One of the best ways aspiring amateur archaeologists can get started is to find a group of people who also want to learn about archaeology or work as volunteers on archaeological digs. For that, you need an amateur archaeology club.
There are numerous local and regional clubs throughout the world, with activities that range from Saturday morning reading groups to full-fledged societies with publications and conferences to opportunities to volunteer at archaeological excavations. If you live in a pretty good sized city, chances are there are local amateur archaeology clubs right near you. The trouble is, how do you find them, and how do you pick the right one for you?
Artifact Collector Groups
There are, at heart, two kinds of amateur archaeology clubs. The first kind is an artifact collector club. These clubs are primarily interested in artifacts of the past, looking at artifacts, buying and selling artifacts, telling stories about how they found this artifact or another. Some collector groups have newsletters and regular swap meets. But they are not really interested in archaeology as a science, and so I can't recommend them. This is not to say that collectors are bad people or not enthusiastic in what they do. But their interest is not in the events or people of the past, it is in pretty objects. To an archaeologist, amateur or professional, an artifact is far more interesting as a part of a whole complex of things, including where it came from, when it was used, and what it meant to people of the past. By and large, collector groups don't understand that.
Avocational Archaeology Groups
The other type of archaeology club is the avocational club. This type of club also has newsletters, and local and regional meetings. But they also have ties to the professional community, and sometimes full-fledged publications with reports on archaeological sites. Some sponsor group tours of archaeological sites, have professional archaeologist talks, have certification programs, have special sessions for children. Some even conduct archaeological surveys or even excavations in conjunction with universities that the members can take part in. They don't sell artifacts, and if they talk about artifacts, it is within context, where it came from, what it was used for. It is this second kind of association that holds the most promise for learning about the past and contributing to the science of archaeology, even if you are not a professional. And future archaeologists come from avocational groups.
Finding a Local Group
So, how do you find an avocational society to join? In every American state, Canadian province, Australian territory, and British county (not to mention almost every other country in the world), you can find a professional archaeological society. Most of them keep strong ties with the avocational societies in their region, and will know who to contact. For example, in the America continents, the Society for American Archaeology has a special Council of Affiliated Societies, in which it maintains close contact with avocational groups that support professional archaeological ethics. The first place to look is right here, where I've collected pages from the professional organizations on affiliated societies.
We Need You
And to be perfectly honest, the archaeological profession needs you, needs your support and your passion for avocational archaeology, to grow, to increase our numbers, to help protect the archaeological sites and cultural heritage of the world. Join an amateur society soon. You'll never regret it.