The History Of People: A Guide To Amateur Archaeology

Amateur archaeology is the exploration and search of historical relics and artifacts as well as to uncover human culture in different societies of the past. Also called avocation archaeology, amateurs are those individuals who volunteer their time and explore historical sites as a hobby. The proper excavation techniques allow for preservation of artifacts. Learning this science is helpful for amateurs as well as professionals because both have the goal of preserving artifacts the most effective way possible. Stratigraphy is used when beginning a dig. This is the science of unraveling the sequence of how everything got in its specific place before anything is disturbed. This could take months to years before any activity is started. Many specific tools are used so as not to damage the relics, but instead to clean and explore the relevance of artifacts in a historical site. Removal of an artifact successfully should be done in a carefully skilled way.

One of the best ways to begin exploring amateur archaeology is to join a group or association of other like-minded amateurs. Attending courses and workshops will help familiarize a person with the terms and tools used in this field. Some of the beginner’s tools should include a mattock, shovels, trowels, a screen with at least ¼ inch mesh, bucket, measuring tools, string, colored tape, brush, plastic bags and dust pan. These are the very basic tools needed. Most of these tools can be found at hardware or home and garden store. When purchasing tools beyond an amateur level, professional archaeological supply stores will be the place to look.

This hobby provides a wealth of information not only about the history of the area and society of the past, but also insight into the human development. Learning about civilizations of ancient times and how human beings have evolved and progressed over the centuries can be very interesting first hand. The scientific method is used as well as techniques and methods for cleaning and preserving artifacts that are found. Safety should be the number one concern when on a dig or excavation. Wearing proper protective clothing such as raincoats, gloves, boots and hard hats when needed can help prevent injury. Any equipment used should be given a safety check to be sure it is in proper working condition. Anyone who is using tools should be trained in the proper use of each tool. Vertical sections that are surrounding trenches should be properly slopped to avoid collapse. Safety training courses can provide basic knowledge before taking on this hobby.

For more information about Amateur Archaeology, see the links below.

  • American Society for Amateur Archaeology: A national organization that serves amateur archaeologists through journal publications and expeditions. These expeditions are a great way to get hands on experience with other amateur archaeologists.
  • Caddo Trading: Specializing in authentic Pre-Columbian and American Indian Artifacts. This trading company has many types of Indian arrowheads and other authentic tools.
  • The Adventures of Archaeology Wordsmith: A dictionary of archaeology terms. This site offers a search method for easy to look up words.
  • Archaeology for the Public: Society of American Archaeology offers research and information to the public as it is published from the professional archaeologists.
  • Archaeological Institute of America: This is North America’s oldest organization that focuses on worldwide archaeology. Members of this organization conduct fieldwork all over the world.
  • National Park Service Archeology Guide: A reference guide that offers tools such as best practices, interpretation, education, legal and ethical responsibilities. The National Park Services also offers a special archaeological program for the public including a distinct children’s section.
  • The Archaeology Channel: A non-profit organization offering educational information to t he public about archaeology. Their goal is to pass down information about past human life to further educate the public.
  • Glossary of Archaeology and Anthropology Terms: Offers a complete list of terms and their definitions as it relates to archaeology and anthropology.
  • Archaeology for Kids: A complete resource about the history of archaeology offering information on theory and techniques.
  • Public Archaeology and Modern Society: A introduction to archaeology offered by the University of Indiana. Explanation of the many facets involved in archaeology including legalities, ethical responsibilities, curation and legacies.
  • Maritime Archaeology in the UK: Maritime Inertial archaeology in Wales. A published archeology dig including the sources, records and controls used in the dig.
  • Underwater Archaeology Glossary: A comprehensive glossary of terms used specifically in underwater archaeology, also referred to as maritime archaeology.
  • Archtools: An archaeology tool shop with information on the equipment and supplies needed for an archeological dig or excavation.
  • Florida Underwater Historical Resources: An underwater archaeology organization who provides information to the public regarding historical sites of relevance underwater. They encourage public participation.
  • Creekside Artifacts: Jim Fisher’s Avocation Archaeology& Lithic Technology website with finds using flip knapping as a method of finding relics and artifacts.
  • The Authentic Artifacts Collector Association: An association of authentic artifacts collectors and amateur archaeology. Offers a yearly Expo which provides valuable resources and networking connections with other collectors and vendors.
  • New York State Archaeological Association: An association for avocation and professional archaeologists in New York State area. This association has been involved in many important excavations of Northeast prehistory.
  • Central States Archaeological Societies: A community of archaeology students, collectors, amateurs and professionals who strive to continually provide resources and support to the public, museums and other institutions archaeological material.
  • The Archaeological Society of Ohio: An organization that focuses on preserving Ohio’s heritage through archaeology education and support.
  • Smithsonian Archaeology: The Smithsonian Institute that provides the means for archaeological excavation as a method of exploring the past. There is a wealth of information on their site about their excavation efforts and methods.
  • Archaeology and the Near East: Gives an account of how archaeology has become a hobby for amateurs that has developed into a science of exploring the past and historical relevant to modern society.
  • Boston University Archaeology Resource Guide: An extensive library of archaeology resources for amateurs as well as professionals. The library includes websites as well as databases and published field work studies.
  • Archaeology Institute of America: An institution that provides resources and a community for fellow amateur and professional archaeologists who are interested in preserving past cultural heritage.
  • Exploring Ancient World Cultures: An introduction to ancient worlds including Roman Empires and Egyptian pyramids. 
  • Becoming Human: An interactive multimedia exploration of the human lineage and understanding the course of evolution.
  • Science and Archaeology Symposium in Urbana: A program designed to cover ancient technologies and archaeological materials. A division of University of Illinois Urbana complete with abstracts from archaeological digs.
  • From Paris to Pompeii: An amateur archaeologist’s account of exploration of French romanticism and cultural politics of archaeology.
  •  North Carolina Archaeology: North Carolina archaeological resources that promote public awareness of archeological sites and their significance. 
  • Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission: A bureau for historic preservation efforts through education and public and professional training.
  • Eastern States Archaeological Federation: Representing the eastern United States and Canada’s archeological sites and preservation. This organization provides a forum to exchange information between professionals and amateurs.
  • Cultural Resources Geographical Information System: A map based inventory of historical sites in Pennsylvania. 
  • Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology: Encourages scientific research and archeological discoveries. Interested in promoting the preservation of and conservation of historical sites.
  • Utah Valley Knapping Association: An association of flint knappers that are hobbyists. This organizes monthly education events and promotes learning flint knapping.
  • Flint Knapping Tools: Tools and resources for hobbyists and amateur archaeologists for flint knapping. Learning about how this ancient craft was done provides insight on an archaeological excavation.
  • Flint knapping UK: Information on tools, resources and educational workshops for flint knapping.
  • Amateur Uncovers Oldest Indian Mounts in Americas: Informative and interesting article about the findings of Indian mounts in the northeastern side of Louisiana by an amateur archaeologist.
  • Archaeology Geophysics Enthusiastic Searchers: An association of amateur archaeologists with a virtual library of great resources in the UK.
  • Council for British Archaeology: An education and charity organization that encourages public involvement in the appreciation of historical environment and the significance of amateur archaeology. The organization’s motto is archaeology for all.
  • Internet Archaeology: An online journal featuring published material which is archived and preserved for future use.
  • Archaeology Uncovered: A website offering the television series that promotes public education of archaeology. The series takes the public on several interesting archaeological digs and excavations. They also have a comprehensive archaeology dictionary as well as other resources.


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