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Archaeology & Anthropology Field Schools

Africa- South Africa - Spitzkloof B Field School- 2015

Africa- South Africa - Spitzkloof B Field School- 2015

Archaeology Field School Location and Dates

Application Deadline
Start Date 2015-07-12
End Date 2015-08-15

Archaeology Field School Location
South Africa, Richtersveld, Namaqualand

Archaeology Field School Tuition and Credits

Sponsoring College/Institution
Institute for Field Research, University of Michigan, University of Toronto, Connecticut College
Academic Credit
Attending students will be awarded 8 semester credit units (equivalent to 12 quarter units) through our academic partner, Connecticut College. Connecticut College is a private, highly ranked liberal arts institution. Students will receive a letter grade for attending this field school (see grading assessment and matrix, below). This field school provides a minimum of 192 direct instructional hours.
Archaeology Field School Tuition
$4,800; includes tuition, cost of credit units, and room & board.

Additional Information on Tution/Room and Board/Travel Costs
Fee includes registration, accommodations, program activities, meals on workdays, and health insurance. Airfare, weekend meals and optional excursions are additional.

Archaeology Field School Description

Spitzkloof is as 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. Although desolate, transhumant 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 and probably much longer. Our work at Spitzkloof is part of a larger comparative project entitled, Adaptations to Marginal Environments in the Middle Stone Age (AMEMSA). This project aims to understand how some of the world’s earliest fully modern human societies adapted to challenging African environments. Project AMEMSA is exploring two such environments: (1) the Namaqualand desert and (2) the Lesotho Highlands (in southeastern southern Africa). We are particularly interested in the evolution, over the past 200,000 years, of the behavioral flexibility that so epitomizes our species – flexibility that enabled us to colonize the globe and in the process out-compete our less versatile archaic cousins, including the Neanderthals, Denisovans and Hobbits. The three Spitzkloof Rockshelters – designated A, B and C – form the ‘backbone’ of our research in Namaqualand. Spitzkloof A was excavated over the course of two field seasons in 2010 and 2011. These excavations uncovered a three-meter deep stratigraphic sequence with archaeological deposits stretching back to roughly 60,000 years ago. Excavations at Spitzkloof B, just next door, were begun in 2012. To our delight, we discovered that the deposits have superb stratigraphic integrity, excellent organic preservation, and extremely rich cultural remains. Based on this and the shape of the shelter floor, we are anticipating a deep, well-stratified Holocene and later Pleistocene sequence. The finely bedded stratigraphy, high artifact densities, and rigorous excavation methods necessitated a slow pace of excavation in 2013, resulting in the removal of ?50 cm of deposit by end of season. The goal of the 2015 field season is to continue excavating Spitzkloof B, and to conduct archaeological and geomorphological surveys in the surrounding area.

Archaeology Field School Additional Information

Time Period
Field School Setting/Conditions
Archaeological field work involves physical work in the outdoors. You should be aware that conditions in the field are different than those you experience in your home, dorms or college town. This program operates in a desert environment in South Africa where snakes and scorpians have been observed. While it will be winter, the temperatures during the day can reach up to 800F and at night the temperature may drop close to freezing. Humidity is relatively low, but flying insects such as mosquitoes, bees and flies may be close to the excavation area. In order to be protected from sunburn and/or insects please bring a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and insect repellent. If you have medical concerns, please discuss them with your doctor. All other concerns may be discussed with project director – as appropriate.

Directors and Instructors
Dr. Brian Stewart, University of Michigan (; Dr. Genevieve Dewar, University of Toronto Scarborough (
Specialized skills you will have the opportunity to learn
The objectives of this field school are to educate, engage and empower students through archaeological fieldwork. After receiving a firm, lecture-based background in southern African prehistory, the environment and culture of Namaqualand, and archaeological method and theory, students will put this knowledge into practice at the ancient Spitzkloof Rockshelters in South Africa’s rugged Richtersveld. In the process, students will receive training in archaeological excavation techniques, laboratory skills, and survey methods. Students will be engaged with the prehistoric archaeological record through rockshelter excavation and landscape survey, and with the directors, TA’s and their peers through the very nature of living together in a camping environment. Finally, the experience of working together towards generating high-quality archaeological data will empower students to be confident in future studies and improve life skills. Specifically, students will participate in the following research activities: Excavation - Students will learn to excavate the rockshelter sediments by working closely alongside the directors and TA’s. Students will have the opportunity to work on various archaeological units to gain broad experience dealing with different issues that can arise when conducting single context recording. Students will also have a chance to use the total station to piece-plot in situ artifacts >2.5 cm. Survey – When high valley winds prevent us from excavating carefully, which happens frequently, we will conduct foot surveys of the immediate surroundings to identify open-air occupation sites, lithic scatters, raw material outcrops and other geomorphological features of interest. Drawing and note taking – Every student will be responsible for completing detailed electronic context sheets as they excavate, including sediment, feature and artifact descriptions, and profiles and plan views illustrations of the excavation unit. This will all be verified by one of the directors. Photography – Students will have a chance to assist with the photography of all contexts as well as artifacts of importance. Laboratory – Students will learn about the various artifact types by spending time sorting through the sieved material. This will familiarize the students with the artifact classes as well as laboratory techniques. Students will fly to Cape Town for two days of lectures, museum visits and tours of historic sites of interest. From there, we will transport everyone to Spitzkloof where we will engage in the hands-on aspect of the field school. Students will learn dynamically by working on the excavation of the site, conducting survey in the surrounding landscape and organizing the resulting material during laboratory sessions. There will be scientific specialists who join us and if students have an interest in their work, you will be able to assist them in collecting samples, such as paleobotany and micromorphology. We will also be conducting field analysis of the faunal material during which students will learn about zooarchaeology. Friday mornings are left open for implementing field experiments or collecting reference materials, and Friday afternoons are completely free. The team’s specialties include lithic analysis, zooarcheology, GIS, and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction through the use of pollen, phytoliths and sediment analysis.

Archaeology Field School Contact Information and Website

Field School Website:

Field School Contact Information

Ran Boytner

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