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Archaeology & Anthropology Field Schools

Europe - Germany - Celtic Tumulus in Hassloch Forest - 2013

Application Deadline

Multiple Sessions Yes
Multiple Session information

Session 1: June 3 - June 26
Session 2: July 2 - July 24

Archaeology Field School Location

Hassloch, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

Academic Credit


Archaeology Field School Tuition


Archaeology Field School Room and Board

ca. $2000 per session

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

The ca. $2,000 per session covers lodging, breakfast and lunch during work days of the excavation, as well as the costs of running the excavation itself. Students must cover their own airfare and evening meals.

Archaeology Field School Description

Idol Hill was probably first constructed in the Bronze Age and was rebuilt and re-used in the Hallstatt and La Tène periods, when the inhabitants of this part of Germany can be identified as Celts. Roman and medieval ceramics have also been found in the mound’s filling. Roman coins and other artefacts from the Haßlocherwald, as well as the presence of a Roman tile workshop and two Roman villas nearby, confirm that the mound was an active part of a settled landscape for a nearly 2,000 year period. Idol Hill, like other prehistoric earthworks in southern Germany, would have remained an important part of the landscape and a part of cultural and ancestral memory. The name of the mound probably dates to the medieval period, when the monument became an important geographic boundary marker.

A tumulus, also known as a burial mound, is a funerary monument built to cover the remains of an important individual. Tumuli typically consist of little hills of earth that cover a central burial chamber, and become a common form of elite burial in northern and western Europe starting in the Middle Bronze Age (1,600 – 1,200 B.C.). After their initial construction, most tumuli were the site of on-going cult practices and continued to receive secondary burials in the hill part (filling) of the mound and around it. In many cases, tumuli continued to be used for secondary burials over a period of hundreds of years.

Tumuli were built to house the most important members of prehistoric society, the chieftains, warriors and royalty of the Celtic tribal groups that inhabited this region. Tumuli not only honoured and housed the deceased, but also displayed the might of the families and communities that constructed them to the living. In the Iron Age, tumuli were typically surrounded by a ditch, which sometimes contained a stone circle, and were surmounted by standing stones or sculptures representing the deceased. Unfortunately, the central burial chambers of Idol Hill were probably removed in the 1902 excavations, but there is still much that archaeology can tell us about the history and form of the monument. Other features in the mound may include the surrounding ditch, secondary burials in the mound’s filling or around the mound, ritual deposits, as well as the pits and trenches left by looters. The filling of the mound also contains numerous ceramic sherds and other artefacts that entered the mound accidentally, but are nonetheless indicative of nearby Celtic and Roman settlements.

The current excavation of Idol Hill was initiated at the request of the Village of Haßloch and the Archaeological Service of the Rhineland-Palatinate. The project seeks to answer various questions that relate both to the changing role of the tumulus over time, as well as to its present day conservation:

Archaeological / Historical Goals

How hold is the mound? When and by whom was it used?
What did the mound look like in its various incarnations?
How was the mound used for primary and secondary burials?
How was the mound used for the transmission of cultural memory in later periods?
How was Idol Hill, and similar mounds, integrated into the Roman landscape?

Conservation / Heritage Management Goals

To what extent was the mound damaged by the excavations of 1902?
To what extent has forestry and environmental change impacted the monument?
What changes are occurring below the soil surface as a result of excavation?
How do visitors and locals understand and interact with the monument?
What steps can be taken to protect Idol Hill and other mounds in the region?

The village of Haßloch has stated its intention to use the results of the excavation to create an accurate reconstruction of the monument for tourists and locals to enjoy.

Archaeology Field School Additional Information

Archaeology Field School Type


Time Period

Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman occupation

Field School Setting/Conditions

Hassloch is the largest village in Germany with a population of about 20,000. It is a tourist destination for sports and leisure and includes a theme park, water park, and a public forest that offers nice walking/hiking. Hassloch has a train station and larger cities such as Mannheim and Heidelberg can be easily reached in less than an hour.

How is the project area accessed each day

The equipment will be transported to the site by the directors in a car and students take a ca. 20 minute walk from the hostel to the site and back.

What is the daily schedule for the field school

Typically, we have breakfast at 7:00 a.m., and start work at 8:00. Work continues until 4:30 with two breaks in the morning and afternoon, as well as a lunch break. Participants are usually back home and showered by 5:30-6:00, and, when no lectures or activities are planned, have the evening to themselves.

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


Directors and Instructors

Philip Kiernan, Director

Kali Grable, Assistant Director (field)
Ryan Hughes, Assistant Director (field)
Cassidy Phelps, Assistant Director (computer)
Erin Warford, Assistant Director (GIS)

Specialized skills you will have the opportunity to learn

In short, all of the processes of archaeological excavation, from moving earth to data management, illustration (drawing and photographs) and processing and illustrating finds. Thanks to our colleagues at the University of Mainz, we also introduce geophysical survey techniques, as well as soil sampling and micromorphology. A series of evening lectures introduces students to the history and archaeology of the region, from the prehistoric to medieval periods, while excursions and hikes to important sites and museums present participants with a broader impression of the archaeology of the area.

On rain days will there be lab work?

On rain days, the students will typically have time off for themselves.

Will there be additional organized activities?

Past field trips have included visits to Heidelberg (medieval university town), the Heiligenberg, (medieval cloisters, Celtic oppidum and Roman temple site), Trier (capital of Gallia Belgica and considered the “Rome” of the west), Mainz (capital of Germania Superior and important legionary camp, Römisch-Germanischeszentral Museum, Landesmuseum, and Roman Ship Museum) Donnersberg (large Celtic oppidum), Worms (of Nieblungenlied fame, important Roman city and museum), Speyer (Roman city and museum), Herxheim (neolithic sacrificial site with mass burial), Rheinzabern (Roman terra sigillata production center), Neustadt (important medieval castle), Bad Durkheim and the Heidenmauer (Celtic oppidum and tumuli, medieval cloister).

Will there be additional organized activities?

Weekends will be reserved for optional field trips, and an evening lecture is planned once a week during the evening on work days.

Is travel restriced during free time?

Field trips to local sites are planned every weekend and they are optional.

Archaeology Field School Contact Information and Website

Field School Website:

Field School Contact Information

Philip Kiernan
Department of Classics, SUNY Buffalo
338 MFAC
Buffalo, NY 14261
(716) 645-0454

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