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I think there is a bigger difference in these two fragments. The first says Just as an archaeologist who needs a background . . . the second does not have the 'who.' I believe that is why the second of the two is correct.
In option C, "just as X who needs..., Y needs..." is unidiomatic and X is not parallel to Y. In D, "just as X needs, so, Y needs" is idiomatic, and both X and Y are parallel. Correct option should be D.
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usage of "so a" and "a" depends upon the context, here in the question so is required to complte the idiom just as ...... so... and "a" is used as the article , without "so" the option C would be considered as incorrect.