Kids Dig Archaeology Blog

Can You Dig It?

Dr. Arty Fax’s Archy Facts is a weekly blog introducing kids (currently stuck at home) to the exciting world of archaeology!

Last week we looked at different ways that archaeologists can “see” underground.  Do you remember how crop marks can help archaeologists locate sites?  This week we are going to get dirty….with EXCAVATION.  Think of excavation as organized digging.  This is how archaeologists uncover archaeological sites, carefully removing layers of dirt and noting the precise location of any artifacts and site features.  I’m sure you remember that ARTIFACTS are any items made or used by people, like arrowheads and pottery.  FEATURES consist of the unmovable parts of a site that show human activity – think of floors, walls, and fire pits.  Imagine in the future that archaeologists are excavating your room.  The archaeological site (your room) contains features (doorway, walls) and artifacts (your toys, books, and video controllers).


Do you know what archaeological site is pictured at the top?
Scroll down to find out!


Trowels among many other tools are used during excavation.  Since excavation is a destructive process (you can’t really put the site back the way it was), archaeologists are very careful where and how they dig.  That is one of the reasons why recording all the artifacts and features are so important.

Sometimes archaeologists will excavate in large areas, guided by site features, but often they will dig in square units based on a grid system.  Do you have an idea why we like to dig square holes?  Do you think it would be better to dig in any shape you wanted?  Archaeologists like to dig this way, because it helps to organize the things we find, making for more accurate records and maps.  Each artifact that is found is recorded by not only which square hole, or UNIT, it was located, but also how deep in the ground it was found.  Next week we will look at how sites are formed by different layers over time, each one deeper than the next.

Excavations can range in scale from large monumental structures down to 1×1 meter  or smaller test pits.  TEST PITS are small dig units that are used in the beginning stages of a site investigation, helping archaeologists preview the site before a full scale excavation.


Make your own dig at home!

Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde
Colorado, United States

Fun Facts:
The Cliff Palace was built around 1190 AD by Ancestral Puebloans and is the largest cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde. There are 150 rooms built out of stone, mud mortar, and wooden beams.  Most of the structures were residential.  Can you imagine living on a cliff?  What a spectacular view! There are also large rounds rooms called Kivas, which may have been used for rituals and ceremonies.

Read more about Mesa Verde here and here.

Want to learn more?

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Volunteers work in the Center’s Research Library, cataloguing materials and organizing on a computer-based system.

Marketing and Administrative Volunteers assist the Development Office or Administration Office with data entry, updating marketing materials and clerical tasks. Computer experience is a plus.

Docents welcome visitors and answer general questions regarding the Center and exhibits. Docents staff the gift shop and help out with administrative and curatorial tasks.

Volunteers support event activities at the Center, such as the Annual BBQ, lectures, workshops, and fundraising events. Be a part of the party!

Volunteer provide support for K-12 programs offered at the Center. These are fun, hands-on programs that kids really enjoy. Teaching experience is a plus, but not required. Background checks are required.


With the assistance of Center staff, the intern will use photogrammetry to prepare one or more archaeological collections for digital preservation, as well as create a virtual museum exhibit for our Public Archaeology department. Per approval, special projects of the intern’s choosing are also available. During the research and planning, the intern will receive guidance as appropriate to their selected project. Prospective interns should already be familiar with photogrammetric procedures, and Agisoft Metashape.

Collections Management

With the assistance of Center staff, the intern will prepare one or more archaeological collections for curation. During the course of the internship, the intern will learn to identify artifacts and ecofacts common to the San Diego region, including lithics, ceramics, historical objects, and faunal, botanical, and mineral specimens. Center staff will instruct the intern on archaeological laboratory procedures such as basic artifact analysis, manual and computer cataloguing, storage requirements, and preventative conservation. In addition, the intern will become familiar with historical trends in archaeological practice in the San Diego area and will be introduced to current legal and ethical issues in archaeological curation as well as the concerns and rights of culturally affiliated groups with regard to archaeological materials.

Development and Marketing

Under the direction of Center staff, the intern will support the department in various activities, including, but not limited to, fundraising and grant research; e-newsletter development; social media marketing; and website maintenance. This internship will give the intern valuable, real-world experience in non-profit fundraising and marketing.

Geographical Information Systems in Archaeology

Prospective Interns must have completed three courses: Introduction to GIS, GIS Database Management, and Intermediate/Advanced Methods in GIS. The intern will be assigned a project where they will create shapefiles and maps for curated archaeological collections, museum exhibits, and/or public outreach using ArcGIS 10.6. Center staff will instruct the intern on archaeological GIS laboratory procedures such as computer cataloguing, storage requirements, and database management.

Library Science

With the assistance of Center staff, the intern will arrange and catalog materials in the Center’s library. During the course of the internship, the intern will take a leading role in the cataloging, sorting and storing of research files and creating user guides for these collections. Center staff will instruct the intern on archival procedures, computer cataloging, storage requirements, and preventative conservation.

Public Archaeology

Harness your passion for Public Archaeology and gain hands-on experience with K-12 museum field trips, lectures, and public outreach. Additional projects may include creating virtual museum exhibits and activities, assisting in the development and implementation of K-12 curricula programs, planning and presenting public facing content, or educational field trip content of your own design. Must be able to pass a Live Scan.