Digging Up the Past

Published on: March 5th, 2008

For an experienced archeologist, spending a week under the Southwest sun excavating and recording artifacts is an everyday occurrence.

It’s not so for an adolescent.

Unless you make a summer out of it, and persevere the desert temperature swings and dusty dig sites. Kids who are up to the challenge receive a field science education unlike any other all while unearthing ancient treasures.

Andres Landeck, a fifth grader from Vail Mountain School, spent a week last year carefully excavating replicas of items more than 700 years old at the Crow Canyon Archeological Center.

During the week, his class learned how to time date artifacts, braid rope, play traditional Anasazi games, while bonding with campers from a reservation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

More than 2,500 campers visit Crow Canyon every year, giving students of all ages the opportunity to work and dig side by side with professional archeologists. While the younger students only get to experience the simulated dig site, those 14 and older are given the opportunity to catalogue actual articles.

Campers reside in traditional huts and participate in multiple adventures including rafting, excavating, lab work and exploring ancient ruins.

There are about a dozen camps across the country offering similar experiences, although Crow Canyon is only one of two in the Southwest. Attendants range from adults with a passion for the past to high school students aspiring to explore archeology as a career while receiving either high school or college credit.

Student groups like the one from Vail, visit for the opportunity to be immersed in an ancient culture. Hands-on dig sites, state-of-the-art lab technology and culture experts who teach spear throwing are simply a few of the factors that draw campers. “It was really good having our kids mixed up with kids (from the reservation),” says Heather Campbell, Andres’ mom. “Our kids weren’t expecting these children to relate similar lives to the ones they have.”

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