Project Description


What was the nature of interaction between Neanderthals and our own ancestors – Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH)? Did AMH replace Neanderthals, contributing to their extinction? Or, was there interaction between the species and at least some Neanderthals absorbed into the AMH genetic line? The site of Vale Boi is a superb location to examine these, and other exciting questions related to the evolution of our species. Covering a time span between ca. 33,000-13,000 years ago, preservation conditions at the site, especially of organic fauna materials, are superb. Vale Boi shows evidence of both Neanderthals and AMH presence, making it ideal to study AMH-Neanderthal interactions. Located in coastal Southern Portugal, Vale Boi offers all the excitement of archaeology with comfortable living at an area catering to global tourism. This program combines lectures, excavation and laboratory training, providing students with the rare opportunity to explore and document one of the most interesting and important moments of the human career:  the emergence of our own species.

Download Syllabus

Course Details

  • Course Dates: Jul 1-Jul 31, 2017
  • Enrollment Status: CLOSED
  • Total Cost: $4,450
  • Course Type: Field Archaeology
  • Payment Deadline: April 21, 2017
  • Instructors: Prof. Nuno Bicho, Dr. João Cascalheira
  • Orientation:  TBA
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.

Prof. Nuno Bicho
Prof. Nuno Bicho
Prof. Bicho is the Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Archaeology and Evolution of Human Behaviour, Universidade do Algarve (Portugal).
Dr. João Cascalheira
Dr. João Cascalheira
Dr. Cascalheira is a Post Doctoral Researcher and Lecturer at the University of Algarve (Portugal).


Vale Boi is one of the archaeological sites of the Algarve which antiquity brings great interest to the Portuguese Palaeolithic. My experience on the site this summer was very gratifying, both professional and at the human level, made up by professionals from different fields. Although my specialty is lithic technology, working with a multidisciplinary team is essential for the archaeological knowledge, especially if the people you work with end up becoming good friends, sharing experiences both inside and outside the site. On the other hand, it is a great opportunity to meet people from neighboring countries, as well as a culture nearby. In this sense, besides the importance of the site, Vale Boi is located in a unique place in the south of Portugal. I definitely recommend this excavation for those interested in Archaeology as a good way to learn the methodology of excavation and the processing and investigation of archaeological remains.

Lydia Calle , University of Seville
I rather stumbled into the opportunity to go to Vale Boi and work for a field season. I had never been to Portugal and certainly spoke no Portuguese. But, I was welcomed with open arms into the “family,” making this project one of the most incredible field experiences of my career thus far. And, I owe a lot to this experience. Vale Boi was the turning point in my career which made me realize I wanted to focus on the European Paleolithic. Never before had I worked at a rockshelter nor through occupations several thousands of years older than what I had ever excavated in the US. How incredible it was to step so far back in time! Overall, Vale Boi was such an unbelievable adventure, facilitating immense growth in my abilities as an archaeologist and researcher.

Annie Melton, University of Minnesota
I first attended Vale Boi excavation back in 2012. It was not my first excavation, yet it was a learning experience that marked my career. The site will offer you a chance to learn current advanced archaeological methods both in excavating and artifact analysis. You will be able to excavate a very complete sequence composed of lithic tools, faunal remains, adornments, charcoal, among others. The team is composed of highly experienced professionals who will give you one on one instructions and will support and help you grow through the process. As someone who has been working on pre-historic international contexts for the last 6 years, Vale Boi is still to this day my go-to site that I return to every year. If you are considering being an archaeologist and especially a pre-historian, Vale Boi’s field school is a must have experience.

Pedro Horta , University of Algarve

Tuition Includes:

  • Costs of instruction
  • Room & board
  • All local transportation

Student Fees

A deposit of $500 is required. Once your application is accepted, the deposit fee secures your seat in this project. This program requires an application. There is no application fee. Only accepted students are provided with the link to pay the deposit fee.

  • 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.


Students will live in a comfortable, but modest, field house in the small town of Budens, located a couple kms from the site of Vale Boi. Conditions at the field house are basic, with electricity, drinking water and hot water for showers (please be prepared and bring bathing suits for showering, because sometimes students may have to use outside showers). Students will sleep on bank beds so should bring either bedding or sleeping bags (or both). Night temperatures are comfortable with rare cold or hot nights. There are two large communal rooms, divided by gender, each with its own bathrooms. In addition there is a large communal eating room. Students will prepare their own breakfast and light lunch from supplies provided by the project. Dinner will be prepared by a cook. The daily diet in Southern Portugal is Mediterranean diet and includes a wide diversity of food elements, including fish, shellfish, pork, beef, chicken, fresh vegetables, bread, beans, pasta, rice and potatoes. Although there is a wide diversity, it is near impossible to prepare dinners for specialized diets such as vegan, kosher, etc. It is possible to handle lactose intolerant meals, but those need special preparation.

Students will prepare their own breakfast in the dig house at 7.00am and we leave for the field at 7:45am – arriving to the site by 8.00am. A light lunch will be individually prepared at the dig house at 1:00pm, when we gather for a break from excavations until 3.00pm. Work in the field concludes each day at 6:00pm. The late afternoons are reserved for lab work and daily lectures. At 6:00pm we get together in the labs to discuss the day’s work. Every work group gives a brief report on the results, problems and successes. During these meetings we will discuss results and interpretations. You are urged to contribute information and suggestions. Dinner is typically served at 8:00pm to the group as a communal meal.

Portugal - Vale Boi
Portugal Vale Boi

Travel Info

Algarve is served at the main city of Faro by a national railway line that comes from Lisbon (the capital of Portugal) as well as by the Faro International Airport (FAO). The airport connects with all major European cities, so coming from the US students may fly to Faro via any of the main European connection points (London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Berlin, Dusseldorf and Lisbon, among many others).
Students should arrive in Faro on July 1. There will be two meeting points. The first at the Faro International Airport and the second at the Faro train station, both at 11.30am. Students must inform the project directors which point they will use. Project staff members will meet students and will drive the team to Budens, a small town located 2 kms west of the Vale Boi site, about one hour drive from Faro.
If you missed your connection or your flight is delayed, please call, text or email the project director(s) immediately. A local emergency cell phone number will be provided to all enrolled students.
Please note that the Field school will end on July 31, and the whole team will be driven back to Faro early in the morning with an expected arrival at 8pm.

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.