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  • Sunday, April 01, 2018

    Wounded Warriors Can Learn Hands-on Archaeology

    ALBANY, NY – Wounded warriors and veterans with disabilities have the opportunity to learn hands-on archaeology, thanks to the veteran-owned American Veterans Archaeological Recovery (AVAR) charity. AVAR has launched a project with DigVentures, the archaeology social enterprise,  to conduct an archaeological dig southeast of Albany from 22 May to 3 June. The project is supported by an education grant from the National Geographic Society.

    Archaeological dig

    Wounded warriors on a 2013 archaeological dig. AVAR photos.

    A unique initiative in the United States, AVAR uses the similarities between archaeological excavations and the military environment to assist American military veterans with disabilities in their transition to civilian life. Led by veterans Stephen Humphreys and Mark Reed, AVAR will work with serving soldiers from Fort Drum and local veterans to train them in transferable skills, expose them to American history, and help them to re-engage with other veterans.

    Interested veterans may apply through AVAR’s website at

    With National Geographic’s funding, AVAR will place and provide support for a fully-funded team of 20 American service members and military veterans on the first systematic excavation of Mount Lebanon, the largest and most important Shaker settlement in the United States, overseen by DigVentures’ staff.  The site is now home to Darrow School, an independent college preparatory school, which has been a conscientious steward of the site’s unique heritage as well as active participants in the project.

    DigVentures Managing Director Lisa Westcott Wilkins notes: “Darrow is the most significant site for the study of the Shaker community in America, so the research is already very exciting. Working with AVAR will take the project to a whole new level of significance…”

    DigVentures is a social enterprise dedicated to making the archaeological experience more accessible. Supporters are able to join their excavation teams in the trenches or the on-site lab, or participate from the comfort of home through DV’s innovative online app, Digital Dig Team, which provides up-to-the-minute news and data from the trenches. DigVentures’ field school program is accredited by the UK’s Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA), and since 2012, DV has trained people from all over the world in archaeological field skills and techniques.

    Anne Penso

    Staff Sgt. (Ret) Anne Penso participates in a 2016 excavation.

    This will not be the first time veterans from Fort Drum have participated in AVAR’s excavations. Staff Sergeant (Ret.) Anne Penso, shown here participating in AVAR’s first project in early 2016, said: “Working with AVAR on their project in Malton, England allowed me to incorporate skills I learned from the military with the new skills I learned during the dig. It helped me realise I can still be productive despite my physical limitations. It was great for my recovery and reintegration into the civilian sector.”

    Stephen Humphreys, co-founder of AVAR adds: “‘The support of both National Geographic Society and DigVentures at Darrow is a game-changer in our on-going mission to use archaeology to help America’s service personnel and veterans. This site features great archaeology, the support from the Darrow community has been overwhelming, and DigVentures provides world-class training. The evidence shows this program can help people and we hope this project will let American veterans know we’re here for them.”