20 October 2012

October 20 is National Archaeology Day

Today is National Archaeology Day.  At the website of the Archaeological Institute of America you can search for events in your community or region.

I'm marking the day by devoting all the posts today to articles I have saved from my print editions of Archaeology magazine.  I've been setting these aside for years, and it's time to get the material uploaded to the blog. 

I'd also like to put in a good word for a program called Passport in Time
Passport in Time (PIT) is a volunteer archaeology and historic preservation program of the USDA Forest Service. PIT volunteers work with professional FS archaeologists and historians on national forests throughout the U.S. on such diverse activities as archaeological survey and excavation, rock art restoration, archival research, historic structure restoration, oral history gathering, and analysis and curation of artifacts. The FS professional staff of archaeologists and historians will be your hosts, guides, and co-workers.

Over the years, volunteers have helped us stabilize ancient cliff dwellings in New Mexico, excavate a 10,000-year-old village site in Minnesota, restore a historic lookout tower in Oregon, clean vandalized rock art in Colorado, survey for sites in a rugged Montana wilderness, and excavate a 19th-century Chinese mining site in Hell's Canyon in Idaho.
I have participated in two Passport in Time projects in northern Minnesota and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  The top image shows the one of the squares that I and another person excavated as part of this larger project (photo taken during lunch break) -

Passport in Time projects require only enthusiasm, not prior experience.  Professional archaeologists are on hand to guide the process, and "old-timers" teach noobs the techniques.  It's not always digging - some projects include restoration of historic buildings or mapping of sites.

I set up my tent for free at a beautiful Forestry Service campsite overlooking a lake and enjoyed the sunsets each evening:

Alternatively one can stay at local motels etc (at one's own expense in that case).  The "season" is over now, so if you go to the "current projects" link at the Passport in Time website, it will be empty.  New ones will be posted in the late winter/early spring as projects are developed and approved, so check back at the website then (and apply early because many of them are oversubscribed).

The other volunteers you will encounter at the projects are some of the nicest people you would ever want to meet, and the Forestry Service rewards the work by adding relevant educational experiences at each location.

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