Some people might prefer to experience the excitement of archaeology but only as a hobby. Being a part-time archaeologist or employing one’s time in archaeology as a serious interest or hobby can be very rewarding. As well as the academic learning about the history of human beings and their cultural civilisations, assisting in the protection of the cultural resources of the archaeological record, and being a part of rediscovering our ancient past, the hobbyist can have a stimulating and entertaining time doing it.
Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea
Oddly enough not everybody wants to be a professional archaeologist committed to attending archaeological seminars, conventions, and other professional expectations. Likewise, to become a professional archaeologist will take a lot of educational time, and many years of hands-on experience, hard work in foreign lands, and not much time for friends and family. While long hard days in dusty digging pits returning only average salary may suit a small eccentric group of the population, typically, archaeology is not a profession that a lot of people chase after.
However, there are lots of people who are interested in digging up the past and who want very much to increase their knowledge about the history of ancient humankind. So, it is logical, and even commendable, that people who aren’t professional archaeologists desire to work, study, and participate in the unearthing of our collective past.
Going It Alone
There are many ways for people to get involved in archaeology at the hobby level. But a word of caution at this point: There are both good and bad ways to enter into hobby archaeology. The bad ways of investigating archaeology are those that endanger life and limb, practice the continuing destruction of archaeological sites, or promote the theft of objects from their countries of origin. Doing it alone or without professional supervision can also be hazardous.
For example, many people make their first attempt at archaeological excavation in their own back yard often as a family with young children being involved. Although archaeology knows no age barriers it is not a wise idea to start excavating where children may encounter hazards such as buried power or telephone lines, hollow pits or open foundations, effluent pipes, or waste deposits with sharp-edged items like tin or glass.
Also, without a knowledgeable archaeologist in attendance it is likely that the amateur dig will mirror the ‘treasure hunting’ style of excavating, first employed by reckless artefact hunters, and that the true science of archaeological technique will not be learned nor appreciated.
Look for Other Enthusiasts
The best way for an eager amateur archaeologist to get started is to find a local group of people who is interested in archaeology or who work as volunteers on archaeological digs. Look for an amateur archaeology club or contact a professional archaeological body for advice.
There are local and regional clubs in most countries, with activities that include reading and study sessions, access to publications and conferences, and opportunities to volunteer on archaeological excavations. If you live near a reasonably sized city, it is more than likely that there are local amateur archaeology clubs very near to you. There are two basic types of amateur archaeology clubs as detailed below.
The Artefact Collector Club
The first type is the artefact collector club with a primary interest in collecting ancient artefacts of the past, studying such artefacts, buying and selling artefacts for or from their own collections, and presenting known stories about how they found or acquired pieces in their collection. Although these types of archaeological collector groups have newsletters and regular meetings they are much less interested in archaeology as a science and tend to attract the less adventurous enthusiast.
The Amateur Archaeology Club
The second type of archaeology club is avocational in nature. This kind of group will also have newsletters and local and national meetings. The important difference is that they usually have good connections to the professional community and often even contribute to recognised publications that report on archaeological expeditions.
Larger clubs sometimes sponsor tours of archaeological sites, host professional archaeology seminars, and offer certification programmes. The more established clubs may have purchased specialist archaeological equipment such as GPR and even conduct archaeological surveys or excavations in conjunction with academic institutions where their members can participate alongside regular staff. Most professional archaeologists once belonged to this kind of organisation.
If you share a passionate interest in archaeology then the archaeological profession needs you! And if you want to develop and nurture your passion into a guided discovery of archaeological fun, yet learn the science of this discipline from professionals, then you need to join a quality archaeological club. Your knowledge will grow, you will help protect the world’s archaeological sites and preserve its cultural heritage.