DigUNI showcases archaeology program with campus excavation

Make sure to dress properly when attending DigUNI, as it is a hands-on event.


Make sure to dress properly when attending DigUNI, as it is a hands-on event.


As a part of Family Weekend festivities, DigUNI is hosting an open house Saturday, Oct. 22, from noon to 2 p.m. Students, their families and any interested community members get the opportunity to experience an open excavation site firsthand. The showcase is located on the south part of campus in the field along Jennings drive–south of the creek and east of the observatory–where archaeology students will be looking for remains of the Hillside Courts student housing that was built in the 1970s. 

Donald Gaff, Ph.D., UNI anthropology professor, says the event is to “showcase our campus archaeology program which provides hands-on learning opportunities to students interested in careers in archaeology, history or historical preservation by carrying out a real excavation on UNI’s campus.” 

It is a unique experience for visitors to witness as it is not just set up for a superficial showcase reason. In fact, students have been working on this project since the start of the semester and already have several open excavations. The event is an “actual, working research project,” Gaff says. This open house is used for students to learn more about outreach or what is generally called Public Archaeology. Students involved in the archaeology program have the opportunity to volunteer for a wide range of events taking place during the Homecoming week or Family Weekend. During these events they are able to gain experience working and interpreting the sites for visitors. 

This event along with the students and faculty working it hope to open the eyes of people that have never experienced these things before. Gaff says, “One of the benefits of attending is to experience archaeology firsthand and discover that it’s not quite what is seen in TV and movies.”

The benefits of this DigUNI event do not stop there. In fact, it is an exclusive way to experience and be involved in campus history. The things students will be looking for will help garner an understanding of life at UNI some 50 years ago and can be used for further investigation and research on both a university and student level. The campus history here is rich and this is another opportunity to learn more about it, beyond looking through artifacts at the UNI Museum at Rod Library. 

If hoping to attend the event, there are some things to keep in mind. Since the excavation site is in a remote part of campus and in a natural setting, Gaff highlights that visitors should be dressed not just for the weather but for walking in a field. “Since we will be actively shoveling and screening, we can’t guarantee that visitors will be kept clean,” he says. Think of it like another unique part of the experience. And finally, note that in case of rain, this DigUNI showcase will be canceled.