Unearthing Utopia: A Hands-On Dig Into The Life of The Shakers - Atlas Obscura
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New Lebanon, NY

Unearthing Utopia: A Hands-On Dig Into The Life of The Shakers

This Memorial Day weekend, set out on an archaeological expedition with DigVentures to excavate the ruins of America's biggest Shaker settlement.

Seize the rare opportunity to become an archaeologist for a day on this special adventure brought to you by DigVentures and Atlas Obscura. Together, we'll unearth remnants of the largest and most industrious of all the Shaker settlements in New Lebanon, New York.

The Shakers, or "Shaking Quakers"—named after the fervent ecstatic dancing that characterized their worshipping services—set off from England in pursuit of the perfect life in 1770, thus creating the longest-lived American utopian experiment in history. While Shakers are internationally recognized for their aesthetic of simplicity, contemporary scholars are now challenging this popular romantic image through new evidence from places like Mount Lebanon.

First, we'll investigate the history of the Shakers with a guided visit to the North Family site at the Mount Lebanon Shaker Village, hosted by Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon. Mount Lebanon was the leading Shaker society in America for 160 years from its founding in 1787 through its closing in 1947, and the North Family was its face to the wider World, composed of some of the most progressive and public Shakers in history. 

Following the tour, we'll be treated to lunch on site with a team of archaeologists.

Then, we'll grab trowels and hop in the trenches at the Darrow School to begin our archaeological training. DigVentures’ professional archaeologists will guide us as we search for evidence that could unveil more about how the Shakers really lived, and help to rewrite our understanding of their mysterious society.



  • The group size is limited, be sure to get your tickets early.
  • Meet at The Shaker Museum at Mount Lebanon at 11:30 for a 1-hour tour.
  • Your lunch at The Darrow School is included with the cost of this event.
  • Following lunch, we'll hop into the trenches at The Darrow School and wrap up on site by 5 p.m.
  • DigVentures will provide all archaeology kits and supplies needed.
  • We recommend bringing sturdy boots, water, and weather-appropriate clothing (sunhats, sunscreen, bug spray, waterproofs).
  • 12-16 year olds who wish to purchase tickets must be accompanied by an adult who is also booked on the dig.
  • This event will happen rain or shine.


Getting There

For those visiting from New York City, we recommend taking Amtrak, Greyhound, or Peter Pan to Pittsfield, MA. From there, it is a short cab ride to the site. Transportation is not included in the ticket price. 

For those looking to extend their journey, The Shaker Museum provides a number of recommended historical lodging locations.


About DigVentures

DigVentures is a team of professional archaeologists that runs excavations that are open to public participation. They launched the world's first crowdfunded dig in 2012, and since then their international community has continued to help the team make some seriously impressive discoveries: They've located the original Anglo-Saxon monastery on Lindisfarne, solved the mystery behind an Iron Age hillfort in Gloucestershire, and even unearthed a rare Bronze Age barrow in Lancashire. DigVentures’ biggest passion is enabling people to get involved in archaeology, and they have even built a digital archaeological recording system to enable people around the world to follow their discoveries online, in real time.


About Samir Patel, Your Atlas Obscura Guide

Samir S. Patel, Deputy Editor at Atlas Obscura, is a science journalist, photographer, and editor based in Brooklyn. Before his tenure at Atlas Obscura, he was in the same position with Archaeology Magazine. He has reported from six continents and covered a wide range of topics, including archaeology, climate change, art conservation, neuroscience, chemistry, wildlife biology, business, crime, and social justice. 



Email larissa.hayden@atlasobscura.com.

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Advance tickets only. All sales final. No refunds or exchanges.