Thanks, archaeology volunteers

Submitted by Jack T. Wynn (

“Archaeology is the most fun you can have with your clothes on!”

David Hurst Thomas (and probably others) caught our attention with this comment on his life’s pursuit. Many others of us feel this way. Yes, it’s hard, hot, cold, dirty, uncomfortable work, often in really unpleasant situations. Oh, but the rewards, the “Ah-ha!” moments, when we find something new, or make a connection between long-abandoned things and people’s past behaviors, make it all worthwhile!

Most of us in archaeology work for companies, agencies, foundations, or universities, and get paid for our efforts on a regular basis. However there are many folks who don’t. They are the volunteers who make things fly—and fun—for the rest of us. I’ve been in archaeology for over 40 years, and for more than 30 of them, I’ve had the pleasure of working with amateurs who give of their time, labor and almost overwhelming enthusiasm to the job, day in and day out. Some have absolutely no experience, and others have been volunteering in archaeology for years.

Wynn at scull shoals

All through my career, I’ve met folks who, when I tell them I’m an archaeologist, say ”Oooh, I’ve always been interested in archaeology, but never had a chance to do anything about it.” Whenever possible I would tell them that archaeology is a field of research, like astronomy, in which knowledgeable amateurs can make contributions to science themselves. Volunteers, working with experienced professionals, make important contributions all the time. The Society for Georgia Archaeology is one of the channels through which people can learn about the past in their area. They participate in the field or laboratory research that advances our general knowledge of past human conditions, successes, and failures, in dealing with the natural environment. Plus it’s fun! Nothing beats seeing the smile on someone’s face when they lift up an artifact that was made and lost by someone 5000 years ago, and has lain untouched until they found it!

Working together, volunteers of all ages have learned about the life-ways of people from the Archaic period through the early 20th century in the Passport In Time programs of the Forest Service, in Georgia and across the country. Members of SGA Chapters work with professionals to find and interpret the past in their areas. Hundreds of volunteers have worked with Dr. Al Goodyear on the Topper Site in South Carolina over the years to expand our views of the earliest Paleoindian settlers in the Southeastern North America.

If you have any doubts, or if you have been wondering what you could do in archaeology, then contact the SGA leadership, or members of the SGA Chapter in your area, and find out what’s going on in archaeology in your neighborhood.

My sincere thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who have helped keep the pursuit of archaeology alive, vibrant, and fun for me for all these years! Please keep up the good work!

Sincerely, Jack T. Wynn, PhD, Dahlonega