Project Description

This program admits only four students. Tuition has been significantly reduced through generous support provided by Ms. Connie Downing. Application deadline for this program is January 30, 2018. Student selection will be announced by February 9, 2018. Students do not need to apply separately to the Connie Downing Scholarship — Application to this field school is the same as application to the scholarship. 


Site NKAH 5500 contains the remains of a Norse farm nestled in the Vatnahverfi Region of South Greenland. Vikings from Iceland settled this area in the 10th century AD and for many centuries survived by raising livestock, farming and hunting. Although there are many theories why the Norse abandoned Greenland in the mid-1400’s, many questions remain unanswered. A few centuries later, colonial era Inuit farmers resettled Vatnahverfi and created a way of life very similar to the Norse—a way of life that continues to this day. This cultural landscape was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in July of 2017 and bears witness to a rich and vibrant history of human adaptation to the land and sea in the circumpolar North.

This cultural heritage is now under severe threat. Only a few decades ago, preservation of archaeological materials—such as bone and wood—was outstanding due to the cool dry climate and permafrost in South Greenland. Conditions are now quickly changing. Warming soil temperatures, erosion and human impacts are threatening Greenland’s archaeological record. NKAH 5500 represents one of the few remaining Norse sites in South Greenland where preservation is still relatively high and urgent attention is needed to document what is left before it is gone.

This field school is a four-week adventure in a rugged environment that will provide students with a crash course in Arctic Archaeology. Students will learn how to identify sites and features through landscape survey, perform “keyhole” excavations and learn how to document their observations quickly and efficiently. Students will not only learn about archaeological field methods but will have the chance to interact with the local community and gain insight into emerging issues of global climate change impact on cultural resources in the Arctic. Due to the urgency of the situation at NKAH 5500, emphasis will be placed on rapid and efficient intervention techniques in the field. This program is RPA certified (Register of Professional Archaeologists) and will benefit students who plan to pursue cultural resource management work in the future.

Download Syllabus

Course Details

  • Course Dates: July 1-July 31, 2018
  • Enrollment Status: CLOSED
  • Total Cost: $2,950
  • Course Type: Field Archaeology
  • Payment Deadline: April 20, 2018
  • Instructors: Dr. Hans H. Harmsen
  • Online Orientation:  May 19, 2018, 1:00 PM PST
Program Closed


The directors welcome emails and inquiries about the research elements of this project. More general information (tuition, health insurance, and payment schedule) can be found under the ‘Students’ tab above. Any further questions may be addressed to IFR staff. Additional details about research, course schedule, travel, accommodation, and safety can be found on the syllabus. Contacting the directors or the IFR office is encouraged and appreciated. It may help you determine if this field school is a good fit for you.

Dr. Hans H. Harmsen
Dr. Hans H. Harmsen
Archaeologist/Curator, Greenland National Museum and Archives, Research Assistant Professor, SUNY at Buffalo
Dr. Christian Koch Madsen
Dr. Christian Koch Madsen
Archaeologist and Curator, Greenland National Museum and Archives; Post-Doc, National Museum of Denmark
Michael Nielsen
Michael Nielsen
Archaeologist/Collections Manager, Greenland National Museum and Archives


This is a new IFR field school. There are no student testimonials available at this time.

Tuition Includes:

  • Costs of instruction
  • Cost of Academic Credits
  • Room & board
  • All local transportation
  • Health Insurance

Student Fees

A nonrefundable deposit of $500 is required to secure a seat in this program.  This program requires an application (no application fee is requested). Only accepted students should pay the deposit fee. Deposit fee is part of the program Tuition. The remaining tuition, minus the $500 deposit, must be paid prior to the tuition deadline (see above under “Course Details”).

Important Note: If you were accepted to this program but did not cancel your participation by the tuition payment deadline, you are legally responsible for the full tuition regardless of attendance in this program. Please read the IFR Cancellation Policy for further clarification.

  • A 2.5% Processing Fee is automatically assessed for all credit/debit card payments
  • A $100 Late Fee will be assessed if full tuition payment is not completed by the deadline.
  • Look at the field school syllabus above for room & board details.


On site—where the majority of the field school will take place—we will be camping. You should bring your own tent, sleeping bag, air mattress etc. of good quality that are suitable for high winds and night temperatures that may drop to below freezing. You will receive information before we leave detailing the equipment for which you will be responsible. Water will be collected from local springs for cooking and drinking. This is a rugged and isolated environment with absolutely no supermarkets or stores in the immediate area. Toilet facilities are basic but functional. Our toilets are frequently renewed, open-air (with privacy screens). Arrangements will be made with a nearby farmer to access shower facilities during the weekends.

Meals: All food during the course of the field school is inclusive. All meals will be communal events and provide nutritious but basic food with what can be obtained in the nearby towns. We take turns cooking and doing the washing up, allowing budding chefs an opportunity to wow us all. It is not possible to accommodate special dietary needs in this remote location. This is due to the lack of ingredients that can be purchased in the immediate area.

Travel Info

All students are responsible for arranging their own transportation to Narsarsuaq, Greenland and arrive on Saturday, June 30. Students travelling from North America will most likely travel through Reykjavik, Iceland (KEF) and have to transfer to the local airport for a connecting flight (AirIceland) to Greenland. Students travelling from the EU and other countries will most likely connect through Copenhagen Airport (CPH) and will layover in Kangerlussauaq International Airport (SFJ). Upon arrival in Narsarsuaq, students will be met by members of the project team outside the baggage terminal. Students should ensure that they have sent their time of arrival to Drs. Harmsen and Madsen in advance. This program concludes on Monday, July 30 when we arrive back at Narsarsuaq. Students may depart for their return home, or onward travel, anytime on Tuesday, July 30.  

If you miss your connection or your flight is delayed, please call, text, or e-mail the project directors immediately. A local emergency cell phone number will be provided to all enrolled students.


A valid passport and evidence of return or onward travel are required to enter and depart Greenland. All travelers entering Greenland should have a passport that is valid for at least 90 days after they depart their country of residence. The ideal amount of validity time that should be left on your passport when you depart a country should be roughly 6 months. Students travelling through Iceland will pass through Icelandic immigration prior to arrival in Greenland and may be asked to provide proof of their participation in the field school. We will provide this letter of participation to all students prior to departure.

Student Safety

Student safety is paramount for the IFR. Unlike many universities who are self-insured, the IFR purchases a range of high end insurance policies from some of the largest insurers in the world. Students in all our international programs have a comprehensive health insurance policy. It covers sickness, and chronic and mental health conditions at 100% of the cost. We have a strong evacuation and extraction policy. We can remove students from any location anywhere in the world with one phone call – whether medical evacuation, political or natural disaster extraction and anything in between. We purchase intelligence services from a global private provider and monitor the world 24/7. We automatically enroll our students to the US State Department STEP program. All of our students receive safety orientations both before and on the first day of each program. Our faculty have all been working in the areas where we operate field schools for years. They are intimately familiar with local customs and traditions, know the landscape well and have deep relationships with local communities.

All our domestic programs are coordinated with local authorities which are informed of our operations. Students in domestic programs are covered by their own health insurance and evacuations are managed by local emergency services, as appropriate.

The IFR has strong, explicit and robust policy towards discrimination and harassment in the field (click here for a shortcut). If students feel they cannot discuss personal safety issues with the field school staff, the IFR operates an emergency hotline where students can contact IFR personnel directly.

Travel does involve risk, but we try to minimize this risk as much as possible. Call us at 877-839-4374 or email us at if you have questions about the safety of particular programs.