What We Do: Investigations

Preservation Archaeology Field School

The Preservation Archaeology Field School will return to Mule Creek and the Dinwiddie site May 27–July 5, 2015. Applications will be due March 6, 2015. Watch this space for updated program and application information.

2015 Field School Banner


The 2014 session ended on July 5. Read about student projects here.

The Preservation Archaeology Field School in southwestern New Mexico will convene from May 27 through July 5, 2015. This unique six-week program provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to learn excavation, survey, and analysis methods in a beautiful, remote, and archaeologically rich part of the American Southwest. Eligible undergraduate students will receive financial support through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program (see “Application and Registration” for details on eligibility and funding; NSF Award No. 1359458).

Our innovative curriculum highlights the goals, ethics, and practice of Preservation Archaeology, which integrates research, education, and preservation within a community-based framework. Together, students and staff explore ethically responsible and scientifically rigorous field and research methods while investigating compelling questions about our shared past.

In 2015, students will participate in test excavations at the Dinwiddie site near Cliff, New Mexico. People lived in this adobe pueblo from about A.D. 1300–1450. Artifacts and architecture here show a mix of influences, perhaps including traditions originating in northeastern Arizona’s Kayenta area (part of the Ancestral Pueblo homelands), or from various local Mogollon groups before 1300. At the Dinwiddie site, community members participated in a new ideology that we call Salado. Our research is focused on understanding how different earlier traditions combined under this ideology and allowed people of various cultural backgrounds to live together. Key questions include what kinds of pottery the site’s residents made and used and how this changed over time, how they used local plants and animals, and where they obtained raw material for stone tools, particularly obsidian.

The field school will begin at Archaeology Southwest’s Tucson headquarters, where students will take part in a three-day orientation to the principles of Preservation Archaeology. The remainder of the program takes place in Mule Creek, New Mexico.

Project Location and Amenities

Our field camp lies at 5,200 feet above sea level in the scenic valley of Mule Creek, New Mexico, between Safford, Arizona, and Silver City, New Mexico. Students and staff camp on the Rocker Diamond X Ranch, a working cattle ranch with basic yet comfortable accommodations. Students provide their own tents and camping equipment. Camp amenities include a comfortable outdoor solar enclosure, portable toilets in camp and at our work site, and a camp house with electricity, running water, and kitchen where a professional cook prepares project meals using locally sources ingredients.

Expenses for weekend field trips are covered by the field school fee, including lodging and occasional restaurant meals. We also provide transportation during the field school, including field trips and transportation between Tucson and Mule Creek at the beginning and end of the program.

During our orientation in Tucson, field school students reside in University of Arizona campus housing (also covered by the field school fee).

Course Goals and Activities

Through immersion in a six-week experiential learning program, students learn the fundamentals of Preservation Archaeology and archaeological fieldwork, as well as research design and implementation. The program fosters critical consideration of how various communities value archaeology and history, and we explore diverse means of sharing our research results with host communities and the broader public. As active participants in fieldwork, laboratory analysis, and write-up activities, students contribute to Archaeology Southwest’s long-term study of demographic change, migration, and community organization in the southern U.S. Southwest during the late precontact period (ca. A.D. 1200–1500).

Students work in small groups throughout the program, rotating through training modules that offer different but complementary skill sets. In addition to excavation skills, students learn how to locate and document sites on survey and assess their condition, and how to process and analyze artifacts in the lab. An experimental archaeology module includes activities such as building a replica pueblo room and tutorials on flintknapping and atlatl throwing. Lectures, field trips, and public events expand these essential skills and present real-world opportunities to practice the principles of Preservation Archaeology.

In addition to participating in daily field and lab activities, students will complete field notes and contribute to an excavation unit summary written for professional audiences. Students will also complete a short research project for presentation to the public at an outreach event for the local community.

Students interact with local experts and distinguished faculty from several academic institutions. Field trips include tours of major archaeological sites in the region, such as Chaco Canyon and the Gila Cliff Dwellings, and visits to modern pueblos such as Zuni and Acoma. Days off include optional trips to Silver City, the Gila River, or other nearby attractions.


Karen Gust Schollmeyer is a Preservation Archaeologist at Archaeology Southwest. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Arizona State University in 2009. Her  interests include long-term human-environment interactions; food security and landscape use; and how archaeologists’ long-term insights can be applied to modern issues in conservation and development. Her research has been published in American Antiquity, the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, Kiva, and various book chapters. She has directed numerous field schools in southwest New Mexico.

Jeffery J. Clark is also a Preservation Archaeologist at Archaeology Southwest. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 1997. Dr. Clark has worked extensively in Southwest Asia and the southern U.S. Southwest. His primary research interest is assessing the scale and impact of ancient migration using archaeological data. He has written extensively on the topic, including one monograph, an edited book, several book chapters, and articles in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, American Antiquity, Kiva, Journal of Field Archaeology, and Journal of Archaeological Research.

Additional staff members: The project directors will be joined by several other experienced staff members who combine academic, nonprofit, and cultural resource management (CRM) backgrounds. Check back soon for details.

Application and Registration 

The application form is available here (opens as a fillable PDF). Enrollment is limited, and applications received by March 6, 2015 will receive priority. Applications will be accepted until the course is filled.

Once accepted, students will register for one three-credit lab course and one four-credit field course through the University of Arizona. The courses are Anth 455a and 455b, section 2 (undergraduate credit) or Anth 555a and 555b, section 2 (graduate credit). Please check with your advisor about transferring University of Arizona credits to your home university.

The field school is limited to 10–14 students, graduate and undergraduate. All eligible undergraduates (see below) will be supported by the NSF REU program in 2015. Graduate students and foreign students will be considered for admission to the field school, but are not eligible for financial support through the REU program. Students from backgrounds historically underrepresented in scientific research (including tribal organizations, community colleges, or colleges with limited STEM research opportunities) are particularly encouraged to apply.

In order to be eligible for this REU opportunity, undergraduate student participants must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions. An undergraduate student is defined as a student who is enrolled in a degree program (part-time or full-time) leading to a baccalaureate or associate degree. Students with summer graduation dates may participate, but students who will receive a BA or BS before the field school begins are not eligible for REU funding. Students who are transferring from one college or university to another and are enrolled at neither institution during the intervening summer may participate. High school graduates who have been accepted at an undergraduate institution but who have not yet started their undergraduate study are also eligible to participate. Each REU student will receive a stipend of $2,860.

Tuition and Fees: Tuition and fees for University of Arizona summer school are the same for in-state and out-of-state students. Summer 2015 tuition has not yet been set, but in 2014 was $2,868 for undergrads and $3,190 for graduate students for seven credit hours. Non-UA students must also pay a one-time application fee of $65. A $1,200 course fee covering lodging and transportation costs associated with the field school is due at registration.

Student Testimonials

Going to Archaeology Southwest and University of Arizona’s Field School at Mule Creek was one of the best decisions I’ve made and a great experience. And if you’re nervous about living in a tent, trust me, it’s really not that bad. When you go back home, you’ll actually miss it. — Kelly S., 2012, Rutgers.

I attended the Mule Creek field school after my sophomore year of college. The six weeks I spent in Mule Creek were some of the most exciting weeks of my life! The staff and ranch owners were amazing, and their passion and enthusiasm for archaeology were very apparent. The skills I gained allowed me the opportunity to be part of a bioarchaeological excavation team in Peru the summer after. Not only did I learn proper excavation skills, but I also learned the intricate processes at play when running an archaeological excavation in terms of community, landowner, and project member interactions. — Zoe M., 2011, UVM

One of my best experiences at field school was the chance to experience some experimental archaeology. Working with instructors, we learned how to quickly identify and classify points, flakes, and techniques. In addition to seeing the artifacts, we also had the opportunities to perfect our own point-making skills by knapping the abundant obsidian in the area while having the aid of experienced instructors nearby. — Nathan T., 2012, U. of Arkansas

The field trips we went on were wonderful. Acoma Pueblo and Chaco Canyon are both memorable and awe inspiring, to say the least! — Jordan T., 2012, Eastern New Mexico U.

I had a great time at the Mule Creek Field School. The staff members created a positive atmosphere and were always willing to answer questions. I learned a great deal about field methods, the lives of ancient Puebloan peoples, and the ins and outs of archaeology in the Southwest. The staff kept things interesting with activities like flintknapping, outreach to local schoolchildren, and field trips to nearby archaeological sites. The trips to Chaco Canyon and Acoma Pueblo were particularly spectacular. I feel my experiences at Mule Creek will be valuable throughout the rest of my archaeological career. — Tom S., 2012, Arizona State U.

I attended the field school after earning my BA in Anthropology. It was my first foray into the world of archaeological fieldwork. After five weeks, I had acquired the skills I needed to be hired on with several cultural resource management firms. I cannot recommend the Preservation Archaeology Field School enough. — Jake M., 2011, Hendrix College

I have nothing but good things to say about my field school experience with Archaeology Southwest. My six weeks there were informative and truly prepared me for my future education and career. In the classes I’m taking now, I have less stress and understand concepts much faster because of my field experience. — Madeline W., 2012, Grand Valley State

The field school offers an accurate field experience alongside academia. There were multiple field trips, including sleeping under the stars at Chaco Canyon! It was a very comprehensive experience that has aided me in my career. — Elizabeth N., 2012, U. of Colorado, Boulder

I can honestly say that the Preservation Archaeology Field School was one of the greatest experiences of my entire life thus far. Mule Creek is a beautiful location. With the rolling hills in the distance and the roaming wildlife all around, you forget that there is a much crazier world out there. I learned more than I ever thought I could and had fun doing it. It can be hard work at times, but I loved every second of it. — Dan W., 2011, SUNY Binghamton