"Dig for a day" programs enable you to pick up a trowel and help archaeologists search for buried treasures, such as pottery shards, animal bones, and--occasionally--clay tablets.
In Israel, Archaeological Seminars is an organization that is excavating a site at the National Park of Beit Guvrin, which is about a half-hour drive from Jerusalem. Each "Dig for a Day" event includes a rundown of the site's history and an explanation of rudimentary excavation techniques. Then you dig in. Organizers say you have a good chance of finding an artifact because the site was the equivalent of a garbage dump centuries ago, with countless items scattered underground. Your discoveries actually enhance the historical record because cash-strapped archaeologists depend upon the work of volunteers to help them with their research. The price is $28 per adult, and $23 per child between the ages of 5-14. About 30,000 people participate each year. Details here. (Photo of the Beit Guvrim Dig by Pointing via Flickr.)
Other archaeological sites offer dig for a day programs:
In Utah, you can dig for Anasazi ruins. Learn about this and other trips at ResponsibleTravel.com.
In Poland, you can dig for a medieval cemetery. Learn about this and other trips at Archaeolink.com.
Meanwhile, the U.S.D.A. Forest Service runs a Passport in Time (PIT), an archaeological program that offers dozens of volunteer projects throughout the U.S. each year at old mines, former African American slave community sites, and Native American mounds. The program is free to join but volunteers must pay for their own way. (Think: transportation, food, and lodging.) Details at the PIT website, Passportintime.com.
Related link: You'll find our round-up of museums that let kids sleep-over for the night by clicking here.