The Big Dig Florida

Treasure seekers now have a new spot in Central Florida to dig for Native American artifacts.

Written by Melissa Peterson 

Searching for treasure is something that has intrigued the old and young alike since the beginning of time. Now there’s a new way to dig for ancient artifacts right here in Central Florida thanks to Rob Jones, president and founder of The Big Dig Florida, which opened in 2022. 

Photo courtesy of The Big Dig Florida

As a lifelong artifact hunter who has spent the last 30-plus years digging for and collecting Florida artifacts, Rob realized there was nothing like this in Florida. 

“I wanted to make this thrilling and adventurous experience available to fellow outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs like me who have a passion for ancient Florida Native American relics,” says Rob. “Over the years, I had constantly been approached by people asking where and how to find these treasures, and I wanted to expand the experience outside of the very tightknit artifact community to make it available to more ‘artifact-curious’ people.”

The Big Dig Florida operates on what are known as lithic scatter sites and encampments, which means that early inhabitants of the area lived, fished and hunted there over various time periods and left items, such as stone, shell and bone tools, as well as stone debitage and pottery shards, behind.

“We have a deep respect for these ancient Native people and their heritage and customs,” says Rob, “and The Big Dig Florida is meant to honor and educate people about their lives and our early Florida history. We of course stay away from sacred or historically significant sites, like burial mounds, and abide by all state laws and customs surrounding them so that they are not disturbed.”

There are two ways to experience The Big Dig Florida. Rob offers both screen digs and hand digs. For visitors who choose the screen digs, the company brings the dirt to them and places it on a four-person screen table in front of them. Visitors then stand and sift the dirt through the screen openings on the table to reveal the artifacts. They bring the artifact-laden dirt to each table continuously throughout the day, and there is no limit to the number of loads processed on each table. They supply gloves and a great lunch from the Cherry Pocket Restaurant.

For hand digs, diggers bring their own shovels and equipment and are allowed to dig within designated areas on the site. If visitors do not have their own tools, the company has plenty of shovels for visitors to borrow. Both types of digging are rewarding, and cultural materials will be found with either dig service. Unlimited cold bottled water is provided for all diggers.

“Typically, our visitors will find stone tools and arrowheads and projectile points—whether whole or broken—that were used by early inhabitants to hunt, kill and process the foods that they harvested,” explains Rob. “They also find shards of ancient hand-made pottery that was used to cook, serve and store their food. At times, they may also find decorative items like stone and bone beads, modified shark teeth and other bone relics that adorned the ancient Native Americans’ clothing, hair, tools and lodgings.”

The current Big Dig Florida site is located in Polk County between Haines City and Lake Wales. Nearby is the Cherry Pocket Restaurant and Resort that offers RV camping and cabins. Current rates for The Big Dig Florida are $250 per person for screen digs and $100 per person for a full eight-hour day. Children under 12 can hand dig for free with a paid adult reservation. 

“The feeling of finding something that was crafted by human hands thousands of years ago and hasn’t been seen or touched in millennia is a feeling that is very hard to describe,” says Rob. “I really enjoy sharing this experience and that feeling with others. Seeing someone find their first ever artifact is truly fulfilling and special.”

The Big Dig Florida