ASV Archeological Technician Certification Program
Have you investigated the ruins of a log cabin and gotten excited about the hidden history around us? When you were a kid, did you want to be an archaeologist? It’s not too late!
In Virginia, the Archaeological Technician Certification Program was created to give individuals an opportunity to obtain, under professional guidance, recognition for formal and extended training in the techniques and goals of archaeology. The idea is simple: trained volunteers who are knowledgeable of their communities are integral to the research and conservation of archaeological resources.
Professional archaeologists from around Virginia have opened their projects to Cert Students, allowing them to work with universities and alongside archaeologists from state and federal agencies at many archaeological sites. Consider some of the locations where Cert students have worked: James Fort (Jamestown); Mount Vernon; Virginia Museum of Natural History; Kittiewan Plantation; Eyerville; Great Neck; Battersea; Fairfield; Poplar Forest; Montpelier; Chippokes State Park; Camp Misery; and Clermont Farm.
In its third decade, the Cert Program, as it is known, operates on a statewide level and trains avocational archaeologists in the skills needed to reach the level of field and lab technician.
- The program is overseen by the Archeological Society of Virginia (link), the Council of Virginia Archaeologists (link), and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources
- Designed to be completed in two years
- Students work at their own pace and availability
- Field and laboratory opportunities are on-going throughout the year.
The Cert Program works because partnerships have been forged between federal, state, and local government agencies, non-profits, and universities – all of which offer support for projects. As a result, the Cert program has also made it possible for professional archaeologists to engage in a level of field and laboratory work not thought possible in the current economic climate due to the prohibitive cost of such work. Thousands of hours are volunteered each year by Cert students, who are creating a legacy of work that will impact archaeological practice in Virginia for years to come. As of 2016, 81 have graduated from the program, and another 120 are currently enrolled. 60% of graduates continue working with the program and mentor ‘younger’ students.
Your hours and tasks for the Arch Tech Certification Program listed below must be logged in the Blue Book and initialed by the professional in charge.
Twelve lectures covering theoretical and methodological aspects of archaeological practice are given at various times during the year by professionals. You are notified of lectures and workshops taking place around the state. These include:
• Program Overview/General Orientation
• Archaeological Laws and Ethics
• Virginia Archaeology/Prehistoric Overview
• Virginia Archaeology/Historic Overviews
• Anthropological Archaeology
• Basic Laboratory Procedures
• Lithic Analysis
• Native American Ceramic Analysis
• Historic Ceramic Analysis
• Glass Analysis
• Metals Analysis
• Ethnozoological/Ethnobotanical Analysis
The readings are selected to introduce you to the major themes of the discipline, including lab manuals, field manuals, artifact identification books, etc. Each local ASV chapter has a set. If you’re not affiliated with a chapter, please let us know and we will assist you. Readings are incorporated throughout the program to complement both lectures and practical experiences.
60 hours of lab work are required: 30 with historic artifacts; 30 with prehistoric artifacts. You can pull these together from various projects — as long as they add up.
The field work requirement includes 60 hours of survey and 60 hours of excavation (30 hours each on a historic and a prehistoric site). In the field, you will learn specific methods (e.g., survey and excavation techniques, understanding the use of a transit and grid, reading topographic maps, understanding stratigraphy, etc.). 24 excavation hours must be completed at an approved field school. We regularly notify students of field and laboratory opportunities.
The public outreach requirement includes 20 hours of work that can be performed in a variety of settings (lab, museum, site, classroom). The goal is to practice communicating archaeological information to interested audiences.
You must record two archaeological sites with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, for both a prehistoric and historic site. This is done in computerized format in a specialized database (V-CRIS) maintained by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and we will work with you to help you complete them.
You will take both practical (laboratory) and written exams at the end of the program – these are basic exams designed to reflect what you’ve learned in the program. They are graded by the Certification Committee.
We recognize program graduates at the banquet of the Annual Meeting of the Archeological Society of Virginia, which takes place in October of each year. After graduation, certification program students regularly continue in the lab and field.
How to Get Started
You must be a current ASV member in good standing to apply for the Archeological Tech Certification Program. You may join online here.
Members then pay a one-time fee of $40 and submit a complete application for the ASV Tech Cert Program.
- You must be at least 16 years of age.
- You are required to be a member in good standing of the state ASV organization while you’re in the program (which means renewing membership each year). You may pay the membership fee online or you may download the form and follow instructions for mailing.
- Once you are registered, you will receive the Blue Book (the log book that helps you keep track of your progress), as well as a Statement of Ethics to sign and mail back. PLEASE NOTE: YOU ARE NOT FULLY ACCEPTED INTO THE PROGRAM UNTIL YOU HAVE SIGNED AND RETURNED THE CODE OF ETHICS.
- We encourage students to work at a steady pace and complete the program in two years; however, we understand that some students will need more time. We will assist you in every way possible to help you finish.
- All work undertaken in the program must be done under the supervision of a professional archaeologist who is either a member of, or eligible for full membership in, the Council of Virginia Archaeologists.
- If you have done archaeology under the supervision of a professional archaeologist during the past five years prior to joining the program, the Certification Committee will consider a request to review the details of the work and determine whether it meets program requirements. You must contact the program directors and send the following information for such a review:
• Name and location of project
• Name of supervisor
• Number of hours worked
• Tasks accomplished
The committee quickly considers these requests.
- You need to keep a journal that details your work in the program — lab, lecture, readings. You will also be sent instructions on keeping a field journal. Your journals are turned in with your final exam and Blue Book for review by the Certification Committee.
- We strongly encourage you to have a professional mentor who can help you find readings, get needed lectures, oversee your progress, etc. The Certification Board will assist you in finding one.