Your budget and the location are your biggest choices when choosing to join an archaeological dig. The more isolated the location; chances are the pricier it is to reach. Your comfort level is important as well. While many are content with staying in tents and hiking long distances, eating simple food, a director that may not even speak the same language, and all around basic amenities, others differ drastically. Some still want to feel like they are on vacation and don’t mind paying a little extra for a nice bed and the occasional tour or excursion. You should always have a contract in writing stating everything included in your tour from the equipment down to the food.
There is a very wide variety of operators. Many are local operators who arrange digs with local guides or stays directly at their own lodges. Others are large, multi-national corporations that design custom luxury trips all over the world and use anyone from leaders in scientific research to unqualified naturalists and historians. The majority of archaeological digs are run by scientific organizations or Universities. Some are private companies, while most are non-profit organizations.
Suggested Tour Operators
- Archeological Institute of America (http://www.archaeological.org, Tel. +800-748-6262)
- The AIA is a North American organization that has archeological fieldwork opportunities worldwide. No experience necessary and academic credit is available.
- Earthwatch Institute (http://www.earthwatch.org, Tel. +978-461-0081)
- The Earthwatch Institute is a leader in organizing wildlife research trips and studies all over the world. You can often join an expedition with many of the worlds scientific leaders.
- Maya Research Program (http://www.mayaresearchprogram.org, Tel. + 817-350-4986)
- This non-profit group organizes archeological and ethnographical field work in Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras.
Very rarely are archaeological trips organized without the help of an organization. The average person legally can’t just go digging up the remains of an ancient civilization. There are strict rules to this. You have to clear things with institutes of history and culture and whatever other organization controls the rights to a country’s past. In most cases even if you did ask you wouldn’t be allowed. The only way to begin an excavation or major dig is to have real reason, strong government backing, and significant funding.
You can however just show up at a dig and see if they need any help. If you are looking for college credit you are probably out of luck, but if you just want to get your hands dirty and get a taste of what archaeology is all about. If you are already in a region and know of a site, you can always go check it out. Often at excavation sites in major tourist locations you will find archaeologists hard at work and at times they might not always have enough help. Jus be prepared to get turned away.