Field Schools


Field schools (typically offered in the summer) provide an excellent opportunity to learn valuable research skills within a discipline while practicing it alongside experts. While most field schools focus on archaeological field and laboratory methods, others center on primate behavior, paleontology and paleoanthropology, forensic anthropology, ethnographic research methods, or cultural documentation.

Our department typically offers one or two field schools each summer (ANTH 3221). Current field schools include: 

Dr. Kieran McNulty offers a paleoanthropological field school in rural Kenya where students learn techniques of excavation, fossil survey, stratigraphy, comparative anatomy, and taphonomy in the context of ongoing research on early fossil apes. This field school provides 6 academic credits for participants, and it typically runs every other year with approximately 15 students. (Next season: Summer 2024)

Dr. Ed Fleming, Curator of Anthropology at the Science Museum of Minnesota, offers an annual archaeological field school in the Upper Midwest where students learn and practice techniques of archaeological survey and excavation, mapping and documentation, soil description, and artifact recovery and documentation. The field school ties into ongoing research focused on documenting the Precontact archaeology of the Upper Mississippi and Lower St. Croix river valleys. This 6-credit field school is typically located within driving distance from the Twin Cities and students commute each day. (Next season: Summer 2023)

If you are considering a field school that is not offered by the University of Minnesota, there are several important considerations. First, do your due diligence. There are many excellent programs that focus on education and training. These are typically operated or supported by academic institutions and involve faculty instructors. Field experiences organized around generating free labor and income from participants are to be avoided. 

Second, decide whether you want academic credits. Some field schools offer a credit-option, typically with an added tuition fee. If you’d like the credits to count towards your UMN major, you will need to request a syllabus from the sponsoring program and send it to our Director of Undergraduate Studies for review. Likewise, getting credit from an international field school requires working in advance with the Learning Abroad Center to ensure that all legal and University of Minnesota requirements are met. You should begin this process as soon as possible, as the approval process can take time. If you do not need or want academic credits, a field school can still provide invaluable hands-on experience and can be listed on your resume for graduate school or field-related careers (e.g., Cultural Resource Management). Credit or no, doing your research ahead of time to make sure you have a good experience is critical. 

Third, be sure that the field school advances your personal or professional goals. People attend field schools for a variety of reasons, and it is important to consider your own aims and motivations when choosing one. If your aim is to gain practical experience in excavation techniques, then you may be able to do that conveniently and cheaply at a local or regional project. Your aim may instead be to work in a particular country, on a specific type of site, or with a certain research team. Whatever your goals, be sure that the field school you choose advances them. 

Fourth, carefully consider all the costs associated with the field school and be sure you understand the pricing and refund policies. Program announcements will often list only the cost of the field school itself, but there are always associated expenses. These can include travel to the field site, clothing/shoes for field work, international travel visas, vaccines, and medications, and sometimes even room/board. If you typically work during the summer, loss of that income is also a cost. If you are getting academic credits, it can be possible to use federal financial aid to pay for tuition provided you still have some remaining for that academic year.  

The department of Anthropology may occasionally have limited funds to offset these costs.  A call for proposals will be announced in the spring semester if funds are available.

Students interested in careers related to archaeology should especially consider adding a field school to their program. Graduate programs view this as valuable preparation, and the same is true for firms specializing in Cultural Resource Management. Archaeology field schools are also a useful way to form connections and networks with scholars working in regions, with certain methods, or on particular time periods that are of special interest to you and that may help position you for your graduate school applications. 

You can find many archaeology field schools listed here: Archaeological Institute of America: Fieldwork.

Please note that the same approval processes apply for any of these that are not directly offered by our department.

More information

For more information about current and upcoming field schools, contact a departmental advisor.