June 9, 2010

Dig in the Dirt: Work as a Volunteer Archaeologist

Have you seen JobMonkey’s newest cool jobs section about becoming an archeologist? Seriously, that is a COOL job. About a million years ago (okay, so maybe it was just 20), I was an archeologist for the summer.

Well, for 3 weeks out of the summer. And I wasn’t exactly an archeologist. More like a glorified intern-without-pay. But I still fondly remember that experience as one of the most invigorating, interesting, and dusty three weeks of my life!

I remember the large hand tools (mostly pick-axes) that we used to remove millennium of dirt in one fell hack. And I remember the small hand tools (mostly paint brushes) that we used to painstakingly reveal the fine details of a mosaic. We were uncovering an ancient city in what is today modern Israel, and learning about history in the making.

It truly was an awe-inspiring experience, which is perhaps why I am so excited to tell you guys today about our newest hot topic: Volunteer archeologist jobs.  Volunteering with an excavation team is an outstanding way to get hands-on experience in the field and to find out if this is something you would like to do for a life-long career (or just a memorable few weeks.) While an interest in history and the ability to take instruction are important, past experience or a degree in archeology is not. Sometimes all it takes to land a volunteer archeology job is the willingness to apply and the ability to work hard — for long days in the dust and sun.

As a volunteer, your job most often is to provide the muscle. Think large hand tools. The paid professionals handle the technical details such as research, interpretation and preservation. And the really good news is that you don’t have to fly all the way to Israel to find a archeology site to volunteer for (although that was really cool, and I can’t recommend international volunteering enough!).

Check with your local historical societies, colleges and universities, and professional associations for leads on nearby digs. And for more archaeological volunteer opportunities, you can also check out some of the these websites:

Past Horizons

Have you ever volunteered on an archeological dig? What are your memories of that experience? What advice would you offer to someone seeking to dig for a day — or a lifetime? Weigh in, we’d love to hear from you!

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