Volunteering to Learn the Past Firsthand


If you’ve ever watched a rerun of an Indiana Jones movie, caught a copy of the latest National Geographic magazine, or maybe been bored and found yourself mesmerized by a public broadcasting station special on History Channel, you can be forgiven for having the momentary urge to be an archaeologist.

However, it’s an obscure field at best, it doesn’t pay well, and there are few jobs available that one can pay the bills within the field. So, no surprise, you’ve probably ended up like thousands before you, moved on to other studies, and eventually careers in those fields. However, believe it or not, you can still actually experience archaeology firsthand. You just have to do one thing: volunteer.

Now, before you get dissuaded thinking volunteering means you’re going to manage someone’s fundraising firework stand or work a community cleanup crew, hold your gunpowder for a moment. Yes, volunteering today is mostly a local community effort. And yes, the most common volunteering channels do involve dealing with a community’s most needy. That’s an excellent thing to be involved in and very selfless. However, it is not the only volunteering opportunity available. 

Believe it or not, you can volunteer in real, bona fide archaeology work as well. And that does include artifact analysis, surveying, mapping, and even actual excavations well into the ground. But this is not treasure-hunting, and you’re not going to walk off with any souvenirs. So, if you have it in your head to bring your own personal pick and grab bag, leave them at home. What you need instead is a willingness to work hard, provide lots of selfless hours, take direction willingly and attentively, and be willing to be outdoors all day long. If you can handle a hard day of manual work, maybe a pair of peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and lots of water, you’ll do okay. 

Working With The Feds

The most notable volunteer archaeology program available every year involves the U.S. Forest Service. This federal agency manages land and locations across the entire United States. While the agency is responsible for forests, it is also a steward of cultural heritage. Numerous sites are managed, studied, protected, and restored by the U.S. Forest Service and university partners around the country lead by staff archaeologists. And that personnel need a lot of help.

To fill the gap, a non-profit organization known as the Passport in Time program takes applications online annually for project work running from April until as late as September in different states. Some might be close and some far away, but traveling to them and staying in the locale for a while is also a great way to see the country while working on archaeology at the same time. 

An Amazing Portfolio of History

You can work on surveys and exploration of pre-history civilizations in the Southwest, excavation in the Midwest, walk ancient trails in the Northwest Oregon forests and unearth colonial remains in Virginia as well.

Every selected volunteer gets to work different parts of a project, but you do have to commit for at least a week on a project, work hard every day, and pay for your travel. But if you have a craving for archaeology, the Passport in Time program is the best way to see, feel, and experience the science firsthand in the United States. And when you hold an artifact last held by someone 700 years earlier, it’s an amazing moment you won’t forget. And, if you bring your phone, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to make memories for your own digital souvenirs, leaving the past protected for others to enjoy as well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *