SAAarchaeologicalrecord - Society for American Archaeology

SAAarchaeologicalrecord - Society for American Archaeology


A lighter moment among the students at the University of Michigan-University

of Minnesota excavations at Tel Kedesh in Galilee, Israel.

you get the most out of the overseas experience as a whole. Therefore,

in addition to instruction in archaeological techniques, field

schools may include a lecture course about local archaeology or

organized visits and tours of local sites and museums.

True field schools also often feature the option of academic credit

from the sponsoring university or institution. For those hesitant

about traveling or living in a foreign country for the first

time, this type of project tends to provide a more supportive

environment than volunteer projects. The disadvantage of a

field school is, of course, the cost, as you will most likely have to

pay for all of your travel expenses, a field school fee (which usually

includes room and board), and, in some cases, tuition as

well. Also, those interested in having extensive contacts with

locals may find participating in an organized field school somewhat

restrictive. Finally, field schools tend to be more selective,

and the project director will be looking for someone who can

contribute to as well as learn from the project and who can conduct

him- or herself maturely in stressful situations.

Once you have an idea of what kind of project you want to join,

where do you look to find the specific project that is right for you?

Start by asking your professors and other students in your department.

You will get the most useful information by talking to people

you know, trust, and who are familiar with a project firsthand and

know the archaeologist who runs the project. You may also find

that your own university sponsors an excavation; this situation is

ideal because it often increases your chances of obtaining academic

credit as well as financial aid for participation. You should also

look at the Archaeological Fieldwork Opportunities Bulletin published

annually by the Archaeological Institute of America (information


as this is the most comprehensive

listing of excavation opportunities available. The Archaeological

Fieldwork Opportunities Server (

afos/testpit.html) and the “dig” listing on K. Kris Hirst’s

archaeology page (

index.htm) are also useful.

Paying For It All

When you have found a project and made arrangements to participate,

the next big question is, how do you pay for it? If the oldfashioned

way—earning the money yourself or begging it off

your parents—is not an option for you, again start by asking your

academic adviser, professors, and classmates for ideas. Also ask

the secretary or staff assistant in your department, as he or she

will likely know more than anyone else in your department about

the financial ins and outs of your university and may know of

scholarships or research money for which you are eligible. If you

are a graduate student, your university probably has competitive

grants for summer research for which you can apply. Increasingly,

such grants are also available for undergraduate students

(usually with a name like “undergraduate research opportunities

program”): ask your adviser or your departmental secretary if

these programs exist at your university. You may have better luck

obtaining such grants if you include a true research project as a

part of your plans for your time overseas: research at museums

or sites abroad to follow up on a term paper you have written,

similar research for an undergraduate honors thesis, or even a

masters thesis. Indeed, many grants can only be used for

research and not for “educational expenses” such as a for-academic-credit

field school. In this case, the grant money can cover

your travel and research expenses, and then you can stay on overseas

for the field project.

You should also inquire at your university’s study abroad office

about financial aid possibilities. The study abroad staff will

probably only be able to help if you are participating in a field

school for which transferable academic credit is given, but if

this is in fact the case, the staff should be able to give you information

about summer scholarships and loans for what is effectively

study abroad. For more information on archaeology and

study abroad in general, see “A World of Possibilities: Study

Abroad for Archaeology,” a Student Affairs Committee column

written by Jarrod Burks (SAA Bulletin 18[1], http://

Participating in an overseas dig can be a wonderful experience.

It can also, however, be a terrible one. And your own persistence

and patience can make all of the difference. Choose your project

carefully, ask questions up front about what will be expected

of you and what you can expect in return, and be persistent in

your search for funding. When you are finally abroad, be tenacious

in following up on the things that are important to you

and be patient with the unexpected circumstances that will

inevitably arise. And have fun!

26 The SAA Archaeological Record • May 2002

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines