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Do-It-Yourself Digs

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Courtesy of Warren Wilson College Archaeology

North Carolina, USA

In Search Of: Pottery, tools, and other remnants of one of the earliest European settlements in the United States.

The Dig: Fort San Juan, a Spanish compound.

The Details: Summer sessions up to a month long are offered at Warren Wilson College’s archaeology field school, where adults and kids as young as 14 are put on sites to dig and excavate history while uncovering a 16th-century Native American town and an early Spanish settlement. The 2008–2009 sessions concentrate on a one-acre area featuring what is believed to be Fort San Juan, a Spanish compound that is the earliest European settlement ever found in the interior of the United States. $300 per week.

From the article Do-It-Yourself Digs

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Courtesy of Crow Canyon Archaelogical Center

Colorado, USA

In Search Of: Anasazi artifacts.

The Dig: Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.

The Details: At this Colorado site, kids and adults help dig with archaeologists in search of untouched Anasazi artifacts that have not seen the light of day in 700 years. The current excavation—called the Goodman Point Archaeological Project, Phase II—focuses on an extensive Pueblo Indian community inhabited during the 13th century. Excavation programs continue this year through September; $1,175 per week.

From the article Do-It-Yourself Digs

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Easter Island, Polynesia

In Search Of: Prehistoric houses, earth ovens, ancient gardens, and remnants of the ancient Rapa Nui people.

The Dig: Earthwatch Institute’s Easter Island Culture Expedition.

The Details: Earthwatch Institute promises a “National Geographic moment” for volunteers on the Easter Island Culture expedition. Working with scientists on sites near the island’s famous giant stone moai statues, Earthwatch volunteers focus on an island quarry and random clusters of unworked stone where the evidence of ancient Rapa Nui people has been literally scattered by the wind. Two-week expeditions are offered from September to May; around $3,700.

From the article Do-It-Yourself Digs

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Courtesy of Pioneer Trail Regional Museum

North Dakota, USA

In Search Of: Dinosaur bones and fossils.

The Dig: Pioneer Trails Regional Museum, North Dakota.

The Details: At $100 a session, Pioneer Trails Regional Museum in Bowman, North Dakota, offers day tours to paleontological sites where you can dabble in a hands-on dig for dinosaurs, giant marine reptiles, and extinct exotic plants. The arid landscape along the Little Missouri Badlands of southwest North Dakota was long ago the tropical habitat for giant land creatures like triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex. Invertebrates up to 73 million years old as well as early mammals that include camels, rhinoceroses, horses, and giant pigs have been found in the area. Tours are offered Tuesday through Saturday from June to August each year.

From the article Do-It-Yourself Digs

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Courtesy of Archaelogical Seminars Dig For A Day


In Search Of: Pottery, ancient oil lamps, and other Hellenistic household items.

The Dig: Beit Guvrin, Maresha, Israel.

The Details: At the National Park of Beit Guvrin, Archaeological Seminars runs three-hour “Dig for a Day” programs, where dabbling archaeologists (or participants, as they would prefer) crawl through unexcavated cave systems as well as sift and dig for artifacts dating from the Hellenistic period. Thought to be the ancestral home of King Herod, the vast underground labyrinths and man-made rooms of Maresha have yielded pottery and items like 2,200-year-old oil lamps to visiting tourists. (Artifacts are then catalogued with the Israel Antiquities Authority.) $30 adults; $25 children, plus entrance fee ($6.50 adults, $3.50 children) into the national park.

From the article Do-It-Yourself Digs

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Courtesy of St. Paul Parks and Recreation


In Search Of: Aquatic life fossils.

The Dig: Sedimentary cliffs along the Mississippi River.

The Details: In the hills of Lilydale Park, an undeveloped preserve along the Mississippi River in St. Paul, Minnesota, amateur paleontologists can hunt for fossils, hammer and chisel in hand. In the park’s eroding sedimentary cliffs—part of what remains of an ancient seafloor that covered the mid-continent—millions of aquatic life fossils can be found. For $10, St. Paul’s Park Permit Office offers licenses for amateur fossil hunters to snoop, chip, chisel, and gather fossils at will. You can take home fossilized clams, snails, mollusks, sponges, coral, and dozens of other life-forms frozen in time.

From the article Do-It-Yourself Digs

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Lluis Gibert


In Search Of: Human remains, fossils, and artifacts.

The Dig: Cueva Victoria, Spain.

The Details: Climb in a cave and prepare to get dirty. Earthwatch Institute’s “Early Man in Spain” expedition puts volunteers underground in caverns where some of the oldest human remains ever found in Western Europe have been discovered. Volunteer workers excavate sediment, remove fossils and artifacts, and map the site to help with the project’s search for clues on humans' ancient migration from Africa to Europe. 14 days; $2,846.

From the article Do-It-Yourself Digs

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A.C.Haralson, Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism


In Search Of: Diamonds.

The Dig: 37-acre plowed field.

The Details: At the Crater of Diamonds State Park in southwest Arkansas, visitors are free to dig and sift for diamonds blasted to the surface eons ago via a rare volcanic pipe formation. In 2007 alone, the park says more than 1,024 diamonds were discovered, from sand-grain-size specks on up to something mountable on a ring. The park’s “finders keepers” policy lets diggers pocket all the diamonds, semiprecious stones, rocks, or minerals they can unearth in a day. $6.50 for a day pass; $3.50 for children; free for children under six.

From the article Do-It-Yourself Digs

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Courtesy of McAbee Fossil Beds

British Columbia, Canada

In Search Of: Plant and insect fossils.

The Dig: Sedimentary cliff outcropping near Cache Creek, British Columbia.

The Details: At the McAbee Fossil Beds site, lake sediments that formed 50 million years ago now hold the fossilized imprints of more than 50 plant varieties. Fish and insect fossils the likes of wasps, leafhoppers, and mooneye fish are other finds. Guided day tours send site visitors to pick at a cliff, and you can keep the fossils that you find. Open May to October. Four-hour group tours start at $19 per adult; $9.50 for children; $48 for families.

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