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. Together, students and staff explore diverse ways of sharing our research results with professionals, host communities, and the broader public and consider how various communities value archaeology and history. Students are full participants in fieldwork, laboratory analysis, and write-up activities contributing 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). This field school is certified level RPA-6 by the Register of Professional Archaeologists.

2014 Field School Excavation
Excavating during the 2014 field school.

Field school participants earn 7 upper-division undergraduate or graduate credits through the University of Arizona. Students participate in archaeological survey, excavation, laboratory analysis, experimental archaeology, and the preparation of field reports to achieve the following course objectives:

  • Understand the principles of preservation archaeology and its role in shaping past and present research in the Southwest
  • Acquire and apply the basic skills of archaeological excavation, survey, and experimental archaeology
  • Understand and discuss the physical and social landscape of the archaeological sites on which we work and their relationship to broader issues in Southwestern prehistory
  • Develop working strategies and write notes and reports that apply the logic of archaeological thinking to fieldwork, laboratory analysis, and applying the data we gather to answering anthropological questions
  • Think critically about issues of archaeological ethics and the value of archaeology for various communities
  • Acquire and demonstrate personal skills in teamwork, collaboration, and leadership vital to working as part of a research team
  • Participate in local community outreach events and learn to communicate scientific information to a range of different audiences. See what past students presented at our annual Archaeology Fair.

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.

Puddled Adobe Experiment
Adding puddled mud to experimental adobe room walls.
Atlatl Team
Taking aim with atlatl darts.

Our days off include field trips to nearby archaeological and historic sites. Past field seasons have generally included visits to other archaeological field schools in the area, national parks and monuments (including the Gila Cliff Dwellings, El Morro National Monument, and Chaco Canyon), and Native American communities (including the Tohono O’odham Cultural Center and the Pueblos of Zuni and Acoma). These trips provide insights into the broader context of our field work within Southwestern archaeology, and the ways in which local and descendant communities connect with archaeological sites and research.

Students at Chaco Canyon
On the overlook at Chaco Canyon.