Arch Survey

So, as I’ve mentioned before, there are many archaeological projects
in the US and around the world that accepts volunteers who do not have
any previous experience.  It’s a fantastic way to develop a special
connection with the place you’re traveling through, and of course, just a
lot of fun!

For now, I was focusing on finding a project in Europe or South America, this fall, since Rivet and Sway gifted me some inspiration money to go volunteer on a project in another continent.  I wanted to use the gift to get going asap and those two regions had the cheapest flights. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to pull this off this fall, as I would like, but I’m giving it a try.

A few things to consider when getting started:  many projects are geared toward students, so are only in the summer.  It is a little harder, but not impossible, to find projects at other times, and of course, this varies by region and climate. There is a huge range in the cost for participating on projects; when comparing projects and their fees look at whether they include room and board, type and quality of accommodations, if there is formal instruction and lectures, if there are included excursions, if there is special equipment they are providing, etc. Also, consider your physical shape and what kind of conditions you’ll be happy with. There are projects with hotel accommodations and transportation right to site and others where you camp and hike.

I started with what I knew; shovelbums.net, which is my go-to for job listings and they have an extensive list of archaeology field schools.  Most archaeologists go to a field school when they’re in school to learn field methods hands-on.  Typical field schools are university programs, for credit, and are held in the summer for a few weeks or more.  They wouldn’t be the best choice for someone looking to just spice up their travel itinerary or learn the basics for fun, plus they can be a bit pricey.  That being said, though, there is a wide range of different field school set ups and it doesn’t hurt to browse them a bit- some take volunteers and short termers and usually state so clearly.  Others only take students who will register for credits. My favorite project from this site was this awesome project in Bosnia-Herzegovina for only 200 Euro a week including room and board.

I then simply Googled ‘volunteer archaeology digs’ and found a few more decent sites to go off of:

http://www.pasthorizons.com/worldprojects/ How have I not seen this site before?  It’s a well-done database of projects with a nice little ‘volunteers welcome’ graphic to quickly pick out the projects you don’t have to be a student to participate in. I found some awesome and affordable one-week archaeology courses in Naples that I’m currently drooling over.

http://www.ubarchaeologist.com/Volunteer-Digs.html
I found a few cool projects on this list. There are plenty of opportunities here for people with no experience and some good low-budget opportunities. Some of the projects that are on my top five list came from this site, including the fun opportunities in England, for a day or a week, offered by Archaeoscan.

http://www.earthwatch.org/ I had a professor that did a project for Earthwatch so checked out their offerings.  Their prices tend to the higher side, but they clearly have nicer accommodations than many university-led projects and they are geared totally to the traveler looking for an
exciting and enriching experience abroad.  They have programs for teens and families to volunteer doing archaeology as well, like this weekend project working on a Roman site in England, which is pretty cool.  They also have projects year-round.

Lastly, if you can read a bit of French, there’s a really awesome site with opportunities in archaeology and historic preservation called Rempart, with very affordable opportunities in France and abroad, some require experience.

I will know in the next few weeks whether or not I will be able to pull off a trip this fall and I’ll let you all know. Fingers crossed!

This article is also posted on my personal blog here.