Several universities these days advertise themselves to students by stressing their practical archaeology opportunities but unfortunately they do not make as many opportunities available as they first stressed. What they often also don’t tell you is that there are plenty of other ways to get archaeological experience through a range of institutions, companies and other universities. So if you are wanting to go on a dig let me tell you some of the quick easy successful ways that you can get on one that the university will likely forget to mention.
And remember, anyone can go on a dig, it doesn’t matter about age, whether you are in university or whether you have been on one before. I did my first dig at 17 (oldest person I’ve seen volunteer on a dig = 73) before I went to university and am just about to do my 10th this time back in Turkey, 6 years later. Only one of these has actually been through an Australian university. You just need to know where to look.
How to find international fieldschools
Basically if you are enthusiastic and willing to put up costs for flights and accommodation (which aren’t too badly priced) then a field school will happily take you on. I have never not been accepted for a field school that I have applied for. I’m sure it happens but not in my experience.
The best way to go on an archaeology field school is through the American universities who have established sites and better funding. Australia does have a few Egyptian field school but they are really picky and the selection process is kind of ridiculous. It is much easier and frankly less costly to go through an international institution. And remember, if you are at a university, most universities with an archaeology component or ancient history department will have a course where you can gain credits for the field school even if it is through another university.
By far the best way to find a dig or field school is through Past Horizons which I have used for three of my digs in Scotland and Turkey. Their search options allow you to search by area, country and time period so you can tailor it to your specific interests. There are currently 264 listed digs on the website which you can browse. All you need to do is look over the cited website and email the contact provided.
Other companies and associations you can go through include:
Past Horizons and the other two websites list all known field schools throughout the world and through any international institution.
For Australian digs specifically you can go through the above channels and also Australian universities. However the Australian universities are known to be quite insular and don’t encourage outsiders to join. However there are other channels you can go through.
Joining mailing lists for the archaeology societies will tell you if there is anything coming up that may interest you. For instance the AAA, Australian Archaeology Association lists upcoming digs. Heritage organisations also advertise and there are several private companies that you can contact. My first Australian dig I undertook with AMAC.
Certain city councils also have access to information regarding digs as historically significant cities like Sydney and Parramatta are required by law to contract archaeological firms to survey certain sites before construction work is undertaken.
Other institutions which provide information include:
- Australasian Quarternary Association (AQUA)
- Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology (ASHA)
- Australian Anthropological Society (AAS)
- Australian Archaeological Association (AAA)
- Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists Inc. (AACAI)
- Australian Institute of Maritime Archaeology (AIMA)
- Australian Rock Art Association (AURA)
- International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)
- Museums Australia
- National Archaeology Week (NAW)
- National Trust
It is important I know to fit digs into your everyday lives and holidays. So here are when digs usually take place:
- Egypt, Africa – November to February
- Europe, Turkey, Near East – June to August
- Australia – October to February
- Americas and Canada – May to August
Basically the dig seasons fit in with University holidays and study breaks because most of them are ran by professors who only have the chance to run digs outside the university semesters. Archaeology companies do run year round though if you are most flexible.
Other ways to hear about digs:
Seriously, join twitter :P
And don’t be scared to just email universities and companies
To give you an idea here is who I have gone through in previous years, half of these have simply been from googling!
- Parramatta, Australia – AMAC – found in Newspaper advertisement
- Sydney – Sydney Archaeological Archives – Emailed university of Sydney
- Greece – Ohio State University
- Greece – North Dakota University
- Camden, Australia – Edward Higginbotham and Associates Pty Ltd
- Orkney, Scotland – University of the Highlands and Islands
- Edinburgh, Scotland – Past Horizons
- Edinburgh, Scotland – Edinburgh University
- South Turkey 1 – University of Nebraska-Lincoln, found through Past Horizons
- South Turkey 2 – University of Nebraska-Lincoln
If you would like some ideas on funding check out the next post on funding ideas.
Live free and dig hard!
And remember, we are not Tomb raiders or people who use tiny brushes and waste time. Get rid of romanticised views before you start! I’ve seen too many people last less than a day.
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- Medieval Knight’s Tomb Found in Parking Lot (livescience.com)
- Archaeology Travel Blog 2013 (graecomuse.wordpress.com)
- What is happening in Australian archaeology atm? (ancienthistorygurus.wordpress.com)
- PhD position in Archaeology (youreducationblog.wordpress.com)
- “The Bible’s Buried Secrets,” – Archaeological findings that will annoy believers as well as sceptics. (eagleman6788.wordpress.com)
- Archaeological Beginnings (graecomuse.wordpress.com)
- Caherconnell Archaeological Field School (archaeology.co.uk)
- Irish Archaeological Field School (archaeology.co.uk)