Field School

The Department of Anthropology’s Field School is an adventuresome, well-rounded training program in archaeological field work.

Archaeology Field School

The Department of Anthropology’s Archaeology Field School offers field based training in archaeological research and methods

Archaeology Field School - Read More…

Field Living Conditions

Anticipate widely variable physical conditions when conducting research in the Department of Anthropology’s Field School.
The specific research sites for 2017 field school will be determined and announced soon.


Keep in mind that summers in interior Northern California are hot and dry. Temperatures greater than 90 degrees are typical for the Central Valley, coast ranges and much of the Sierra Nevada, and extreme heat (100 degrees or higher) is possible. Strong daily temperature variations are expected, with possibility of overnight temperatures dropping into the mid 50s or lower.
While rain is uncommon in the summer months, brief showers or thunderstorms can occur, and must be anticipated.
The Accommodations page discusses additional environmental safety concerns.
Important: Be prepared for hard, physical work and life without certain amenities and comforts during the duration of the six-week program. Layering clothing is essential to accommodate changeable environmental conditions.
Students are expected to be present the entire duration of the six-week course, and are required to work Monday through Saturday. Students will have the opportunity to partake in field trips and excursions to surrounding areas and attractions.


Participants typically camp outdoors for the entire six-week field school. Students are expected to participate in cleaning and cooking at camp. All food will be provided by the field school but prepared by the students. Breakfast usually consists of oatmeal or other cereal, fruit, coffee, and juice; lunch, which is packed before leaving the camp for the dig site, typically includes a sandwich, crackers or chips, a sweet snack, and fruit; rotating student crews prepare dinner. We accommodate vegetarians, and are sensitive to other basic dietary restrictions (within reason), so please list all such concerns on the application.
We hope to create a pleasant camp community. Students must supply their own tent in which they can remain comfortable for the entire six weeks. A –four-person tent would be a good choice, so that you have plenty of room to move around inside. Cooking and camp meetings take place under a large tent that the Department of Anthropology supplies.
Camping may be either in primitive or developed campgrounds. Electricity may not be available at the campsite. Access to showers and laundry facilities may be limited (at the very least, a few enclosed solar showers will be constructed for privacy).


Risks accompany research in the field, so compliance with safety procedures is essential. The Department of Anthropology has prepared field safety guidelines encompassing water sources, sanitary facilities, hygiene, medical cautions including vaccinations and first aid, fire safety, skin protection, wildlife, dangers associated with archaeological excavation, and avoidance of becoming lost.


The field school will provide transportation to and from the camp and work sites, as well as on excursions. Students who are interested in driving their own vehicles must obtain permission from the field directors.

Field School Equipment

Here is the inventory of required and optional gear for Field School participants.
Most of the gear on this list would be great to have, but keep in mind that costs for equipment can add up. If this is the only time that you will be using this gear, buy only essential items, and see if you can borrow other equipment from friends or family members.
This is a four-week course, so keep comfort in mind. Even after a full day in the field, you will have a lot of camp time to use as you wish, so be sure to bring forms of entertainment, such as books, crossword puzzles or games.

Personal gear

  • Backpack or duffle: This should be something in which to pack all your personal belongings for the entire six weeks. We will be limited on space in vehicles, so limit it to one duffle or backpack containing the most necessary items.
  • Tent: If you want sufficient room and dislike feeling confined, consider a four-person or a two-person tent. Costco, Target, Sports Authority, Big Five and some other retailers all tents at reasonable prices ($60–$80). Don’t skimp too much on this, because it is going to be your home for four weeks.
  • Ground cloth for your tent: an inexpensive plastic tarpaulin works fine.
  • Sleeping pad: Thin foam mats may be fine for a weekend backpacking trip, but you might want something thicker for six weeks in the field. You can double up foam mats or maybe consider an air mattress (no bigger than single bed size if you’d like to fit more than just the mattress in your tent).
  • Sleeping bag: You don’t need a heavily insulated one intended for freezing weather, but make sure you have something that will keep you warm with nighttime temperatures in the 50s.
  • Pillow: You can purchase a small camping pillow or just bring a regular size one. That’s not a must-have item, but it will help keep you comfortable.
  • Flashlight or headlamp. Headlamps work best because they are hands free.
  • Mug: A good multi-use mug for hot and cold beverages.
  • Alarm clock: You will be responsible for waking yourself up each morning and will need a battery-powered alarm clock or watch with an alarm. Don’t rely on your cell phone or any other device that needs to be recharged periodically. Our access to electricity will be limited.
  • Two water bottles: We recommend the 1-quart size. Nalgenes work best, but anything that holds water that you can carry around will work. Camelbak 2-liter hydration bladders are ideal for survey work.
Working in field conditions requires adequate protection from sun, vegetation, rocky ground and other potential sources of injury while at the same time trying to remain at a comfortable temperature. Strong work pants (such as jeans, Dickies, Carharts) are recommended, along with long-sleeve shirts (especially for survey work) to protect from the sun and vegetation. In some circumstances, working in shorts and T-shirts may be possible. We recommend layers of clothing so you can adjust for cool mornings and hot days, as well as more comfortable camp clothes for off-duty hours. Bring plenty of socks, T-shirts and underwear, and remember that everything will be getting extremely dirty and worn out.
  • Pants: Old jeans and khakis work well in the field. Comfortable pants make a huge difference in the field. If you have to purchase some cheap jeans or work pants, try a store like Wal-Mart, Kmart, or the thrift store.
  • Shirts: Same idea here as with the pants. Old T-shirts and tank tops work best, as the potential to re-wear after field school is low. Remember, the days will be hot, so stick to materials that breathe well.
  • Socks: The type of socks are really up to you. You don’t necessarily need thick wool ones, but it wouldn’t hurt to have some quality pairs. Try to bring a week’s worth of socks.
  • Shoes: Old tennis shoes work out great. Hiking boots are fine and can protect your feet if you plan to go on hikes and for survey work. The key is comfort, and protection of your feet from aching. While working you will need to wear closed-toe shoes.
  • Hat: A hat of some sort – a straw hats, a baseball cap or a wide-brimmed cowboy hat -- will protect you from the sun and help to keep you cooler during those hot days. A bandana can offer some protection, too.
  • Top layers: A good lightweight windbreaker jacket can be very helpful. Fleece is light and warm and fairly inexpensive. Cotton Sweatshirts are OK, too, but make sure you will be warm enough if the nights become chilly.
  • Rain gear: A good set of rain gear is important to have on hand. Any hardware store should have a two- or three-piece set of rain gear for under $20. You may look like a fisherman but you will be toasty warm and dry when it rains. We may also use rain gear if we wet-screen.
Bring a couple of changes of clothes that will be comfortable when we are hanging out at camp after work. Temperatures will be hot during the day and cool at night, so bring some comfortable clothes with that in mind.

Field gear

Make sure to label all your gear with your initials or a personal symbol.
  • Pointy trowel: A Marshalltown size 5 trowel is the standard model people for archaeological field research. Look for it in the masonry equipment section (not in garden supplies) at a hardware store.
  • 2m folding rule and 5m metric tape: Make sure they are metric! It’s OK if they have both standard and metric scales.
  • Line level: Plastic is fine, and it should cost about $2.
  • Paintbrush: Nice to have at least one; a used is fine.
  • Field bag: The most common is a standard backpack. An electrician’s bag or tool bag also can be sufficient. Just make sure you have something that you can put all of your stuff in.
  • Reusable lunch box or bag, for trash.
  • Work gloves: Leather or imitation leather gloves will work best. They can become worn out quickly, so you may want to bring two pairs.
  • A bound field journal: You will be required to keep a journal while in the field. The 6-by-8-inch composition books with the black-and-white covers that most school bookstores sell is fine.
  • Small root clippers.
  • Sharpie pen: Black, fine point.
  • Pencils: Mechanical or regular. Bring lots of cheap ones, because they get lost.
  • Flat-nosed trowel: Great for edging. If you are going to buy one optional piece of equipment, get this.
  • Knee pads or foam gardening pad: This isn’t required, but is highly recommended. You’ll spend a lot of time kneeling while you excavate, and the ground can be very unforgiving.
  • Ice pick or dental tools.
  • Flagging tape.
  • String.
  • Small hand broom and dustpan.
  • Toothbrush: Great for cleaning off artifacts.
  • Compass: If you are going to buy a compass make sure it is declination adjustable. If it is not you are out of luck. A good Silva compass is the best, particularly the Silva Ranger.
  • Clipboard

General gear

  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen: It will be sunny and hot! Make sure to bring lots of sunscreen.
  • Aloe vera and sunburn cream: Just in case you do get a sunburn.
  • Bug spray
  • Personal medications.
  • Personal toiletries.
  • Batteries for everything.
  • Swimsuit: You may have access to a river or lake for swimming.
  • Towel.
  • Sandals or flip flops.
  • Gum, candy, other snacks, and drinks: For personal consumption
  • Cooler: You will not be able to store any personal food or drinks in the camp coolers, so you may want your own.
  • Camping chair
  • Earplugs
  • Books, games, playing cards, iPod (but keep in mind that you may not have access to an electrical source for recharging).
  • Mobile phone: Wireless connectivity in remote areas may be poor or nonexistent.

Suppliers for gear

  • Certain to have everything you need to assemble your dig kit. Very archaeology friendly. See the environmental science subcategory.
  • CSP Outdoors: Not quite as broad a selection, but if they carry it, they usually have the absolute best price you can find. Search for "archaeology and geology gear," but be aware that the full selection of useful items might not be listed under "archaeology."
  • Another major outdoor equipment supplier. It's similar to Forestry Suppliers, but prices may not be as good, and it's not archaeology-oriented.

Field School Fees and Scholarships

Enrollment in Anthropology Field School requires payment of Summer Sessions tuition plus a program fee.
The Summer Sessions office administers the tuition fee, with separate charges for UC Davis students and for students from other institutions. An additional program fee will apply to all students.
Students enroll in the anthropology course ANT 181 through UC Davis Summer Sessions for 5 summer session units, for which the tuition is charged. The program fee underwrites the cost of transportation from UC Davis to field sites, transportation while in the field, camping fees, food, and excavation equipment. Additional costs may include personal gear and any additional personal items.
Tuition for summer sessions field courses is NOT REFUNDABLE. You will be billed and remain liable for fees even if you withdraw or cancel your enrollment in Summer Sessions Field School.


Students who enroll in Field School may be eligible for supplemental scholarship funding through the Institute for Field Research, an independent, nonprofit academic organization. The IFR website also lists other sources of scholarships.

Field School Photo Gallery

These photo galleries illustrate the exceptional experiences of our Field School participants during recent years.