Shoals History and Archaeology

ATTENTION: All registered public program attendees are required to 1) read our 2021 Operating Plan, 2) visit our Getting to Shoals page to review the necessary travel and pre-arrival COVID-19 testing information, 3) register using the link in the Dates section below, and 4) complete our Overnight Participant Forms.  

Photo of the Smuttynose Island archaeological dig site
Smuttynose Island dig site.

Participate in an archeological dig on Smuttynose Island, Isles of Shoals, Maine! Spend half-days working on the excavation near the Haley House, afternoons taking walking tours of historical sites on Smuttynose and other Shoals islands, and evenings learning about life on Smuttynose from the 1600's to the 1800's through pottery, domestic animal bones, buttons, coins and other finds from the Isles of Shoals Archaeology Project. Participants will reside at the Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island, a 10-minute boat ride from Smuttynose Island.

This program includes walking tours of both Appledore Island and Star Island to look at the historical landmarks and settlement history of the Isles. Learn about the Haley family's store, ropeworks, and orchard on Smuttynose, the Star Island fort, and Appledore's 17th century school!

Additionally, Celia Thaxter's cottage site is located on Appledore, just behind her famous island flower garden which has been reconstructed by SML. You will learn more about the other Appledore homes around Celia's cottage, and about life on Appledore during the Appledore House era of the 19th century. There will be plenty of time to visit Celia's garden during this program!

Read this Seacoast Online article about the dig efforts and discoveries!

Click here for the 2019 syallabus.

Due to the nature of this program, participants should be comfortable climbing in and out of an inflatable boat from both a floating dock and from a beach landing site. The terrain is not extremely rigorous, but the islands are rocky and uneven.

Departure from Portsmouth, NH:

Tuesday, August 24: early/mid afternoon (exact time TBA)

Departure from SML:

Friday, August 27: early afternoon (exact time TBA)

Please note: We are currently building our roundtrip vessel transportation schedule for all Overnight Public Programs, and we will be posting those times to our website once the they have been finalized. We understand the urgency for arranging air travel for folks coming from afar, and we will be sure to contact all registered participants when those times are live on the website. Thank you! Participants should anticipate the total boat transit time to be approximately 90 minutes.

SML boats will run rain or shine, so long as the captain deems it safe to travel. Passengers should come prepared with appropriate clothing in the event of rain or high winds (ocean spray). If the captain deems travel unsafe, boats schedules may be impacted until the weather passes. Communications regarding any weather-related delays will come via email and telephone from SML's main office.

Cancellation Received:

  • At least 30 days before departure = 100% refund
  • 29-15 days before departure =  50% refund
  • Less than 15 days before departure = 0%


Start Date End Date Registration Deadline Register
August 24, 2021 August 27, 2021 Sunday, August 1, 2021 Register


Nathan Hamilton, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Archaeology, University of Southern Maine

Dr. Hamilton received his Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh, and has been teaching at the University of Southern Maine since 1987. He is an instructor in American and New England Studies and teaches New England Historic Archaeology and Native American Cultures of New England. At USM he taught the Environmental Archaeology Field School with a focus on the research interest of Prehistoric Maritime Adaptation in the Holocene. Nate has co-directed the Isles of Shoals Archaeology Project with Dr. Robin Hadlock Seeley since 2007, running a field school for undergraduates on Smuttynose Island through the Shoals Marine Laboratory.

Robin Hadlock Seeley, Ph.D.

Senior Research Associate, Cornell University

Dr. Seeley grew up on the Maine coast, graduated from Bowdoin College, and received her Ph.D. in biology from Yale. She has been interested in archaeology and history all her life, and did her Ph.D. thesis based on snail specimens from the 1871 wing of the Appledore House. She was on the academic staff of Shoals Marine Laboratory for 10 years (2007-2017) where she co-taught Evolution and Marine Diversity. She studies invasive species in the archaeological record and in recent history, and sustainable seaweed harvesting. Robin has co-directed the Isles of Shoals Archaeology Project with Nate since 2007, running a field school for undergraduates on Smuttynose Island through the Shoals Marine Laboratory. 

Cancellation Policy:

Cancellation received

  • At least 30 days before departure = 100% refund
  • 29-15 days before departure =  50% refund
  • Less than 15 days before departure = 0%

Haley House on Smuttynose Island.
Photo of Dr. Nathan Hamilton pointing to a picture of the Appledore House Hotel
Dr. Nate Hamilton
photo of a hollyhock in Celia Thaxter's island garden
Smuttynose digsite. 

Event Type

Price is per person. All-inclusive with: overnight accommodations, all meals, snacks and beverages, all program activities, and round-trip boat transportation between Portsmouth, NH, and Appledore Island. Space is limited due to our vessel and housing capacities, so reserve your spot soon! This program is open to adults 18 years of age and up.
(603) 862-5346

Event Video