Shoals History and Archaeology

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!

Please note: 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. If you have any questions about the program or the dig site, please contact us!


The trip out to Appledore departs from Portsmouth on Monday, August 26 at 1:45 PM. Please arrive at the dock at 1:00 PM.


On Thursday, August 29 the boat departs Appledore at 2:30 PM and will return to the mainland between 3:15 and 3:30 PM.

Click here for the 2019 syallabus.


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
Hollyhocks in Celia Thaxter's Island Garden.

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. This program is open to adults 18 years and older.
(603) 862-5346

Event Video