Project Description


Spitzkloof is a series of three neighboring rockshelters in the Richtersveld region of Namaqualand, a coastal desert in the northwest corner of South Africa. Namaqualand is a semi-arid southern extension of the Namib Desert of Namibia. Extremely rugged and remote, the Richtersveld is known for its spectacularly strange and desolate landscapes, its extraordinarily diverse plant and animal life, and, though the local inhabitants are generally impoverished, its immense mineral wealth. Transhuman pastoralists, the descendants of whom still live here, thrived in this landscape for some 2000 years. Until last century, the region was home to desert-dwelling hunter-gatherer groups for at least 60,000 years. The three Spitzkloof Rockshelters – designated A, B and C – form the ‘backbone’ of our research in Namaqualand. The goal of the 2017 field season is to continue excavating Spitzkloof B and to conduct archaeological and geomorphological surveys in the surrounding area.

Download Syllabus

Course Details

  • Course Dates: Jul 9-Aug 12, 2017
  • Enrollment Status: CLOSED
  • Total Cost: $4,650
  • Course Type: Field Archaeology
  • Payment Deadline: April 21, 2017
  • Instructors: Dr. Genevieve Dewar, Dr. Brian Stewart
  • Orientation:  April 22, 8:00am Los Angeles Time
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 Genevieve Dewar
Dr Genevieve Dewar
Dr. Dewar is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Brian Stewart
Dr. Brian Stewart
Dr. Brian Stuart is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Assistant Curator at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Michigan.


I fell in love with South Africa the previous year when I visited Cape Town as a member of a small research project. Naturally, when I saw the Spitzkloof fieldschool being offered I was immediately drawn to it. Spitzkloof, being my virgin dig, offered the unique combination of extreme camping and intense learning in archaeological field methods that suited my learning style perfectly. Using a trowel to peel context after context for the first time was intimidating in the beginning but with the kind, patient, and knowledgeable guidance it quickly became my second nature. The work was highly rewarding and the unparallel beauty of the Succulent Karoo Biome served as a flawless backdrop. The experience was unforgettable and I still find myself daydreaming about Spitzkloof. I would highly recommend the Spitzkloof fieldschool to any hardy, curious, and adventurous student.
Madgalena Sobol, University of Toronto (2012)
Spitzkloof was an amazing opportunity to learn first-hand experience from two of the most well-educated professionals in the field of archeology. They not only teach how to work in the field but also teach you camp comradery and how to live in the field. It was an overall amazingly educational trip.
Jon Engelhardt, University of Toronto (2012)
Spitzkloof was an amazing experience. The on site hands-on training provided an extensive introduction to archaeological methods as well as an understanding of all aspects which go into a successful dig. It was a great combination of meeting amazing new people and great food – an altogether fantastic experience.
Sarah Kivisto, University of Toronto (2012)

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.


Cape Town – In Cape Town, students will stay at ‘The Back Pack’ ( situated in the heart of the city. The Backpack has an airport shuttle that will collect you directly from Cape Town International Airport. The Backpack is an approximately 20 minute drive from the airport. We will stay at the same venue on the night that we return to Cape Town from the site (August 11).

Spitzkloof – On site, where the majority of the field school will take place, we will be camping. You will be required to bring your own tent, sleeping bag, air mattress etc. You will receive an information package before we leave detailing the equipment for which you will be responsible.

We bring all food and water for drinking/washing into the field. This is a rugged, isolated desert environment with absolutely no supermarkets or stores in the immediate area; the closest supermarket is a 1.5 hour drive away over rough terrain. We thus cook our own meals in the field. We take turns cooking and doing the washing up, allowing budding chefs an opportunity to wow us all. We have also built our own rock-and-sand pizza oven at the site (it works!) that we use on Sunday evenings. We eat very well with typical meals consisting of risotto, pasta, curry, pizza and even calzones. As we do not have a fridge so most meals are vegetarian with the exception of tinned tuna and dried meat (jerky, known locally as biltong). We do, however, have the occasional barbeque (meat and/or fish) on days we return from town with fresh produce and water (approximately once per week). Those who enjoy milk in their coffee/tea will also be happy to know we do have long life milk in camp. We can accommodate vegetarians, people with lactose intolerance, or who require Halal or Kosher food.
Toilet and shower facilities are very basic but functional. Our toilets are frequently renewed, open-air (but secluded) long-drops. We wash using solar showers to heat water, which everyone should bring. There is enough water for everyone to wash at the end of every workday.

South Africa - Spitzkloof B

Travel Info

All students will be met at the Cape Town International Airport (CPT). Please arrive by July 9th. Classes will begin at 9:00am on July 10th and we shall meet at the foyer of ‘The Back Pack’ hotel ( We will spend two days in Cape Town, leaving for Spitzkloof on the morning of July 12th. At the conclusion of the field season, we will return to Cape Town on the evening of August 11th. Students may depart Cape Town beginning the following day – August 12th. If your flight is delayed or you miss your connection, please call/text/email immediately to the project directors. The project local cell phone numbers will be provided to enrolled students.

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.