How Do I Choose the Best Archaeology Field School?

Tiffany Manley

Choosing an archaeology field school can be a big decision given the number of options available in many areas. To determine which might be right for you, find schools that will allow you to actively engage in both field work and lab work as this will give you a well-rounded excavation experience. You might also choose to look for an archaeology field school offered by an accredited institution that also provides course credit. The type of archaeology being conducted, who the research is for, and whether new discoveries are being unearthed regularly are other things you might consider.

Megalithic sites like Stonehenge are often used to acquaint archaeology students with prehistory.
Megalithic sites like Stonehenge are often used to acquaint archaeology students with prehistory.

Perhaps one of the most important things to look for when choosing an archaeology field school is how active you will be. It is generally best to look for schools that will allow you to actively participate in the dig and excavation work as well as lab work. In addition, try to find a school that encourages you to write your own research papers while providing opportunities for you to present and publish them. Sometimes it is possible for you to contribute to the lead archaeologist’s research papers, adding to your potential publishing opportunities.

Top archaeology programs should balance field work with laboratory study.
Top archaeology programs should balance field work with laboratory study.

An archaeology field school run by an institution that has developed a course of study based on standards set forth by an accrediting organization might be a good choice. This generally means you will be learning what is considered to be the standard for education in your field. Obtaining course credit from your attendance might also be valuable to you.

Since there are many types of archaeology, determine what the focus of the dig in question is. If you would like to focus on prehistoric history, a Roman history dig might not be the best option if others are available. Also find out who is running the dig, and for what reason. You want to ensure you will be performing meaningful work. Many consider ones run by professors to be the best, although field schools run by graduate students sometimes offer a great opportunity as well.

An archaeology field school that has been in operation for a number of years and that is still producing finds is generally your best option. While valuable lessons can typically still be learned at most sites, the experience you will gain from working on an active site will likely help you with future endeavors. If you are unsure about what is currently happening at a site, call the director and ask.

A good school will allow students to participate in dig and excavation work.
A good school will allow students to participate in dig and excavation work.

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