Studying the ruins of ancient civilisations, and getting down and dirty in an excavation site may not appeal to some, but for Noel Hidalgo Tan, it is a way of life. Speaking of his passion for his field, Tan — a senior specialist in archaeology at the Seameo Regional Centre for Archaeology and Fine Arts — says: “Archaeology is one of those fields where you can still make great ‘aha!’ discoveries…it’s inherently stimulating.” One such discovery by Tan was a 2010 find in the ruins of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. There, he uncovered some 200 never-before-seen paintings of deities, animals and musical instruments — his biggest haul yet. The PhD candidate at the Australian National University got his first brush with archaeology when he interviewed a curator from the National Museum of Singapore in 2003. His interest piqued, he subsequently volunteered for an excavation effort at St Andrew’s Cathedral, where he dug up centuries-old ceramic pieces in what he described as a “humbling” experience. The rest, shall we say, is history.