Pitching in on an authentic archaeological dig
Question: I'm thinking of volunteering for an archaeological dig. I'd like to know where I can locate an up-to-date list of such things. I have no experience whatsoever. I know it's not cheap, and I'd definitely prefer a warm climate. If you've ever done this or know someone who has, I'd be grateful for any advice.
Adventure Adviser: I can't give you this information based on previous experience because I've never done an archaeological dig, nor do I know anyone who has. That said, here are a few of the archaeology-oriented itineraries that have run across my desk. One of them may catch your eye.
Maya Expeditions offers a combined whitewater rafting, kayaking, and archaeology trip to the Usumacinta River — more commonly known as "the River of Ruins" — in Guatemala.
The river follows the ancient Maya trade route, which the Mayans used to transport their merchandise and to help build major cities. The program is offered by the University of San Carlos in Guatemala, in conjunction with Brigham Young University.
You can reach Maya Expeditions by e-mailing [email protected] or snail mail at P.O. Box 527270, Section 66, Miami FL, 33152-7270. If you call them, make sure to ask if you are allowed to participate in the dig.
Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, just west of Durango, Colorado, offers a week-long dig called the Adult Research Excavation Program. For one week you'll work in the Crow Canyon laboratory, take ecology hikes, learn about ancestral Pueblo lifestyles, and excavate in the field alongside professional archaeologists.
The field work requires a quarter-mile hike to the site, hauling buckets of dirt, and kneeling on the ground for long periods of time. The cost is $695 per adult, which includes housing and meals.
If you really like your first week, you can sign up for the Advanced Research Programs that take you as far away as Fiji to work with professors investigating the development of warfare on the island. For more information call 800-422-8975.
Finally, the non-profit Yellowstone Association offers a summer course in Yellowstone archaeology. You'll help professional archaeologists excavate prehistoric sites in both Yellowstone's backcountry and front range.
You'll work at sites that contain stone tools, hearths, and animal bones that are 1,000 years old. No previous archaeology training is required, but you should be physically fit. The week-long course costs $255 and doesn't include food or camping gear. Call 307-344-7749 for more details.