Childhood memories: summers by the sea, splashing in the waves, digging castles in the sand with elaborate moats and tall walls of sand and seaweed. You found countless buried treasures. Every seashell or shiny pebble—a clam shell was good, a scallop better—seemed a tiny miracle.
Opportunities to play in the sand come along less frequently as an adult. But when they do, and when the sand is that of an archaeological site in the Near East, the game becomes more thrilling than ever. As a volunteer on a dig, searching for pottery sherds and coins rather than jingle shells and jellyfish, you help uncover the riches of ancient worlds and clues to the lives of the pilgrims and princes, queens and crusaders, and others who left behind traces of their lives.
Volunteers wishing to pick up their trowels and head to the Near East face few requirements. From college students to retirees, diggers of almost any age and background are welcome as long as they are willing and able to work hard at several jobs—sweeping away dirt, sifting earth, washing sherds or digging under what can be rough outdoor conditions. The living arrangements at digs vary from hotels to crowded tents (the choice is yours), while the food tends toward simple fare—often spiced with sand.
Short histories of the sites and summaries of their Biblical references begin below. So make your choice, don your sun hat, pack up your tools and come play—seriously—in the sand!