Jordan High School teacher Kay Ensign starts an archaeology club to teach students about ancient Indian lifestyles.
Steve Manning spends weekend after weekend of his own time cataloging literally thousands of ancient cliff drawings, some dating back thousands of years.
Several Salt Lake residents donate almost 3,000 hours of time to assist archaeologists in excavating two sites prior to inundation by Great Salt Lake pumping.
Prehistory enthusiasts in northern Utah discover 48 previously unknown archaeology sites, reporting their finds to professional archaeologists.These examples represent only a small fraction of the active participation by non-professionals now involved in archaeology research. But they also reflect the mushrooming popularity of amateur archaeology in Utah.
"Two years ago, we had one small chapter of the amateur archaeologists," said State Archaeologist David Madsen. "Now we have eight chapters and more than 350 members actively involved."
Actively involved means exactly that. Trained amateurs under the supervision of professionals are involved in everything from meticulous cataloging of information to actual excavations and laboratory research.
In two years, amateur archaeology has risen from insignificance to a role of critical importance in identifying and protecting the state's prehistoric resources.
Most amateurs are part of the Utah Statewide Archaeological Society, which has several chapters scattered along the Wasatch Front as well as Moab, St. George, Richfield, Price, Vernal and Bluff.
According to Madsen, the state-sponsored promulgation of amateur archaeology stems from the findings of a governor's task force on archaeological vandalism. That study reported that wholesale destruction of prehistoric resources could not be curbed through the efforts of law enforcement.
Education, the report said, was the key.
At the same time federal agents were making arrests for archaeological vandalism, "We kept hearing complaints from people who were sincerely interested in archaeology, but who had been excluded from the process by the professionals," said Madsen.
Madsen determined the state needed to develop and promote a way to give the amateurs a way to express their interest in a constructive way.
"The only way to protect these sites was to get the local people to view them as their own. If they have a personal interest in them, they have a personal interest in protecting them," he said.
The state, which issues permits for all archaeological excavations, has now developed policies that require professionals to use amateur archaeologists in the field. For example, archaeological mitigation studies in the West Desert used amateurs, and most mitigation studies for new road construction require the use of amateur archaeologists.
"Like all state agencies, we don't have enough money to do everything that needs to be done," Madsen said. The amateurs "come in and donate thousands of hours, and it's that much less that comes out of taxpayers' pockets."
LaMar W. Lindsay, the assistant state archaeologist who coordinates all projects with amateur archaeologists, says the role of amateurs is not to replace the professionals but to support their work.
"It takes six to eight years to train them," Lindsay said. "As they progress, they will become more and more involved in scientific research. Eventually, some will have the chance to publish in journals."
USAS is the outlet to educate those who are sincerely interested in archaeology and to provide hands-on opportunities within professional guidelines. As the state involves more amateurs, the popularity of amateur archaeology has grown by leaps and bounds.
State officials predict that as many as 3,000 people will belong to USAS in coming years, of which maybe 1,000 will be actively involved in projects. In the future the USAS will publish a regular archaeology publication to promote Utah amateur archaeology.
The state also hopes to work hand-in-hand with USAS to develop and promote archaeological sites as tourist attractions.
"We'd like to give them money now to stabilize and promote what we've got," said Madsen. "But we don't have the money."
USAS is taking its role seriously, and professional archaeologists, though reluctant at first, are now taking them seriously. At a time when less money is available for archaeological research, amateurs offer a way to significantly cut costs, making more research possible.
Amateurs involved in USAS are supervised and advised by professionals and are never allowed to excavate on their own. The amateurs also have a four-tiered accreditation process whereby they can be trained in the sciences of archaeology and preservation. Each level requires about 15 training sessions at two to three hours each some of them at considerable personal cost.
So why do they do it?
"I know it sounds trite," said amateur archaeologist Skip Webb, "but we wish to preserve the past for others to enjoy. And we have a real thirst for knowledge."