TOPICS COVERED BELOW

SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A DIG
  • Is there a country in which you would like to dig?
  • Is there a culture or period in history that particularly interests you?
  • How long are the digs, when do they take place and when must I sign up?
  • How much will it cost? Are there opportunities for financial assistance?
  • What kinds of areas are digs located in and what accommodations and
         meals are provided?

WHAT TO EXPECT ON THE DIG SITE   

HOW TO PREPARE TO GET THE MOST OUT OF THE DIG

SOME TRAVEL TIPS FOR VOLUNTEERS
  • Medical considerations
  • Foreign currency
  • Bargain International Phone Calls
  • And finally, here's a couple of simple packing suggestions
GENERAL DIG INFORMATION FOR VOLUNTEERS
                                                                  SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A DIG
As you will see below, there are a wide range of dig characteristics to consider with respect to cost, housing arrangements, location, etc.. These factors are  spelled
out on dig websites, and there is always a contact if you have a question. It is important that you have a good understanding of what these arrangements are,
particularly with respect to on-site costs that are not covered by the prepaid dig fee
, location (remote or populated), and living accommodations. The dig
environment and activities and the excitement of an archaeological experience are usually pretty much the same on all digs, i.e., "great". The richness of your
dig experience could be strongly influenced by your preference for housing arrangements or "off duty" choices available and your desire to visit a particular country,
for example. We strongly recommend that you use the dig website information to help get the most out of the dig.
Is there a country in which you would like to dig?
    A dig provides a chance to get to know local people and an opportunity to
    practice language skills. It also provides an opportunity for travel in your
    favorite country, or a country you have never visited before. You will have
    that opportunity before you report for "work" at the dig site, as a part of
    the dig (on week ends), before you go home after the dig is over or any
    combination of the above. Most digs are directed and financed through a
    university or other tax exempt organizations. Because of that, working on
    a dig may make the round trip travel expenses from your home tax
    deductible. Check with your tax advisor.
Is there a culture or period in history that particularly interests you?
    A dig provides a very special opportunity to enrich your understanding and
    appreciation of a period in history that you may be studying or just enjoy
    reading about. A dig provides on-the-job discoveries along with lectures
    and discussions in an atmosphere that makes history real, makes it so
    enjoyable to learn.  Many digs give academic credit for dig participation.
    If so, picking up credits will increase the cost of the dig. See the "cost"
    section, below.
How long are the digs, when do they take place and when must I sign up?
    The minimum work period for most digs is 2 to 3 weeks; however, there are digs that allow one week and a few which allow you to work day by day. Some
    digs require participation for a month to 7 weeks or more. Because most volunteer digs are directed by university personnel, they are scheduled during the
    late spring and summer. However, there are a few which work at other times or on a year around basis. Registration is generally required at various times
    between January 2 and May 30 for summer digs but most often before March.   
How much will it cost? Are there opportunities for financial assistance?
    Generally the dig fee is for your room, some meals and transportation to and  from your living accommodations and the dig site, plus some for dig
    administrative costs. This fee can vary considerably, depending on the location, accommodations, length of your participation and whether or not you want
    academic credit. A good benchmark for two weeks is between $1,500-$2,500, for 3 weeks approximately $3,500 and one month to 6 weeks approximately
    $3,500-$5,500. These are "ball park" estimates designed to give you an idea what to expect. Dig fees are included in the web site information for each dig.
    In addition, you will be expected to pay for your round trip transportation from home to the dig area. Academic credits are generally between $100 to $180/
    credit with a few  higher (e.g., Harvard at $300/credit).

    Grants and/or scholarships may be available, particularly for students. Universities often have financial assistance for their own students. We do not have any
    experience with grants and do not track them. On that basis we're not in any position to give you any advice beyond identifying few websites, below, with
    financial assistance information.
                   
            
Archaeological Institute of America student grants
            
            
Biblical Archaeology Society Scholarships

            Go Abroad Scholarship Program

           Archaeology Abroad Fieldwork Awards

Other possibilities are:

  • Contact  the student financial assistance office for grants under the heading of overseas cultural study programs.
  • Plug "Overseas Cultural Study Program Grants" into your favorite internet search engine.
  • Another approach might be to take advantage of local or government volunteer archaeological dig programs. Many of these programs have minimal fees or
          perhaps none at all..In the US this would involve National Parks, National Forests, and state parks. In the UK you can locate opportunities on  the
          website at:

            
Council for British Archaeology.
What kinds of areas are digs located in and what accommodations and meals
are provided?
    Digs are located in he middle or outskirts of cities and small towns as well as out in the
    countryside; in other words, just about anywhere. For remote sites or sites near small
    towns with no appropriate accommodations, on-site living is usually provided
    consisting of a dig house, kibbutz, camping, caravan, or perhaps a nearby resort hotel.
    Accommodations located in more populated areas generally are hotels, boarding
    houses, school or church dormitories, hostels, B&Bs, etc. Accommodations provided
    as part of the dig fee most likely will be shared space (i.e., one or more room mates).
    It is not unusual for living accommodation costs to be separate from the dig fee. In that
    case digs will most likely have a list of recommended, inexpensive nearby places, such
    as those above plus some that are self-catering (kitchen equipped). In those cases, you
    are expected to make your own arrangements. The total cost of  digs without
    accommodations plus recommended accommodations is generally comparable to the
    total cost of digs with accommodations included. Meals provided as a part of the dig
    fee are usually breakfast and a second breakfast or lunch on-site. The second breakfast
    is for digs in hot climates that begin at around 5:00am and quit around 2pm. An evening
    meal is usually provided in dig areas that are remote or have few or no nearby
    restaurants. Otherwise you will probably have the evening meal on your own. Some
    digs,especially those that recommend self-catering living quarters, don't provide any
    meals and expect volunteers to bring their lunches to the site.
Of course, digging is an important activity. Why else would this all be called a "dig"? Dirt
must be removed in order to find artifacts and uncover structural walls and other features.
This will involve activities ranging from the use of pickax, mattock, shovel and wheel
barrow to gently brushing dirt into a dust pan and washing dirt off of pottery fragments
(shards). Although everyone will not be expected to do the heavy digging work you
should be willing to remove dirt in one way or another.  

Aside from dirt removal there are many interesting activities typical of most archaeological
digs. These include surveying, measuring with tape measures, installing string grids,
preparing excavated dirt walls for soil layer analysis, drawing/sketching, photography,
artifact identification (inking identification/classification codes and numbers on each
significant artifact), Most digs rotate volunteers through many of these tasks, providing
instruction and supervision and an opportunity to learn through doing. Most of the
surveying tasks are performed by professional surveyors; however, there are surveying
tasks that are relatively simple. For example, measuring the exact geographic and
elevation (sea level relationship) location of significant features or artifact finds, all of
which can easily be learned and performed by volunteers.  Some activities such as
excavation record keeping, season reports, preservation of excavated features and
conservation (cleaning and repairing fragile pottery, statues and other fragile objects)
are usually handled by trained professionals. There usually are opportunities for
volunteers to observe these professional activities and perhaps learn enough to be helpful.         
                                                           HOW TO PREPARE TO GET THE MOST OUT OF THE DIG
Do a little research about the country and especially about the region where the dig is located.
    You may already be up to speed on a country you have been studying or are particularly interested in. Even so, it would be a good idea to check into bulletins
    at the US State Department  State Department Country Specific Info as well as an official government information site in the country itself. A dig might be
    justification to go to a country that you think might be interesting but which you are not curious enough about to justify a full blown tourist trip. You could take
    a brief tour before and/or after the a dig that might lead to bursts of interesting discovery. In that case the need to study up on the country would be more
    important  Some digs will have a recommended list of reading material about the country. That is especially true for digs that are part of the Earthwatch
    network. I talk about Earthwatch in the VOLUNTEER-DIG section.

Learn about the culture and historic background that is the subject of the dig.
    The most obvious source, of course, would be a history book, That would be a good choice. However, it would be much more efficient to request a copy of
    the field reports for the past couple of seasons (dig period for each year) from the dig you are joining. Most digs are required to produce these reports by their
    sponsoring institution and/or the country in which they are digging. Archaeologists love to dig and accumulate information but would rather break a toe than
    take the time to write a comprehensive report. For that reason, much information in the past has been lost because it was never published. Today, however,
    you will have a good chance of being able to get a copy of a current dig report or to read it on the web. That will also signal to the people managing the dig
    that you are very interested, which cannot hurt.

    Another good source is on the magazine racks. There are a number of excellent Archaeological magazines on the market today and these magazines also
    generally have very good, informative websites.  In addition to articles and news about digs, these magazines have information about other websites and
    institutions that are good sources of information and, further, may list archaeological lectures and/or archaeological organizations with discussions and
    seminars open to the public. We have listed some of these magazines and websites below. Just reading some of these magazines for general information
    about what is going on in the world of archaeology can be very interesting, in addition to having links to information about your specific historic interests.
    Below are some of the magazines usually available at most book stores and news stands.
     
Current World Archaeology  Current Archaeology
    Published in the UK, this magazine as well as it's sister publication Current Archaeology are excellent sources for information about world wide
    archaeological activity, including volunteer digs. Their editorial policy is described on their website as  "... aimed at the 'Middle Market', that is, we are
    not 'academic/professional' nor on the other hand are we 'popular'. We are in between." This magazine is always stimulating to read and filled with
    wide ranging coverage of current, world-wide activities.

Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR)   BAR Magazine  
    Published in the US  by the Biblical Archaeology Society this is an excellent source of information about archaeological activities in Israel and
    adjacent countries. Editor Hershel Shanks makes this publication especially interesting by addressing controversial issues. The title of the magazine
    reflects more the geographical area covered than a religious focus; however, Mr. Shanks often includes articles and interviews that address both
    Old and New Testament controversies as well as the impact of archaeological discoveries on biblical interpretation.
                                                                                               
Archaeology  AIA Home Page
    For 60 years AIA has published "Archaeology", a widely read magazine for both professional archaeologists and scholars as well as the general public.
    This magazine, published six times a year, is readily available on news stands and in book stores. AIA is the oldest and largest archaeological society
    in North America with nearly 250,000 members and subscribers and 100 local societies in the US, Canada and overseas. Their local societies provide
    free lectures open to the public along with other archaeological activities.  Since AIA is in the forefront of concern for archaeological ethics and
    standards, this magazine often contains editorial discussions and investigative reporting articles on critical and controversial archaeological issues.

Minerva   Minerva Magazine
    Published in England by Aurora Publications, this magazine is described as "the international review of art and archaeology". It is oriented to the
    antiquities and art market but always contains excellent articles about ancient cultures, news about excavations and archaeological commentary.  

    You can also use Yahoo, Google or other search engines. This can be a valuable approach, however it can sometimes lead to a maze of too much
    information. This approach also requires that you know enough about the sources you find to be confident that the information is accurate.
                                    SOME TRAVEL TIPS FOR VOLUNTEERS

Bring plenty of bug repellent and sun screen!

Medical considerations
  • If you have any special or chronic medical conditions, it would be a good idea to get advice from your doctor and, also, to check on availability of medical
           facilities and/or services  where you are going to dig.
  • Consider getting medical travel insurance. It is generally not expensive. Your credit card may have an arrangement with an insurer or you can check the web
           for other possibilities. Here's a couple of websites with extensive lists of all types of travel insurance and where to get it.
  • In addition to bringing over-the-counter remedies for upset stomach, etc., consider asking your doctor for an antibiotic you can bring with you to use, as
      your doctor recommends, in case you contract a gastrointestinal illness caused by bacteria. These kind of uncomfortable illnesses, often contracted through
      food, are not unusual in many areas of the world.

Foreign currency
  • Often you can get a better price by paying in cash, especially in bargaining situations. If you are using local currency, it is good to be able to quickly convert
      local currency value into your own, either mentally or with a hand held electronic device, as you bargain.
  • ATMs can be a very handy overseas by enabling you to withdraw funds from your bank account in local currency. Such transactions are normally at a
      good exchange rate, but it would be a good idea to know what the rate actually is and what bank fees are involved. Also, there are ATMs in some  
      countries, locations or local banks overseas that your bank may not let you use. This is because of instances of electronic bank card "theft" and subsequent
      fraudulent use .
We recommend that you get advice from your bank before you go. This is especially important for US travelers since many of the rules and
      bank practices have recently been changed.  
  • Traveller's checks sometimes can be more advantageous than cash, although it is probably a good idea to have some cash with you.  If lost or stolen,
      travellers checks can be replaced. Furthermore you may be able to get a better exchange rate with travellers checks because the Currency Exchange will
      not have to be as concerned about counterfeit money or, in today's climate, the fluctuating value of the dollar. Many credit unions, banks and organizations,
      such as AAA, will issue travellers checks to members or account holders without any fee.      
  • If you are going to have your bank wire funds to you through a foreign bank, be sure you have a clear understanding how soon those funds will be available
      to you and what fees will be involved.

Bargain International Phone Calls
    There is a wide range of international calling plans, some of which could save you substantial money. Finding the right one for you may require some
    research to compare calling plans, but you will find it worth your while. Just one tip. Be sure you understand what fees are applied to each call, especially
    the connection fee. Although the low per minute rate for a calling plan may seem attractive, the connection fee may make another plan less expensive
    overall. The information below on prepaid phone calling cards and Internet telephone connections will help you make these comparisons

    Prepaid phone calling card
    Below is a brief description of what these cards will do for you and how they work. A more detailed description is provided by the Federal Communication
    Commission (FCC) at FCC Calling Card Info

    Cards can be purchased at many retail stores and other places of business and on the Internet. For an extensive listing of phone cards and how they can be
    purchased on the Internet, plug "phone+cards" into your favourite search engine.

    By choosing the right card, you will be able to make calls from almost any place in the world. The advantage is that callers can use a local or toll free
    number for access to a system which can provide less expensive calling rates than local phone companies. In the US, access to prepaid phone card systems
    is usually by a toll    free number. In most major cities in other countries, cards purchased in the US can be used by calling a special local number. This
    provides an important advantage when making an international call from an overseas hotel because it is a local call. Overseas hotels often add significant
    charges to direct international calls. Since the local access number is usually different for each overseas city, it is important that card users get
    that number for each city where they may use the card before they go overseas. If you are calling from an international area where the local
    community does not have an access number, you will need to make a long distance call to the nearest city which has an access number in order to use the
    card. Toll free numbers my not be available for this type of call

    Cards are usually sold in increments of  50 or 100 minutes. These minutes usually represent minutes of domestic US calls within the local calling area. Long
    distance domestic calls and international calls use up multiple minutes of card time per actual minutes of call time, depending on how much the card
    provider charges for such calls. The cost of using these cards varies from provider to provider based on the purchase price per minute of the card plus
    access and other fees the provider deducts from the card. It is important to know what the total cost per minute is, including the use fees, in order
    to make card cost comparisons.

    These cards generally fall into two categories; those that can be used in multiple overseas locations and those restricted to a specific area such as a country
    or region. The latter category of restricted use cards is often less expensive than the multiple use cards.

    Many cards can be recharged with additional minutes by calling a customer service number on the card and using your credit card. However, since  many
    cards will not accept recharge requests from overseas be sure you have all the minutes you need on the card before you leave the country.
    There is usually no limit on the number of minutes you can add to your card. For example, you can add 1,000 minutes to a card originally purchased with
    500 minutes.

    In many countries the telephone system is operated by the pulse dialling system (a system that "dials" with the clicking sounds usually associated with a
    rotary dial even though you are pushing buttons to dial), while most phone card systems require a touch tone dialling system.  There are two ways of dealing
    with this. One is to get a card system operator to help you. That is not always easy because you may not be able to dial the card system operator "O" on a
    pulse system. The other way, which is more certain to be successful, is to use a hand held or pocket tone dialler, available from Radio Shack or other
    electronic stores. Once you dial into the phone card system, you can place this device on the voice part of the telephone and dial with touch tone sounds. It
    works very well.   

    In summary prepaid phone cards will be very handy because you can usually use them on any available phone system. However it takes a little planning and
    research to get the most out of them. These are the important things to remember:

  • In comparing card call costs be sure to include connection and other fees the card provider charges.
  • Since  many cards will not accept recharge requests from overseas be sure you have all the minutes you need on the card before you
                                    leave the country.
  • Get the local calling card system access numbers for foreign cities where you anticipate using the card, before you leave the country,
                                    by calling customer service.
  • Take a hand held touch tone dialler with you. These are available at Radio Shack and other electronic and travel stores.
HAPPY VOLUNTEERS "IN THE TRENCHES"
UNCOVERING A COPPER MINING AND SMELTING SITE
IN CYPRUS
ENGLISH SEA CLIFFS NEAR A ROMAN FORT, WHICH VOLUNTEERS
WERE CLEARING
, AT THE EAST END OF HADRIAN'S WALL
DICK COOK AND OTHER EXPEDITION MEMBERS
HAVING LUNCH IN A TENT ON-SITE IN EGYPT
DRAWING EXCAVATED FEATURES, USING A STRING GRID
TO MORE PRECISELY LOCATE DETAILS.
NOTE HOW MANY PEOPLE STANDING AROUND OR
POINTING IT TAKES TO DO THE JOB CORRECTLY
    Internet phone systems
    This requires a broadband connection to the Internet and special software and/or a connection  to a relatively inexpensive piece of external hardware. An
    annual or monthly fee, plus installation and equipment costs are usually required and there may be some restrictions as to the countries from which you can call.  

    Computer to computer calls can be free as long as both computers have the same communication software and broadband connections.  

    There are also companies that have relatively low cost Internet calling to and from land line connections almost anywhere in the world that does not involve
    your computer.

    These are general descriptions. There are many variations of these plans.  Since this is a fast changing segment of telephone communication the best way for
    you to check them out is to plug "Internet+telephone" into your favourite search engine. That will bring up many up-to-date choices.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT ME, AND I HOPE YOU DO, PLEASE EMAIL ME AT
richard@ubarchaeologist.com
And finally, here are a couple of simple packing suggestions
  • To keep clothes from wrinkling, pack them between layers of dry cleaner plastic bags or tightly roll them up .
  • To make room to bring things home, take clothes you can give away or trash before you come home. This works well on digs because you are going to be
      working in dirt. And remember, when you pack, that artifacts of any kind that you uncover are not yours to take home. See "Who owns what we find" in
      the Volunteer-Digs section of this website.
WHAT TO EXPECT ON A DIG SITE
UBARCHAEOLOGIST.COM HOPES YOU FIND THIS INFORMATION HELPFUL. PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, COMMENTS,
OR SUGGESTIONS. UBARCHAEOLOGIST.COM HAS TRIED TO BE BRIEF, HELPFUL, UP TO DATE  AND ACCURATE. HOWEVER, THIS
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All pictures and content on this page are by Richard L Cook unless otherwise indicated. Copyright 2008, 2009,2010, & 2011 all rights reserved.
WHEW! IT'S TIME FOR A BREAK
Updated July 24, 2013
ARE YOU CONSIDERING A TRIP TO EGYPT? CHECK MY "EGYPT-TRAVEL" PAGE FOR SECRET, INSIDER TIPS. YOU'LL BE GLAD YOU DID!
AFTER REVIEWING VOLUNTEER DIG OPPORTUNITIES,  IF YOU DECIDE YOU WOULD LIKE TO VOLUNTEER FOR SOMETHING OTHER THAN AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL PROJECT GO TO
THE BOTTOM OF THE "VOLUNTEER-DIGS" PAGE. THERE YOU WILL FIND LINKS TO WORLD-WIDE CULTURAL, SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES.