HARTVILLE – George Zeimens is looking for a few good young people.
Zeimens, director of the Western History Center near Lingle, is offering summer internships for youth age 14 – 18 to learn about some of the pre-history of eastern Wyoming and perhaps earn some money for school. Starting in early June and running through mid- to late-July, Zeimens and volunteers at the Powers II archaeological site here want young people with an interest in archaeology and history to help them plumb the secrets of the site.
“We could probably use another 10 kids, if we can get them to sign up,” Zeimens said Monday via telephone from the dig site in Platte County north of Guernsey.
This year marks the 31st year of the youth volunteer program. Students will have the opportunity to work alongside both amateur and professional archaeologists from universities in Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and beyond.
“We have people come out during the summer from coast-to-coast,” he said. “They spend a week or two helping out at the site.”
Student volunteers will be hosted in an on-site camp with meals provided, Zeimens said. And, at the end of the six- to nine-week program, they will receive an educational stipend for their efforts.
“If the kids go all the way through the program, we work them pretty hard,” Zeimens said.
Stipends can vary with the amount of donations the site has received for that year, but typically range from $700 to as much as $1,200. None of the “staff” of the dig take any pay for their work, but it still costs about $40,000 annually for the program, Zeimens said.
The youth volunteers “can put that (stipend) away for their education, they can buy clothes for school,” he said. “Whatever they need.”
The duties of the student volunteers run the full gamut – from fine work with hand tools on the site to shoveling and screening soil samples to extract artifacts. Whatever they’re doing, though, it’s a chance to be a part of something important, Zeimans said.
A couple of specific projects the crews will be working on this year include addressing erosion issues at the site where Paleo-Indians dug for red ochre some 13,000 years ago. Red ochre had a variety of uses, from a pigment for dyes to an abrasive for polishing ivory and bone to use as a preservative for wood, bone and skin. The substance also appears to have had ceremonial significance for the groups who’d periodically visit the site.
Zeimens and his crew area also studying ways to secure the site, which sits on private property, for the future.
“It’s on private property,” he said. “The land owner has been great to work with and recognizes the importance of the site. But it’s a piece of property he made a big investment in and it’s got to work for him, too.
“The red ochre mining was done up on a hillside and it keeps eroding,” Zeimens said. “This is a super significant site and we can’t just let it erode away.”
Zeimens asks anyone interested in the student volunteer program this summer contact him at (307) 575-2010 as soon as possible. Work at the site is planned to begin around June 4 and he’d like to know how many volunteers he has.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for kids to work on an important site,” he said. “This might become a World Heritage Site at some point in the future and there are only 23 of those right now in the United States.
“There’s no other site like it on this continent,” Ziemens said. “This is something they’ll be able to look back on and say, ‘Hey, I worked on that.’”