07/17/2014 09:00 EDT | Updated 09/16/2014 05:59 EDT

Albertans Join Archaeologists To Help In Prehistoric Dig

René Mansi via Getty Images
Armchair archaeologists are getting the chance to help excavate a prehistoric site alongside University of Calgary experts this week.

The dig has been taking place at Blackfoot Crossing National Historic Park near Cluny, at the site of an ancient fortified village. The archaeologist leading the dig says it's important that ordinary people are able to help discover the stories that will shape the telling of Alberta's history.

"Our knowledge is public knowledge, and we should be involving the public in the production of that knowledge as much as we can," said Dale Walde, a professor with the University of Calgary's archaeology department.

The fortified village is the only one of its kind on the Canadian Plains.

The people who lived there constructed pits, trenches and a palisade to serve as apparent defensive structures. 

But the site wasn't only designed for the purposes of battle — there is evidence people made beads, pottery, clothing and food there as well.

Archaeologists have so far found bone and food residue that suggests residents ate bison, dog and other mammals, large and small.

For the people taking part in the dig, it's getting harder and harder to leave as the progress continues.

"I was signed up for five days and I'm here on Day Six because I realize that I can't just leave this," said Bern Weinhold, a retired aircraft mechanic and now volunteer archaeologist. "It's getting really interesting."

Only six volunteers are allowed at the site each day. Each has to pay the daily admission fee to Blackfoot Crossing National Historic Park, which is $12 for an adult and $8 for children and seniors.

The program will run until August 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. MT on Monday to Friday.

Anyone interested in volunteering can find instructions on the University of Calgary's public excavation program website.

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