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Going digging; how you can join up with archeologists all over the West.

Trowel, pen knife, and measuring tape as their tools, archeologists perform surgery on buried landscapes. Their efforts enrich the present by telling us about the experiences and achievements of the past. You'll find them on chilly Washington shores and in the heat of the Arizona desert. The work is hard on the knees and back and often dismally unrewarding. But archeologists do meet interesting people, some of whom have been dead for centuries.

Archeology often mixes history, anthropology, religion, and art. But even without formal training, you can join professionals in the field at no cost or for a fee of up to $100 a day.

The pros are understandably leery of amateurs; pot hunters have disturbed or destroyed more than 90 percent of all known major prehistoric sites. But volunteers with a serious interest and good stamina should have no trouble finding a dig or survey to join (see page 77). Most project directors share the opinion of Paul Baxter of the University of Oregon Field School:

"We can always use another pair of hands. There are tasks anyone can do that don't require formal training."

In recent years, thousands of volunteers from 8 to 80 bave gotten involved: housewives, students, doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, retirees. All develop a neartotal disregard for manicures and stylish apparel. "You get used to the taste of dirt," one told us.

On the dig site

Over a two-year period, six Sunset representatives joined digs in Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, and Utah. Field work, we soon found, is not the romantic treasure hunt of the movies, but we did discover the thrill of turning up some tiny pieces of history.

What motivates people to get involved? For most, it's curiosity about the past combined with a desire for outdoor activity and a bit of the pack rat's passion for collecting things. All the volunteers we met shared a sense of commitment.

All digs begin with instruction on field methods. What you'll do depends on what the pros are looking for and how they hope to find it.

At "prehistoric sites," you may search for traces of villages and cultures that disappeared thousands of years ago, as we did in Northwest forests and grasslands. At "historic sites," you may seek evidence to support written history, as we did at a fort in Washington and a trading post in California.

In the Northwest, you'll most often be working in forest settings where low light, overhanging rocks, and lush vegetation can obscure sites and where wooden structures and artifacts deteriorate quickly in damp ground.

Artifact preservation is often very good at coastal sites, where you may find shell fishing hooks and jewelry, stone knives and spear points. The West's best preserved archeological sites are in the arid Southwest. Atop soaring mesas or nestled into cliffs, imposing masonry ruins contain pottery and baskets, and stone tools. As the dig gets underway, you'll map site contours and the location of all surface artifacts: broken pottery, blades, shell jewelry. Erosion, flooding, tree roots, or animal burrowing probably moved them from their original positions.

The commonest method is to mark off the site with a string grid and excavate only certain squares usually chosen randomly to assure fair representation of what lies beneath the whole site.

Using such small tools as palette knives, dental spatulas, masonry trowels, and brushes, you carefully strip away each layer of dirt from your "square." As you discover artifacts, you photograph and sketch them where they lie before removing them for cleaning and cataloging.

This work goes slowly Much of the time you'll be hunched over, digging in the dirt. Sometimes you won't find anything for days; then you may be rewarded with a stone hearth, an unbroken bowl or pot, or a finely finished spear point.

We found that doing a little background reading before the dig made it a lot more rewarding. On site, you can ask questions

and you'll most often get good answers.

Despite the lack of creature comforts on a dig, most teams are jovial and friendly. You usually camp out as a group--that's part of the fun. Days are devoted to serious work and bedtime comes early, but evenings are often given over to volleyball and conversation around the fire.

Archeological digs you can join

Here we list major digs on Western sites that welcome volunteers without formal training. These projects are sponsored by nonprofit groups, universities, and government offices. Participants usually pay a fee that helps fund the research and covers food, lodging, and transportation from the staging area to the site. Unless otherwise noted, each involves some mapping, excavation, and cataloging.

For worldwide field work opportunities, send a check for $8 to Archaeological Institute of America, 675 Commonwealth Ave., Boston 02215, and ask for a copy of its yearly bulletin; or call (617) 353-9361.

Arizona. Flagstaff. Museum of Northern Arizona, Route 4, Box 720, Flagstaff 86001; (602) 774-5211. Six sessions of varying lengths run June through August; $30 to $230. Research the Elden Pueblo, a site occupied from 1100 to 1275.

Grand Canyon. Four Corners School of Outdoor Education, College of Eastern Utah, East Route, Monticello, Utah 84535; (801) 587-2859 in Utah, (800) 525-4456 elsewhere. November 11 through 18; $475. Backpack to prehistoric sites along the Hermit, Tonto, and Bright Angel trails; help map, photograph, and describe the sites.

Tucson, Foundation for Field Research, 787 S. Grade Rd., Alpine, Calif 92001; (619) 445-9264. Session runs April 1 through 15. One week costs $435, two weeks $590.

Work at Honeybee Village, a Hohokam site

in the desert north of Tucson.

Winslow. Earthwatch, 680 Mount Auburn St., Watertown, Mass. 02272; (617) 9268200. Three-week sessions run June through August; $1,150. Teams support Arizona State Museum excavation at Homol'ovi 111-an ancient Hopi settlement whose inhabitants developed distinctive pottery and architecture.

California. Twelve national forests. Gerry Gates, Volunteer Coordinator, USDA, Modoc National Forest, 441 N. Main St., Alturas 96101; (916) 233-5811. May through October, volunteers help with archeological surveys and cultural resource management. Per diem, lodging provided. North Bloomfield University Research Expeditions Program (UREP), University of California, Berkeley 94720; (415) 6426586. July 9 through 21, July 23 through August 4; $645. Explore and excavate a 19th-century Chinatown gold rush site. San Juan Capistrano. Nicholas M.

Magalousis, San Juan Capistrano Museum, 31882 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano 92675; (714) 496-4720. Sessions run in June, July, and August. For credit through Chapman College, cost is about $200 (otherwise free). Work on Mission San Juan Capistrano's Spanish colonial site.

Colorado. Cortez. Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, 23390 County Rd. K, Cortez 81321; (800) 422-8975. May through October; $690 per week. Excavate in and near Sand Canyon Pueblo (400 rooms, kivas, and towers), with focus on ceremonial functions.

Maui. UREP (see North Bloomfield, California, listing). Eighteen-day sessions July through November; $1,065. Survey and excavate Hawaiian heiau, ancient ceremonial shrines.

Pohue Bay, Hawaii (Big Island). UREP (see North Bloomfield listing). Thirteen-day sessions run August through September; $1,085. Locate, measure, photograph, and map petroglyph sites.

Montana. Dillon. Earthwatch (see Winslow, Arizona, listing). Thirteen-day work trips run June through August 29; $995.

Excavate a prehistoric workshop and quarry complex near Everson Creek, where human tools and mammoth bones have been found. New Mexico. Chaco Canyon. UREP (see North Bloomfield listing). August 7 through 20; $985. Photograph, survey, and map ancient Anasazi water-diversion systems, which provide a key to the culture. Gallup. Phyllis S. Davis, Archaeological Society of New Mexico, 3713 Camino Sacramento N.E., Albuquerque 87111. Field school runs July 2 through 29; $50 a week, $175 for four weeks, plus meals and lodging. Work on Heaton Canyon's Vidal site, focusing on the great kiva outside Chaco Canyon.

Mimbres River Earthwatch (see Winslow listing). June 2 through 17, June 21 through July 7; $1,090. Help excavate, wash, sort, label, and classify material culture of early Mimbres pottery makers.

Utah. Lake Powell. Four Corners School of Outdoor Education (see Grand Canyon, Arizona, listing). Houseboat expedition runs October 1 5 through 23; $875. Help document Anasazi ruins and learn to make stone tools.

Other digs, contacts for Western states

Hundreds of smaller Western sites are also undergoing study. Call the anthropology or archeology department of a nearby college or university to see if you can help. Most states have a division of cultural resources and historic preservation that oversees active archeology programs. The following state archeologists and historic preservation officers can put you in touch with projects in need of help:

Alaska. Robert Shaw, Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation, Box 107001, Anchorage 99501; (907) 762-2622.

Arizona. Paul Fish, Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, Tucson 85721; (602) 621-2556.

California. William Seidel, Office of Historic Preservation, Box 942896, Sacramento 94296; (916) 445-8006.

Colorado. Susan Collins, Colorado Historical Society, 1300 Broadway, Denver 80203; (303) 866-2736.

Hawaii. William W. Paty, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Box 621, Honolulu 96809; (808) 548-6550.

Idaho. Thomas J. Green, Idaho Historical Society, 210 Main St., Boise 83702; (208) 334-3847.

Montana. David Schwab, Historic Preservation Office, 225 N. Roberts, Helena 59620; (406) 444-7715.

Nevada. Alice Becker, Historic Preservation Office, 201 S. Fall St., Carson City 89710; (702) 885-5138.

New Mexico. Curtis E Schaafsma, Museum of New Mexico, Box 2087, Santa Fe 87504; (505) 827-8941.

Oregon. Leland Gilsen, Historic Preservation Office, State Parks and Recreation Division, 525 Trade St. S.E., Suite 301, Salem 97310; (503) 378-5023.

Utah. David Madsen, Antiquities Section, State Historical Society, 300 Rio Grande, Salt Lake City 84101; (801) 533-4563.

Washington. Robert Whitlam, Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Department of Community Development, 111 W. 21 st Ave., KL-11, Olympia 98504; (206) 753-4405.

Wyoming. Mark E. Miller, Office of the State Archeologist, Box 3431 University Station, Laramie 82070; (307) 766-5301.
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