NSF REU Site: Preservation Archaeology Field School

Update (3/23/2020):

The 2020 Archaeology Southwest-University of Arizona Preservation Archaeology Field School has been canceled. Director Karen Schollmeyer has issued the following statement:

“It is with great regret that we share the news of the field school’s cancelation. The University of Arizona has asked that all in-person courses during the time of our field season be canceled due to safety concerns surrounding COVID-19.

“We had a wealth of amazing applicants, and we were truly looking forward to learning with our students, staff, and tribal and community partners. I know our supporters were looking forward to our annual blog posts from the field, too. Although we are disappointed, we are looking ahead to our return in the summer of 2021.”



Join us for the Preservation Archaeology Field School in southwestern New Mexico, May 25 through July 5, 2020. Offered by Archaeology Southwest and the University of Arizona, this unique six-week program provides students with an opportunity to learn excavation, survey, experimental archaeology, and laboratory methods in a beautiful, remote, and archaeologically exciting part of the U.S. Southwest.

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Undergraduates will receive a stipend to support their attendance through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program (NSF REU 1851763). Applications are due March 6, 2020.

Our innovative curriculum highlights the goals, ethics, and practice of Preservation Archaeology, which integrates research, education, and preservation within a community-based framework. We share what we learn throughout the project with the public via local events, blog posts, and other venues. Together, students and staff explore ethically responsible and scientifically rigorous field and research methods while investigating compelling questions about our shared past.

In 2020, students will participate in test excavations at the Gila River Farm site near Cliff, New Mexico. People lived in this adobe pueblo during the Cliff phase (A.D. 1300–1450). Artifacts and architecture here show a mix of influences, 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 Gila River Farm site, community members participated in a multiethnic 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 begins in Tucson, Arizona, where students take part in a three-day orientation to the principles of Preservation Archaeology at Archaeology Southwest and the University of Arizona. The remainder of the program takes place in Cliff, New Mexico.

This project is committed to increasing the diversity of views represented in archaeology, including improving communication between archaeologists and nonprofessionals and between researchers with different backgrounds and training. Students from backgrounds and institutions traditionally underrepresented in archaeology (including small colleges and community colleges) are especially encouraged to apply.

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Project Location and Amenities

Learn about where you will camp and what you should plan to bring.


Course Goals and Activities

We will teach you the fundamentals of Preservation Archaeology, archaeological fieldwork, as well as research design and implementation.



Meet the faculty and staff for the upcoming Preservation Archaeology field school season


Application and Registration

Read your application and tuition details, and see if you qualify for REU funding.


Student Testimonials

See what students from past seasons are saying.