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Archaeology & Anthropology Field Schools

Europe - Greece - Astypalaia Bioanthropology Field School - 2015

Europe - Greece - Astypalaia Bioanthropology Field School - 2015

Archaeology Field School Location and Dates

Application Deadline
Start Date 2015-07-01
End Date 2015-08-03

Archaeology Field School Location

Island of Astypalaia, Dodecanese, Greece

Archaeology Field School Tuition and Credits

Sponsoring College/Institution

University College London

Academic Credit


Archaeology Field School Tuition


Archaeology Field School Room and Board

Tuition fees include both room and board. Accommodation for the whole period of the school is provided, including arrival and departure day on Astypalaia. Meals are also provided on work days (6 days per week). Breakfast and lunch are provided in the laboratory and a hot evening meal is brought to the garden of the accommodations. Students find their own meals on their day off each week.

Archaeology Field School Travel
Additional Information on Tution/Room and Board/Travel Costs

Tuition fees do not include travel costs to the island of Astypalaia. International flights to Athens vary greatly with cost depending on route. Flights Athens to Astypalaia are currently around $95 each way. Ferry $75 each way. Travel medical insurance is also not included and students are required to provide details of their insurance cover before joining the school

Tuition fees include:
•Accommodation for duration of field school
•Full Board every day (except for meals on day off)
•Lectures, Seminars and Practical Classes
•Laboratory supervision (one supervisor per 5 students)
•Access to extensive support website with travel advice and detailed downloadable pdf laboratory manuals
•Access to library of textbooks and background reading
•Airport/ferry port pick-up/drop-off on first and last days of program
•Application fee and administrative costs

Archaeology Field School Description

The field school takes place on Astypalaia, a small, beautiful island in the Aegean Sea and part of the Dodecanese island group in Greece. It is based on a unique archaeological site – the largest ancient children’s cemetery in the world, with at least 3000 children’s burials. Astypalaia is one of the smallest inhabited islands of Greece. Relatively few tourists visit, so it is an unspoiled, traditional place with small white houses, blue doors and window frames, and a Venetian castle towering above them. The views out over the strikingly blue sea are sensational.

In the field laboratory overlooking the sea, you will learn the specialist skills required to excavate, record, identify, conserve, measure and catalogue the tiny bones and teeth of young children. This is currently the only site in the world where children’s remains are abundant enough for students to gain extensive experience of this kind. Everyone carries out all the tasks required for each burial, learning a wide range of skills that can be usefully applied in other archaeological projects, not just for children’s skeletons but for the remains of adults as well.

The children’s cemetery is on the slope below the modern town, which is on the site of the ancient Classical city of Astypalaia. Almost all the burials are in pots, mostly large amphorae previously used to transport the goods traded by the city. The form of the pots shows that they came from all over the Aegean, some even from the Levant, between around 750 B.C. and A.D. 100. As well as bones, you will therefore get a chance to handle a large range of Archaic and Classical Greek pottery. The Field School is taught within a long-term bioanthropology project which is a collaboration between the 22nd Ephorate of Prehistoric & Classical Antiquities (part of the Ministry of Culture of Greece) and Professor Simon Hillson, who is based at University College London.

The 2015 course includes 30 laboratory days over 5 weeks and begins on Wednesday July 1, working six days per week up to and including Monday August 3. Students will study in the project’s field bioarchaeology laboratory and participate in the work carried out there. The first week will be spent on intensive training through lectures and practical classes in the methods required. For the remainder of the course, students build their experience through supervised work in the laboratory and learn to place the project in its wider context through discussions and lectures. The building contains four individual laboratories and students are divided into laboratory groups of 5, each group supervised by a separate member of staff. We work six days each week and we follow the local working day, which is governed by the heat, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the laboratory. Students live in basic but comfortable studio style accommodation. Each working day, a hot evening meal is served in the garden of the studios and a buffet style breakfast and lunch are provided in the laboratory during short breaks at 9 a.m. and 12 noon. It is a thirty minute walk uphill to work each morning – so we leave the studios at 6.30 a.m. – and the same walk but downhill on the way home at 3 p.m.

Archaeology Field School Additional Information

Archaeology Field School Type

Bioanthropology / bioarchaeology

Time Period

Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman – the oldest burial is around 750 BC and the youngest AD 100, but most are 600-400 BC

Field School Setting/Conditions

Classes and work take place indoors, in laboratories based in the old school building under the castle of the small town of Hora, on the small island of Astypalaia. The building houses four laboratories, each managed by a supervisor who looks after five students. In addition there is an office and photographic facility which staff and students use for recording and database work. A central room provides facilities for meals and breaks. Screening of soil takes place outside the building. Astypalaia has a small population – around 1400 inhabitants – and it is not really on the tourist route so it is quite a peaceful place.

How is the project area accessed each day

The accommodations are in Livadi, the village next to Hora. We have a 30 minute walk to work each day. It is a pleasant walk and the scenery is beautiful, but there is a hill.

What is the daily schedule for the field school

Week 1 – intensive training in background and aims to the project, methods used and identification of children’s remains, through lectures, discussions and practical classes.
Weeks 2, 3, 4 and 5 – supervised work in the laboratory, starting with burials previously prepared by supervisors and then progressing so that each student completes all the required tasks for several burials on their own. In addition there are lectures and seminars where everyone gathers together for discussion each week.

We work 6 days per week. Each working day we start work at 7 am and finish at 3 pm. The afternoon and evening are free time for students. Breakfast is at 9 am and lunch at 12 noon. The evening meal is at 5 pm.

Number of years this Archaeology Field School has been in operation
14 years

Directors and Instructors

The Director of the field school is Professor Simon Hillson, from the UCL Institute of Archaeology, University College London

Specialized skills you will have the opportunity to learn

After classes taken during the initial training week, followed by work in small groups and then closely supervised work on their own, each student takes a number of burials through all the stages of the work, from initial arrival of the remains in the laboratory, to database and storage. In this way, students gain a full range of skills required for archaeological work with human remains and gain experience of working in a team:
• Excavation of children’s remains from the fill of pot burials: Under supervision, students photograph and describe the pot, isolate the soil matrix containing the bones, expose the bones, plan, photograph them and create an initial record of the elements that are present. In some cases it is necessary to excavate the burial in stages, removing the higher bones to expose and plan others. All the soil from the burial matrix is sifted and sorted to a fine mesh.
• Lifting and conservation: Under supervision, students carry out any initial conservation required, label the main elements, lift the bones from the soil matrix, clean them and carry out any further conservation required. Children’s bones are small and delicate and help to develop a high level of skill.
• Identification, inventory and measurement: With training and supervision, students quickly learn to identify the elements of skeleton and dentition that are present. Not many sites in the world give such an opportunity to learn how to identify small and complex young children’s remains. Some bones (e.g. the middle ear bones) are just a few millimetres across. Students inventory the bones and teeth, photograph them on standard layout sheets, and take a series of measurements for the growth study. They enter all this data onto the site database.
• Storage: Students go on to label, package and store all the material that they have recovered. In this way, they complete the whole sequence of work required when excavating human remains.

On rain days will there be lab work?

It never rains during the summer on Astypalaia but in any case all work takes place in the laboratory

Will there be additional organized activities?

The field school starts with a tour of the town, the cemetery sites, the castle and the museum. Each week we have one of our evening meals in a restaurant or as a beach barbecue.

Will there be additional organized activities?

Lectures are part of the formal teaching during the first week of the school. We also have lectures and seminars at intervals throughout.

Is travel restriced during free time?

Astypalaia is small and students can walk around the town or visit other beaches on the bus. The roads are narrow, winding and with steep hills, so for safety’s sake we do not permit students to rent a car or motorcycle.

Archaeology Field School Contact Information and Website

Field School Website:

Field School Contact Information

Professor Simon Hillson, UCL Institute of Archaeology, University College London

Field School Contact E-mail:
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