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Archaeology & Anthropology Field Schools

Asia - Mongolia - Northern Mongolia Archaeology Project - 2016

Archaeology Field School Location and Dates

Application Deadline
Start Date 2016-07-05
End Date 2016-07-26

Archaeology Field School Location

Soyo, Darkhad Depression, Huvsgul, northern Mongolia

Academic Credit

0 - but willing to arrange independent study credit hours with your home institution.

Archaeology Field School Tuition


Archaeology Field School Room and Board

$2,250 USD

Additional Information on Tution/Room and Board/Travel Costs

Responsible for own airfare to Ulaanbaatar and personal camping gear. All project costs, including travel to the site, food, permits, equipment, etc. are covered by the room and board fee.

Archaeology Field School Description

Research Aims: Mongolia’s mobile pastoral economy is the foundation of the national identity and primary economic strategy, a lifeway made possible with the introduction of domesticates into the area from regions to the north and west. Though this characterization has been evident since at least the 1st millennium BCE, little is known about the earliest pastoral adaptations in the region. The archaeological site of Soyo, in the Darkhad Depression of northern Mongolia, has the potential to contribute significantly to understanding questions about the archaeological history of this region. Located at the intersection of the dense forest taiga and the grass steppe-land of the basin, Soyo is uniquely positioned to facilitate interaction between hunting and herding practices. Previous research on prehistoric domestic sites in Mongolia has been frustrated by the prevalence of thin, jumbled deposits of artifacts with few preserved features. However, preliminary research at the Soyo site has revealed a unique depositional history where wind-blown sand has stratified thick artifact deposits creating a one of a kind, 7,000 year continuous record of human activity. No other similar domestic sites that have such a long, well preserved occupational sequence are known from Mongolia. Despite being such an important part of Mongolian heritage, this site is threatened by the development of a tourist camp. It is critical that an archaeological team conduct this research at the site in the summer of 2016 as the site is actively being threatened by this development.

Requirements: No previous archaeological experience necessary to participate in this project. A remote project area, variable climate, challenging topography, and cultural differences dictate that participants are in reasonably good physical shape, have a positive attitude, are culturally sensitive, and have a good sense of adventure. We will be departing from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia on July 20th and returning on August 10th. It is suggested that you give yourself at least a couple of days before and after these dates to be in the city as delayed flights and lost baggage happen with some frequency. It will take us approximately 4-5 days to reach the project area by car as its approximately 1,000 km from the city, and there are few paved or dirt roads in Mongolia. Participants will not be able to sign up for only part of the 3 week project as it is logistically very difficult to arrange alternative travel options.

Fieldwork: Participants will be instructed in a variety of archaeological field methods, including survey, mapping, excavation, and ethnoarchaeological interviews. The 2016 field season will also involve a geophysical survey using specialized remote sensing equipment (more on that below). Students/volunteers will also have the opportunity to gain some lab experience cleaning, sorting, cataloging and doing basic analysis on artifacts collected. All members of the team will be required to work in the field most days and in the lab occasionally. While many of the participants on past projects have been students of archaeology looking to gain skills in their field, others are simply interested in learning about archaeology. Participants usually range from 18-60 years of age, and are students, teachers, retirees, or any number of other professions. Mongolians make up approximately half of the project, while the other participants are typically from North America, Europe and Australia. There are no credits offered through this program, in part to keep costs down. However, if a student wishes to arrange independent study credits with their home institution, the project will work with his/her adviser to design a course of study.

Geophysics Survey: Participants will have the opportunity to work with geophysics expert, Dr. Ian Moffat. Geophysical techniques provide a means of non-invasively locating archaeological material in the subsurface. While the archaeological record of Mongolia is rich with significant late prehistoric and early historic period sites located throughout the country, the use of geophysical methods has rarely been used on sites of this type providing a unique opportunity to develop a new methodology for archaeological research and cultural heritage management in this country. This project will apply the geophysical techniques ground penetrating radar and magnetometry, integrated with real time kinematic differential GPS and drone aerial photography to locate and non-invasively examine the archaeological record of late prehistoric and early historic sites in northern Mongolia.

Camp Life: Participants will be required to supply their own personal camping equipment (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad). Having suitable gear is VERY IMPORTANT – if you are not sure about your gear, please ask. It is advised you’re your sleeping bag be rated to at least 20 F/-7 C, and that your tent have a rain fly that goes all the way to the ground on all sides. Rain gear and layers of warm clothes are crucial.
The project will supply all food, kitchen gear, and eating utensils and has hired a cook to prepare meals for us. Vegetables, rice, and flour will be shipped in from the city, and meat (sheep and goat) bought locally and butchered in camp. Vegetarians have participated before, but you must be willing to do much of your own cooking (food and small camp stove provided). Breakfast usually consists of a fried dough called boortsog that is somewhat like a donut, and black tea/salty milk tea, and hot water. If you must have coffee, you will need to bring it. Past participants have brought small French presses or rely on instant coffee. There is instant coffee available in Mongolia, but most agree that it is not very good as it is mixed with copious amounts of cream and sugar. Nutella, peanut butter, marmite/vegemite and other spreads are popular items brought by participants. Lunch and dinner usually consist of soups, pastas, rice dishes, and bread filled pockets. While our cook is very good, ingredients are limited and sometimes participants find the food choices monotonous – but remember, we are in an incredibly remote region. It is a good idea to pack snacks such as nuts, dried fruit, protein bars, etc. for between meals.
There is a large river near the site. While it is relatively clean, you will need to filter or otherwise purify it before drinking it. Pumps, gravity filters, steripens, and iodine tablets have all been used successfully and without illness. If it rains heavily, the water is sometimes filled with particles and mud, and so a few coffee filters, a bandana, or cheese cloth or some kind is advisable.

Archaeology Field School Additional Information

Archaeology Field School Type

Prehistoric - domestic/campsite archaeology, excavation, survey, geophysics

Time Period

Neolithic/Bronze Age

Field School Setting/Conditions

Remote. Local families living nearby, but no services.

How is the project area accessed each day

Permits required as it is a nationally protected area and near the Siberian border.

What is the daily schedule for the field school

Work 6 days, 1 day off. Flexible depending on weather.

Number of years this Archaeology Field School has been in operation
Is there a professional certification for this field school


Directors and Instructors

Dr. Julia Clark
J. Bayarsaikhan
Dr. Ian Moffat

Specialized skills you will have the opportunity to learn

Geophysics methods
Surface Survey
Ethnoarchaoelogical interviews/observation
Artifact cleaning, cataloging, basic analysis

On rain days will there be lab work?


Will there be additional organized activities?

Yes. Local festivals, intra-camp sporting events (soccer/volleyball), horse riding possible to arrange, hiking, etc.

Will there be additional organized activities?

Depending on interest

Is travel restriced during free time?

Logistically challenging, but possible with advanced notice of plans.

Archaeology Field School Contact Information and Website

Field School Contact Information

Julia Clark
American Center for Mongolian Studies
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Field School Contact E-mail:
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