Archaeological Dig Tips

So, you want to go on a dig...

(Some survival tips)

If you are interested in taking part in an archaeological project for the first time and have questions about what project would be best for you, how much it will cost, how you should prepare ahead of time, or other questions, then the following has been designed for you. Remember that most of your TAs have been on archaeological projects before, so you can always ask them for their honest opinions. There is also a binder available in the departmental office (Room 505, Watson Hall) that has questionnaires filled out by people who have been on projects. Their comments might help you to make your decision about a certain project. A list of available projects can be found in the "Dig Opportunities" book published by the Archaeological Institute of America and available in January in the departmental office. It is also found on-line at


Do I need a passport, an international student card, or other special ID?

In most cases, you will be traveling outside of Canada. You must have a valid passport, and you should get it as soon as possible. You get it from Canada Customs and Immigration. Application forms are available on-line from their website. It can take several weeks to get one, so don't wait for the last minute. International student cards are available at the International Centre in the JDUC for a nominal fee and will get you discounts on airfare, via rail passes, museum entrance fees (discount or waived entirely). It is well worth the cost. If you are going to Greece, then you should contact the Canadian Institute in Athens for their student pass which gets you in free to all museums and sites. This can save you a lot of money, and they treat you like a VIP (personal experience).

How much does it cost to go on a project?

Prices vary. You will find the cost of the project listed in the "Dig Opportunities" book. That is usually in US dollars, so don't forget to factor in exchange rates. You should also check to see if lodging and meals are included in the cost. You will have to provide your own transportation to and from the site, but often field trips are included. It is sometimes cheaper if you fly to Britain first, then take another flight to Greece or Italy, or any other destination. Use your international student card to get a good price. You should contact the person listed in the "Dig Opportunities" book with direct questions about living expenses for the area you will be working in. In Greece, on a project that did not include meals, the average costs for living expenses was $300-$500 a week based on about $20 a day for food (2003). I found $250 a week to be ample for me.

Is it true I can earn a credit for an archaeological project?

Yes, you can, provided it is a field school. The listing will say how many credits it is recommended for. If it says 3 or 6, that translates into 0.5 or 1 at Queen's. You need to go to the Registrar's office ahead of time to ask them how to transfer the mark or credit to your transcript. It is best if you take a copy of the details of the project with you when you go. If you have taken CLST 129, then you will do very, very well on the tests given on these projects. They assume you have no background at all, so the tests are very basic and straight-forward.

What kind of accommodations do projects typically have?

This kind of information will be listed in the "Dig Opportunities" book. Accommodation can vary from 2 or 3 bedded hotel rooms, a dig house with similar sized rooms, or even a tent. You should be sure you are comfortable with the arrangements before you decide to choose your project. Often you can choose your own room mate if you go with a friend. If not, then specify if you are a non-smoker or a smoker if this is a concern for you.

Do I need to prepare ahead of time?

It is always best if you learn something about the culture of the country you will be living in. Be sure you dress properly (important for women who go to Muslim countries), and learn local customs. It is also a good idea to learn some of the language of the country you will be in so that you can ask for directions and order food in restaurants, etc. People love it when you try to speak to them in their own language, and you might find yourself treated better if you make the effort. For your project, you should read something about it ahead of time so you are familiar with its history, and what is being studied there. For example, if you go on the Iklaina project near Pylos in Greece, then you should read about the Mycenaeans and the Palace of Nestor so that the stuff you find there will have some meaning to you. You will get more from it if you do that.

Should I take travelers' cheques with me?

You need to find out whether you have to buy meals on your own or not. You should contact the people running the project to ask them how much money they recommend you bring. Most places in Europe have ATMs, so you could ask if this is available (it is in Pylos, but not in Akrotiri). This is the most convenient thing because you only need to take out a bit at a time. There is a charge of about $4 (2003) for each withdrawal, and you will be charged the current daily exchange rate, so take out $100-$200 at a time to make it worth while. Otherwise, travelers cheques are recommended. Major airports also have ATMs so you can get cash when you arrive. Not many places in Greece accept credit cards.

What should I bring with me?

Travel light! Leave room in your suitcase to bring home souvenirs. You need to check the climate of your destination to know what type of clothing to bring, but you should always have a jacket, even in hot countries. It gets cold at night, and most people have their dinner late in the evening (about 8 pm seems to be normal in Greece). Bring your camera, Aspirin, Gravol, Immodium and AfterBite. Often these things are not on checklists, but you never know you will need them until it's too late. If you smoke, you might want to take Canadian cigarettes with you, unless you don't mind the stronger European ones. Make a check list of your personal items. When you register for a project, they usually send you a checklist, but you should also include the things that they don't mention, like cosmetics, medication (bring a doctor's note for prescriptions), books, music and things to amuse yourself on the long flight and in the airport.