were so many stories about it but we finally found the proof: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/09/06/2012-issyk-kul-expedition-search-for-a-sunken-palace/ That others have made: the fossil hominids found by the Leakeys. Hands down one of the most amazing discoveries of the 20th century http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/02/06/mary-leakeys-100th-birthday/

kkeane4 karma

Have you seen all the Indiana Jones movies?

fredhiebert13 karma

Yep. Favorite scene: fighting the Nazis in the Egyptian desert. Bloody propellers!

lordofthecoonsOD3 karma

What do you consider to be your most cherished archeological discovery?

fredhiebert9 karma

Unfortunately, I mostly dig garbage- it tells you a lot about ancient life but it's not necessarily cherishable. Would mudbrick walls count?

Goodis3 karma

Could you share some pros and cons about being an archaeologist?

I got really discouraged when I found out how much study and merits you had to had to actually become "good" in it.

fredhiebert9 karma

Hey, it's like any job where you want to do well- you have to work at it. Being an archaeologist isn't easier or harder than, say, being a biologist or a reporter or a drummer. It's just practice, practice, practice.

Kcee1013 karma

My dream is to work at the National Geographic HQ. How can I get in there? Can you put in the good word for me Dr. Hiebert? Pretty please! I'm a 26 year old woman with a very good résumé and a student. I'll work for free!

fredhiebert28 karma

Get in? Doors are at 17th St NW. Or you can try nationalgeographic.com/jobs

crapartist2 karma

I am a geographer and was wondering if you have any tips or hints of getting some of that sweet, sweet NatGeo action?

fredhiebert2 karma

NatGeo funds geographers- check this out: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/be-an-explorer

Polite_Werewolf2 karma

If there was a zombie outbreak, what would be your zombie plan?

fredhiebert3 karma

Donno- tune into Doomsday Preppers!

Dildoman6662 karma

Can you talk about your educational background? Just curious.

fredhiebert11 karma

My undergrad degree was from UMich in anthropology & Near Eastern Studies; my PhD was in anthro from Harvard. I also studied in Paris & Moscow, but no degrees from there. If you want to be an archaeologist, you definitely need advanced degrees.

Diabetesh0 karma

Any real connections between ancient egypt and ( aliens)?

fredhiebert8 karma

No, even in ancient times humans were smart enough to pull off amazing things like the pyramids.

Diabetesh3 karma

What do think of when weird stuff like the dyatlov pass happens?

fredhiebert10 karma