Project Types

There are many different things that come under the category fieldwork, so don’t despair if you don’t like the outdoors. Click on some of the tabs to see the options open to you!


Great if you like getting outside, usually involves living with random people in very close quarters with limited hygiene and very early mornings. Also by far most fun, shy or not, you will make some very good friends.
Excavation: Scraping back the ground with trowels, mattocks and other sharp objects and drawing them afterwards. 80% of this is paperwork as everything excavated needs to be preserved by record, so remember although its a physical activity pens and pencils come in handy

Surveying and Sampling:

Walking up and down in lines on a patch of ground counting, or collecting surface finds to give an idea of the time periods and levels of activity found across a large site – Professor Bintliff carries these out for his Boeotia Project in Greece and many local archaeology groups take part in field surverying on a regular basis so there are opportunities all year round; Walking round with stripy sticks or prisms on sticks to measure topography; collecting samples, such as by coring to be processed later.


Walking about with these to gather that all important picture before you dig holes. This activity really helps us understand where to dig holes, but can also tell us about other activity in the area without excavation. Opportunities in Geophysics are available through most projects, and especially through local archaeological groups.

Trench Supervision:

Only really something for later years – running a trench, organizing the diggers, doing paper work. Placementing is a regular feature on York Archaeological Trust Archaeology LIVE! sites and after several years experience at Bamburgh Castle with Bamburgh Research Project

Lab Work:

It’s indoors, regularly available in Edinburgh (saves money) and questionable hygiene isn’t imposed on you. Try first the Archaeology Departments own Lab Technician Alan Dalton at to get involved with long term department projects like Shell Processing. SUERC also offer Laboratory internships. Many others are out there!

It’s amazing how much there is to do afterwards, ranging from the processing of environmental material (smashing stuff up and baking it) to artifact analysis (looking at things very closely to see what category they fall into, use wear signs etc…) or of course supervising such things (again for the later years).

Museum and Archive Work

Indoors and can help you get jobs at the end of it.

Archiving bit: Cataloguing artifacts, ecofacts (bags of soil and such like) and paperwork in a way understandable in the future. Involves lots of numbers, labels and moving things around.

The other bits: Preparation of museum displays and publications for the public.
Try The National Museum of Scotland and the National Trust! there are places in Edinburgh.

Public Archaeology

May involve explaining things to people, dressing even. Or just the background display creation, can be both indoors and out, a real mix. Work with different people, different age ranges and test your people skills. Edinburgh Universities own Edinburgh Archaeology Outreach Project will allow you to gain experience of engaging schools in Archaeology and they are always on the lookout for more volunteers. Local Young Archaeologists Clubs are always looking for willing volunteers.

Designing displays is another form of Public Archaeology. As Archaeologists we have be able to disseminate results to the public simply – not just in museums, though that is a good part of it. Part of this involve physical reconstructions, as well as digital ones using programmes like ArchMap, Maya 3D and Photoshop. These are great skills to have – try asking RCAHMS, Historic Scotland or the National Trust for any volunteer work they have with these to gain experience. Also worthwhile considering the Archaeological Illustration course in honors years to gain experience in using some of the digital programmes.

Planning and Heritage Management:

Opportunities for this kind of fieldwork often come up with Historic Scotland or the National Trust. Finding our heritage is amazing and allows you to dig holes, but we also need to protect it. Remember archaeology is interdisciplinary – try the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland or the National Trust Rangers scheme to gain experience in building and heritage site conservation.