After a week of training in Fairbanks, Alaska the National Science Foundation-funded PolarTREC Program sent me to northern Finland, almost on the Arctic Circle, for a whole month to participate in an archaeological expedition. We were studying 6000-year-old hunter-gatherer societies. The professional archaeologists I was with were from the State University of New York at Buffalo and McGill University in Canada, and also from the University of Oulu in Finland.
I learned there that a lot of archaeology isn’t really digging – it’s surveying and map making. On a typical day we searched for the remains of pit houses in the woods. Even after 6000 years you can still see shallow holes in the ground, and measure elevated levels of phosphorus in the soil.
When I got home I realized that the same (non-digging) techniques I had learned in Finland could be applied to a mysterious line of granite boulders in my own county. Over several years two of my students and I studied this line, the origin of which nobody knew. We finally published our findings in a peer-reviewed academic journal, California Archaeology. Now I have a lifelong interest in archaeology, and I am pursuing another project, on old stone shepherd’s huts in California’s White Mountains.
PolarTREC paid for everything: training, airfare, food and lodging, my substitute teacher. They even gave me some spending money.