Tag Archives: AIA

AIA’s Formal Statement on the Belitung Shipwreck & the Smithsonian

Previously, I posted on the controversy surrounding the Smithsonian’s exhibit of materials looted from the Belitung Shipwreck. You can read those articles here:

Museums & Looted Antiquities: Conflict at the Smithsonian

Museums & Looted Antiquities – the Smithsonian

Recently, the American Institute of Archaeology (AIA) has issued a formal statement opposing the Smithsonian’s display of these artifacts.  I have included the statement in its entirety below. You can also read it in its entirety here.

As the largest and oldest organization devoted to archaeology in North America, the Archaeological Institute of America is committed to the protection of the world’s cultural heritage. As part of this commitment we strongly oppose the commercial salvage of antiquities and any exploitation of archaeological materials obtained in this manner.

The Belitung Shipwreck was salvaged unscientifically by commercially-motivated treasure hunters. Although the excavation and disposition of these materials may be technically “legal,” it is the AIA’s position that involvement by the Smithsonian Institution in the exhibition of these artifacts will serve to blur the distinction between bona fide nautical archaeology and treasure hunting. Following this path puts the Smithsonian in the indefensible position of aiding those who believe that antiquities are a commodity to be mined for personal or corporate financial gain. They are not—they are part of the world’s cultural patrimony.

As the premier museum of the United States and the largest museum and research institution in the world, the Smithsonian is a model for others and should endorse the highest ethical standards for American archaeological and museological practice. The AIA urges the Smithsonian’s leadership to heed the voices of archaeologists worldwide—including many within its own walls—in cancelling the plans for any exhibition of the Belitung shipwreck and its artifacts. To proceed with plans to display these objects will increase the risk to other equally valuable shipwrecks that have yet to be discovered.

Elizabeth Bartman
President, AIA



Looking for a Dig this Summer?

Summer is the height of archaeological field season  (with few exceptions – if you want to go to Egypt, plan on a winter excavation). Students are regularly asking me how they can get on a dig and where. The reality is that there are many different opportunities for those who want to volunteer, participate in field school, and even get paid for field work.

Nearly every site is dependent on volunteers and students to keep them running and it’s generally a simple matter to get on board. A simple email to the site director will usually get you instructions on how to apply for a position. There are different types of positions on digs:

Field School – Field school is unique in that it offers direct training in excavation techniques and frequently college credit. Field Schools are generally for a set period of time (2-8 weeks for credit). Students are required to pay tuition to the college issuing their credits (usually the university or college sponsoring the dig) and make a small donation to the field school to cover their lodging and food costs. Transportation to and from the location are usually the responsibility of the student.

Volunteer Positions – volunteer positions are regularly available to any applicant willing to spend their vacation days doing hard labor. Volunteers are normally asked to pay for their lodging and food costs as well as their transportation to and from the site. Some sites will offer periodic lectures or learning opportunities to interested volunteers. No college credit is offered in these circumstances.

Paid Field Positions – these opportunities are less common and more available in the United States (where strict labor laws are enforced). Generally, ‘shovelbum’ positions are offered to those with experience in fieldwork, a degree in anthropology or archaeology, and an expertise in the area being studied. Usually, paid field workers have their lodgings and food covered, but transportation costs are covered by them (with some exceptions).

There are many different avenues you can explore to find fieldwork opportunities. I’ve listed a few websites here that are commonly used for listings. If you have a site that you’re specifically interested in, you should contact their dig director directly.

Biblical Archaeology Review Volunteer Opportunities – Most of the opportunities listed here are relevant to the field of Biblical Archaeology and are located in the Middle East and Europe.

Shovelbums – Shovelbums is a forum used primarily by American archaeologists (but certainly not universally) and lists paid and volunteer positions all over the world.

Cyberpursuits – This is a database forum listing digs all over the world by various institutions

Archaeological Institute of American – This is the AIA’s official fieldwork listings. It is probably the most comprehensive and up to date database of fieldwork opportunities for volunteers, fieldschool applicants, and staff positions. It also lists scholarship opportunities as well as unique Visa issues for American applicants.

American Anthropological Association – The AAA lists not only archaeological positions but also work in paleoanthropology, primatology, and cultural anthropology.

These are by far not the only opportunities for those interested in attending a dig, but they’re a great start.