clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


So you want to do a dig? Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in southwest Colorado sponsors volunteer digs under the watchful eyes of experts. The center's campus is near Cortez and about 10 miles from Mesa Verde National Park.

Volunteers work in nearby Sand Canyon Pueblo, one of the last known areas inhabited by the Anasazi. "We investigate the late Anasazi period, from 1150 to 1300," says Crow Canyon's Rick Bell. "The great mystery is why did they leave and where did they go?"Volunteers work in week-long stints, from Saturday to Saturday. They stay in buildings near campus and eat meals together. "We have a great kitchen," says Bell.

The cost per week, which covers accommodations, meals, tools and transportation to the dig site, is $660 for an alumnus and $750 for a first-time participant.

A typical day begins at 9 a.m. when volunteers arrive on the site. Each is assigned an area about 40 inches square. "We show volunteers how to dig and explain what they should look for. Then they begin to fill their buckets with dirt," says Bell.

A volunteer consults an archaeologist when he finds an artifact. He then bags it, identifies it and catalogs it.

The group breaks for an on-site lunch and continues working until 4 p.m. Volunteers return to campus for dinner and an evening program, lecture or entertainment.

Crow Canyon is a private, non-profit institute that relies heavily on volunteers. "We couldn't do the archaeology without volunteer labor or support our research without their tuition. We earn about 80 percent of our operating budget," says Bell.

The institute also demonstrates various aspects of the Anasazi lifestyle. Volunteers learn how to start fires the way the Anasazi did, how to grind corn and how to throw spears with an atlatl (a stick with notches that can be used as a launcher).

The institute also sponsors workshops, such as upcoming sessions on Navajo weaving and jewelry making.

A teachers' workshop will be Aug. 1-9, and Family Week will be Aug. 9-15.

Last year 4,100 people visited Crow Canyon Campus.

Excavation programs run from May 24-Oct. 17. For information call (303) 565-8975, or write to Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, 2330 County Rd. K, Cortez, Colo. 81321, for a catalog.