Project Description


This field school will take place at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville, Illinois. Cahokia Mounds is located near modern day St. Louis, Missouri, and dates back to the 11th-14th century CE. It is the largest Native American city north of Mexico. Participating students will be a part of a new research project focusing on practices of earth-moving and modification in the creation and organization of social space in an urban environment.  This project targets a residential area between three aboriginal borrow-pit features (places from which soil was taken to build the earthen pyramids in the city). We will be excavating three features: an early residential house, a probable public or special-use building dating to the later part of Cahokia’s occupation, and a reclaimed borrow pit identified during the previous season’s excavations.  The overall project goal is to obtain a better understanding of the importance of earth and practices of earth-moving in a non-mounded landscape as it figures into residential and religious life during Cahokia’s formative years and its decline.

Download Syllabus

Course Details

  • Course Dates: Jun 4-Jul 8, 2017
  • Enrollment Status: CLOSED
  • Total Cost: $4,360
  • Course Type: Field Archaeology
  • Payment Deadline: April 21, 2017
  • Instructors: Dr. Sarah E. Baires, Dr. Melissa R. Baltus
  • Orientation:  April 24, 4:00pm Los Angeles Time
Program Closed

Finding Cahokia:
Videos From the Field

The tools of an archaeological dig

Unearthing Burnt Offerings | Ars Technica


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. Sarah E. Baires
Dr. Sarah E. Baires
Dr. Baires is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Eastern Connecticut State University.
Dr. Melissa R. Baltus
Dr. Melissa R. Baltus
Dr. Baltus is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Toledo.


The IFR field school at Cahokia was my first real experience in the field. Before I attended this program, I did not yet know whether I wanted to pursue a career in the archaeology. As it turns out, attending field school at Cahokia was an excellent way to experience firsthand what archaeology is all about. We students were placed under the direction of an experienced, dedicated staff with a vast knowledge of the both the region and current excavation and survey methodologies. The site itself was breathtaking. Cahokia is truly one of the most impressive and ritually complex sites in all of North America. I had read about the significance of this site in many of my archaeology classes at school. I felt awed to actually be there breaking ground and contributing to the understanding of such a famous site. While field work can be rather demanding at times, working with my peers to discover new information about the past was well worth it. Working toward a common goal and learning new perspectives as a group fostered friendships and a deep sense of belonging. Attending IFR Cahokia field school was an enriching experience. The excitement of discovery, feelings of comradery, and sense of purpose this program facilitated made me realize that archaeology is the discipline I want to pursue.
Scottie Miller, Wesley College (2016)
I was accepted into the 2016 IFR Cahokia Field school that took place this past summer. As an anthropology major with an interest in archaeology, field school was inevitable for me and I’m so incredibly thankful that I made the decision to participate in the work at CABB Tract. Not only did I efficiently and effectively learn basic methods and archaeological practices, but my knowledge of archaeological theory and Cahokia vastly expanded. So much so, that I was able to conduct independent research with another student that later went on to be presented at the Midwest Archaeological Conference as well as the National Mississippian Culture Conference. The field school has also opened up job opportunities for me that I would not have previously been exposed to. I am amazed at the insight I developed in just five short weeks that I’m continuously benefiting from in my current archaeology classes. The skills and mindset I have taken away from this field school will always be with me and continue to shape my progression towards becoming a future archaeologist.
Maggie Gaca, Western Michigan University (2016)
Digging at Cahokia was by far the most rewarding experience I’ve had in archaeology. I was so lucky to be one of the few people who have been able to excavate at this incredibly rich and interesting site. The instructors are both amazing teachers and very supportive of independent research. I came out of this field school a better excavator and a better student. Don’t miss an opportunity to work at Cahokia, it will give you such a strong foundation.
Emily Helmer, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (2016)

Tuition Includes:

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

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.


Students will live in comfortable, but modest, field housing in the Shiloh (IL) area at a local apartment complex. Each unfurnished apartment will be shared by up to five people and will have two bedrooms, one kitchen, and one bathroom. Students will be required to bring their own blow up twin-size mattress or cot, bedding (or sleeping bag), and towel(s). The site of Cahokia is located in Collinsville, Illinois a 30-minute drive from the field lodging.

All meals will be communal events and will provide plenty of nutritious but basic food. The daily diet will consist of protein, vegetable, and grains. Specialized diets (vegan, kosher, etc.) are difficult to maintain in a large group setting. Vegetarians, however, are more easily accommodated. Likewise, dietary allergies will be accommodated.

US - IL: Cahokia
US - IL: Cahokia

Travel Info

Project staff members will meet students arriving by air into the St. Louis Lambert Airport (STL) at the St. Louis MetroLink Fairview Heights station on June 4 by 4 pm. If you are driving please arrive at the apartment on June 4 by 4 pm. Students are encouraged to drive if local to the region. Project directors and/or staff will not provide access to a vehicle for weekends.

If you missed your connection or your flight is delayed, please call, text or email project director immediately. A local emergency cell phone number will be provided to all 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.