Contribution starting at $2,850
Exported from Streamline App (
7+ days (avg. $407 a day) Includes accommodations, food, and all related research costs
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Discovering Ancient Societies in Portugal

Muge, Salvaterra de Magos, Santarém, Portugal Map it
Lead Scientist
Activity Level
Very Easy
Couples Rooms possible
Dinner at local restaurants
Special diets accommodated


This Earthwatch project has added safety measures to allow for responsible fielding of volunteers and field staff at this time.


This project has added safety measures to allow for responsible fielding of volunteers and field staff at this time.

Those measures include

  • Proof of vaccination requirement
  • Adapted logistics to allow for physical distancing and ventilation where possible
  • Face mask use when required or requested
  • Daily health checks
  • Safeguards for the local community
  • Site-specific plans for quarantine, testing, and patient care prepared in advance

When reading the Online Expedition Briefing, please keep these adjustments in mind.

Bone remains discovered in Portugal
Earthwatch volunteers excavating in Portugal
Volunteers working together in the field
Volunteers conducting participating in a hands-on archaeological dig
Volunteers comparing their archaeological discoveries in Portugal
Volunteers sorting artifacts in Portugal
Scenic view of Portugal's Tagus river
Bone remains discovered in Portugal
Earthwatch volunteers excavating in Portugal
Volunteers working together in the field
Volunteers conducting participating in a hands-on archaeological dig
Volunteers comparing their archaeological discoveries in Portugal
Volunteers sorting artifacts in Portugal
Scenic view of Portugal's Tagus river

Contribute to the conservation of one of Portugal’s National Monuments, while finding clues about the transition from hunter-gatherer to farming populations. Better understanding the past will give us an improved understanding of our cultural societies today.

Archaeology in Portuguese vineyard

Around 8,000 years ago, Central Portugal underwent a dramatic shift in lifestyles from hunting and gathering to farming and herding. This transition, known as the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, remains one of the most controversial issues in prehistory archaeology, attracting significant archaeological debate and extensive research. The common-held belief is that hunter-gatherers disappeared from Central Portugal around 7,000 years ago, and later, farmers and herders settled the area. But now, archaeologists are uncovering clues contradicting this.

By analyzing bone tools, shells, ornaments and human remains, researchers will trace the transition between these periods to better understand the complex changes not only in technology and subsistence, but also in how people thought about themselves and the world around them, as well as the nature of their social interactions.

Join researchers in Tagus Valley, Portugal, one of the most important regions to study this transitional phase, and help discover the answers to establish a timeline. You’ll excavate, sifting for tools and human remains, while working to preserve part of Portugal’s natural and cultural heritage.



A Typical Itinerary

  • Day 1: Meet, travel to field site
  • Days 2-6: Excavate at field site, analyze artifacts, process findings in lab
  • Day 7: Departure

You also have the option of joining a two-week team.




When you arrive, the researchers will conduct an orientation and brief you on the work you’ll be doing and the importance it has for the preservation of cultural heritage. Field work will begin on Day 2, where you will rotate between:


Volunteers excavating muge mesolithic shell mounds
Excavating Muge Mesolithic shell mounds

You will assist researchers in excavation at the site by helping record data, operate software, screen sediment, and collect archaeological samples.

Volunteer analyzing ancient Portuguese artifacts
Analyzing artifacts

In the field, you will wash and dry-brush artifacts, and bag, label, and photograph materials.

Volunteer processing finds from the field
Processing findings in lab

In the lab, you will wash, sort, and label archaeological findings as well as assist with examining plant and animal remains that are clues to the diet of those that lived there. You might have an opportunity to help analyze human remains, should they be discovered on site.


Field conditions and research needs can lead to changes in the itinerary and activities. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.





3 Reviews on this Expedition

If you have been on this expedition, others considering attending would love to hear about your experience.
Jennifer Lauer | September 13, 2019
This was a great expedition, I enjoyed it a lot. The staff was particularly fantastic: everyone was very friendly and knowledgeable and happy to talk to us about all aspects of the project. We were able to spend a lot of time in the field, in the lab, and in the evening, talking and getting to know each other. They were some of the best staff I've worked with on an expedition. They took the time to explain and demonstrate what they needed to be done, and they worked with us constantly.
Naomi Hsu | August 14, 2019
This was my first time participating in an archaeological excavation, and I couldn't have asked for a better experience. The research questions animating the project are intriguing, and the work we did was a balanced sample of the extensive variety of tasks involved in collecting and preparing archaeological data for analysis. Our daily schedule included a combination of digging, recording the 3D location of larger excavated items with a total station, sieving sediment to identify smaller items, and processing excavated items in lab. The team from the University of Algarve--Lino, Joana, Meghan, Roxane, Joao, and Celia--was truly wonderful and exceptionally dedicated. Every one of them was consistently attentive and supportive during both fieldwork and lab work, and very fun and engaging during off-hours. Through them, we were introduced to many aspects of Portuguese culture: the amazing cuisine (with dinner--including wine--out each night), the language, some of the major traditions (including lively visits to a summer festival), and certain perceptual and behavioral nuances. For me, that kind of cultural enrichment during the expedition was as valuable as the archaeological experience. For accommodations, we were graciously hosted at Casa Cadaval, a beautiful and very comfortable historical wine estate where fellow participants gathered in a charming breezeway on the 2nd floor to enjoy breakfast, lunch, and downtime. All in all, this expedition was spectacular.
Warren Stortroen | September 9, 2018
Our very spacious and comfortable quarters were on the second floor of the palace on a large old farm and winery called Casa Cadaval! My room with large bath was nicely furnished and the bed with duvet was wonderfully comfortable. We had a well stocked kitchen down the hall and an airy breezeway dining area for our breakfasts and lunches. While eating we watched a pair of storks that had a nest on a nearby chimney. The countess and her wine taster held a very nice wine tasting for us one afternoon! Each morning we drove past the vineyards and a horse pasture to our dig site in a cork oak grove only 10 minutes away. The site was an ancient shellmidden - a mound made up almost entirely of crushed seahells of many kinds, fire-cracked rock, charcoal, fish bone and animal bone, together with some quartz or chert flakes or possible tools.. We excavated small units and when we had a full bucket would screen it for the small ltems. The fire-cracked rock and all larger items were recorded in place using a total station laser, and bagged individually. We found several fairly large pieces of bone and my best finds were a complete horse tooth and a red deer antler. The weather was hot and dry, but the dig site was shaded by a canopy and we did our screening under a large cork oak tree, so generally it was quite pleasant work. The archaeologists Joao. Celia and Lino with graduate assistants Elena and Roxanne were all great to work with! They were always cheerful and helpful, and provided everything we needed to do the work efficiently. Because of the heat we left for the site at 7:30 AM and returned around 12:30 or 1:00 for a two hour lunch and rest before washing and sorting the artifacts and helping with other lab work. Dinner at 7:30 PM was quite an event! We usually ate at an excellent local restaurant specializing in fresh seafood, with shrimp, mussel and other seafood appetizers, very generous meals, local wine and a great selection of desserts! I have been on over 100 Earthwatch expeditions and have never been treated better than on this one! The work was fascinating, the countryside was beautiful and the people were wonderful I definitely rate it as one of my all-time favorites!

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Supported stories

Blog Post

When I Was 17, My Life Changed.

At age 17, Taormina Lepore boarded a plane for the very first time on her way to an archaeological excavation as an Earthwatch student fellow, funded by the Durfee Foundation.

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