Archaeologists typically get their first hands-on research experience through a field school. Field schools, therefore, are crucibles for our profession. Not all field school students eventually become professional archaeologists, but all who participate have formative experiences. Students discover more about themselves as they work with intense focus in a group supported by basic living conditions. Working with others in a new place, particularly among people that are culturally different from those at home, creates lifelong memories.
Yet, not all field schools are created equal. Some are so remote that only the barest vestiges of life in the industrialized world remain. Such field schools are thrilling, full of discoveries of both the archaeological record and of self – but they are not for everyone. For those ready to push the envelope, remote field schools are experiences that shape character and future, providing adventures that can rarely be repeated in regular life. In 2017, the IFR offers two such programs, each pushing the envelope in a different and unique direction.
Our South Africa- Spitzkloof field school explores early human adaptation to the environment in the rugged and remote areas of the Richtersveld region of Namaqualand. For the duration of the program, students live in tents in front of the Spitzkloof rock shelter and cook on mud stoves built the first day. The nearest town is a five-hour drive away, and a water tank is brought to the site only once a week. In this remote, dry place, students get a true feel for the life experience of the rock shelter ancient inhabitants.
At the other end of the spectrum, students in the high jungle field school at Colombia-Ciudad Perdida climb upward for three days, with machete-wielding guides, through the hot, mosquito-infested jungle, just to get to the site. This is an endurance expedition. Mules, staff and students all carry some of the food and equipment needed for the project. Mule trains bring fresh supplies periodically. Once there, archaeologists study the network of roads that connected Ciudad Perdida to cities belonging to a great civilization that has disappeared beneath the jungle with its people, who died following contact with European diseases almost 500 years ago.
These two field schools are directed by significant, young scholars who are well-equipped by experience to work in these remote locations. If you know students who would thrive in these challenging field schools, please encourage them to take a look.
IFR offers numerous scholarships so that high quality field schools can be affordable to students, with both merit and need based scholarships available.