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Avocational Archaeology

Pennsylvania's organization for avocational archaeologists is the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, Inc. (SPA). The society was organized in 1929 to:

  • Promote the study of the prehistoric and historic archaeological resources of Pennsylvania and neighboring states;
  • Encourage scientific research and discourage exploration which is unscientific or irresponsible in intent or practice;
  • Promote the conservation of archaeological sites, artifacts, and information;
  • Encourage the establishment and maintenance of sources of archaeological information such as museums, societies, and educational programs;
  • Promote the dissemination of archaeological knowledge by means of publications and forums;
  • Foster the exchange of information between the professional and the avocational archaeologists.

Follow the link for a map of active society chapters (PDF).

The SPA publishes a semi-annual journal that comes with membership in the Society, Pennsylvania Archaeologist.

Collecting Artifacts

Many Pennsylvanians own archaeological collections. Some citizens consider themselves amateur archaeologists who search for and find Native American or Colonial Period artifacts. Others simply live on properties where professional archaeologists conduct investigations to identify previous sites of human activity before new development occurs.  In either case, collections that preserve detailed information about where objects were discovered and what types of artifacts were found are extremely important. Archaeological collections often represent the only surviving evidence of Pennsylvania's prehistory and history and can provide new information about where, when, and how people lived in the past. You can preserve this information by keeping good records and recording the sites you find.

Each artifact is labeled and bagged according to where it was found.

Recording sites

It is important to preserve information on where prehistoric people lived and how they used the resources distributed across the landscape. In addition, when locations and artifacts are recorded with the Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey (PASS), these sites are more likely to be considered in the planning of state and federal projects and therefore more likely to be protected.  For information on how to submit your site for listing in the Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey (PASS) files, visit our page on Recording Sites

Our brochure on Donating Collections (PDF) provides information on donating your artifact collections for long-term preservation at the State Museum of Pennsylvania.

Opportunities to Volunteer for The State Museum of Pennsylvania's Section of Archaeology projects, for PHMC internships, or other field projects.

School-aged volunteers learn about archaeology with hands on experience.

Internship Opportunities

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) offers a variety of internship opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing a career in public history.  All PHMC internships, whether paid or unpaid, full or part time, are structured educational experiences, designed to provide hands-on, real world experience that complements students’ academic work. PHMC interns work side-by-side with seasoned professionals on both special projects and on-going programs. Every effort is made to tailor internships to match student interests with agency needs.

Specific questions about the internship program can be directed to:
Internship Program
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Bureau of Archives and History
350 North Street
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120-0090
717/772-0090 (phone)
717/787-4822 (fax)

Send an E-mail to the Internship Program at RA-PHMCInterns@pa.gov

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