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Field School Courses

The Legio Field School

This 4-week (3-credit) field school, directed and organized by Dr. Mark Letteney, introduces the student to methods and techniques of field archaeology through Lecture Presentations, Field & Lab Tutorials, Field Trip, and hands-on experience as they participate in primary archaeological research at the Castra of the Roman VIth Ferrata Legion at Legio in the Jezreel Valley, Israel. This course offers students the chance to experience the full range of activities associated with field research including hypothesis formulation and testing, project design, methods for collecting and recording archaeological data, laboratory analysis of artifacts and ecofacts, and the role of context in interpretation. Additionally, students will participate in field trips and lectures that will place Legio in the broader context of the Bronze Age to Medieval Near East.

The 6-credit advanced techniques option encompasses all of the activities of the 3-credit field school with added advanced instruction and hands-on experience with additional field and laboratory techniques and technologies including GIS, AutoCAD, 3D-imaging, advanced surveying, orthophotography, archaeozoological identification, and advanced technical drawing. Additionally, 6-credit students participate in advanced lectures and tutorials on report writing, publication standards, archaeological theory, and historical and cultural interpretation.

Overall, the primary goal of the program is to provide team members with an accessible, working knowledge of the fundamentals of archaeological field work, the historical context of the current excavation setting, and an understanding of the contributions of archaeology in general, and this expedition in particular, to our knowledge of the human past.

At the end of the course, students will have working knowledge of key concepts, procedures, and analyses related to archaeological field work, preparing them for further field and laboratory work and a solid foundation for additional advanced-level training.

Core Teaching Staff

The JVRP is staffed by well-experienced archaeologists and specialists, all of whom participate in the educational program supervising students, advising, and leading tutorials and specialized lectures. Students are under the immediate supervision of the Director and three supervisors. The typical student : supervisor ratio is 3-4:1 for enrolled students. Considering the 6 additional staff members who provide individual instruction, lectures, and tutorials throughout the season, the effective ratio is closer to 2-3:1. For advanced lessons in the 6-credit option, many lessons and tutorials are conducted on a 1:1 basis for maximum effectiveness.


Dr. Mark Letteney, Educational Program Director

Dr. Matthew J. Adams (University of Hawai'i)

Dr. Yotam Tepper (University of Haifa)

Dr. Margaret Cohen (American Archaeology Abroad)

Dr. Paul Flesher (University of Wyoming)

Dr. Deirdre Fulton (Baylor University)

Course Topics

Course Topics

Course topics are divided among four units accomplished through four types of instruction:

1. Archaeological Principles

2. Field Skills

3. Laboratory Skills

4. Culture History

Lecture Presentations (LP) are 1 to 1.5 hour illustrated presentations of archaeological and historical material. Some lectures have a hands-on workshop component where the students are invited to handle material and practice analysis. Lectures are taught by the instructor and director of the project and the core staff of the excavation as well as other specialists who work with the project. Guest lectures are delivered by prominent local archaeologists working in Israel. These lectures are meant to be case studies in archaeology highlighting a variety of problems, methods, and interpretations. Lecturers are asked to make note of particular methods and techniques deployed to address specific research questions.

Field Tutorials (FT) are 30 minute to 1 hour demonstrations of field techniques and practices. These tutorials take place during the field during work hours. Techniques and practices learned in these tutorials are reinforced and practiced repeatedly throughout the following work periods. Field Tutorials are taught by the project staff according to their particular specialties. In the advanced 6-credit course, students are able to choose particular skills to specialize in and practice under the instruction of a specialist.

Lab Tutorials (LT) are 1 to 2 hour demonstrations of laboratory techniques and practices. Each tutorial includes a hands-on practicum in which students perform the activity. Students have additional opportunities throughout the course to continue to practice laboratory techniques. In the advanced 6-credit course, students are able to choose particular skills to specialize in and practice under the instruction of a specialist.

Field Trips (Trip) are visits to sites in northern Israel. Each trip is preceded by an overview lecture of the site that gives a chronological, cultural, and stratigraphical overview of the site. Trips include a guided tour of the site with an emphasis on archaeological method, interpretation, cultural heritage, and site conservation. Students will see examples of archaeological concepts, such as stratigraphy, in action. Additionally, students will engage in discussions about how these sites are presented to the public and how they are managed as cultural resources. Field Trips are led by and accompanying lectures are given by project core staff and/or the archaeologists currently working at a given site.

Visit our Introductory Tour Details page for information on the preseason tour of sites in Northern Israel.

The following topics are covered in the 3-credit program (click the headings for more)


1. Complete all assigned readings before Lecture/Tutorial time.

2. Attend and participate in all Lectures, Tutorials, and Field Trips. Material will be presented and discussed and students will also practice specific skills.

3. Receive on-site instruction from supervisors and complete assigned tasks in the field. Students in the course may be given certain additional responsibilities in the field as part of their study and will have an opportunity to demonstrate skills taught in the Tutorials.

4. Keep a field notebook according to the parameters set out in the Field Recording and Registration Tutorial. Each daily excavation journal entry should include elements such as a daily top plan drawing with locus number and elevations, description of soil, architecture and artifacts/or additional material as warranted by the particular excavation unit.

5. Write a final report according to the parameters set out in the Archaeological Report Writing Tutorial concerning the area in which you have been excavating at the end of the course.

6. Complete the objective final exam focused on all aspects of the program, including Field Trips, Lectures, and Tutorials at the end of the course.

In addition to the topics covered for 3 credits, 6-credit participants also cover:

Required Reading 

Paul Bahn and Colin Renfrew, Archaeology Essentials: Theories, Methods and Practice (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2007). 2nd Edition, 2011. ISBN13: 978-0500289129


Walter Rast, Through the Ages in Palestinian Archaeology: An Introductory Handbook (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International: 1992). ISBN 1-56338-055-2.


Additional Handout Readings will be posted in the future


Participation:      20%

Including attendance, attitude, teamwork, and intellectual engagement

Field Report and Supplemental Material:  60%

Including appropriate products of Field and Lab Tutorial exercises

Final Exam:      20%

Learning outcomes

3- and 6-credit Options

Both the 3-credit and 6-credit course options are designed to facilitate the following learning outcomes. Details concerning the topics and the types of instruction can be found below and in the detailed calendar below.

• Gain a basic understanding of the archaeological and historical background of the broad region in which the field school operates.

• Assess the success and failures of different archaeological methods over the last 150 years of archaeology in the region.

• Learn to recognize and distinguish a number of archaeological methods, and when to implement them appropriately.

• Appraise what comprises an archaeological site, and discern the appropriate methods for locating sites.

• Examine geomorphological and site-formation processes that affect the archaeological record and excavation strategies.

• Discover the principles of stratigraphy, and gain experience producing stratigraphic schema.

• Learn the sequence and procedures for archaeological field excavation:

o Field safety

o Equipment use and maintenance

o Mapping technologies, including tape/compass, theodolite, total station

o Manual and electronic grid layout

o Manual excavation techniques

o Context definition and excavation

• Gain practical knowledge of recording practices used in excavation:

o Horizontal plan and vertical section documenting and drawing

o Context recording

o Artifact and ecofact plotting

o Field drawing and photography

• Study dating techniques in order to determine relative and absolute chronology.

• Investigate a variety of laboratory-based studies, their procedures, and benefits for archaeological documentation and interpretation:

o Ceramics

o Archaeobotanical remains

o Small finds

o Lithics

o Human osteology

o Archaeozoology

• Experience laboratory activities conducted on a variety of samples:

o Artifact illustration

o Artifact photography

o Artifact and ecofact conservation

o Botanical and geological sample processing

• Learn to create, manage, and use data.

• Understand how to write excavation reports.

• Explore the potential applications of ethnography and experimental practices for archaeology.

• Examine the importance of ethical practices in archaeology, and the necessity of engaging cultural heritage.


Further, 6-credit course participants will:

• Acquire basic exposure to a variety of computer programs associated with archaeological field work;

o Adobe Illustrator

o AutoCAD

o ArcGIS

o Agisoft Photoscan

• Acquire more detailed geoarchaeological experience in participating in on-going field and laboratory studies.

• Learn procedures for and implement a variety of advanced technologies employed by the JVRP:

o Orthophotography

o 3D photography

o 3D scanning and modeling

o Digital planning and artifact rendering

• Learn the fundamentals of and engage in technical drawing of ceramics.

• Use AutoCAD and Adobe Illustrator to produce publication quality drawings, maps, plans – digitized from hand drawings.

• Engage in hands-on archaeozoological indentification and analysis

• Engage in archaeological interpretation and learn the pros and cons of historical extrapolation.

• Gain insight into the types of specialized studies and technologies available to the archaeologist such that the student is able to communicate research questions to such specialists.

• Learn the principles of publication-quality report writing.

JVRP Advanced Physical Survey of the Jezreel Valley

Principal Investigators: Matthew J. Adams, Yotam Tepper, and Robert Homsher

Engaging Valley's past requires a basic physical and temporal description of known human activity in the region. The traditional method for establishing this dataset is walkover observational survey during which extant elements of human activity are identified. Dating is usually done on the basis of chronologically diagnostic ceramic material at the locus, and the extent of activity determined by the sprawl of this ceramic material. This traditional methodology has been long known to have flaws, but was recently dealt a hard blow in the Jezreel Valley by the pilot season of the JVRP (2010), which established that the results of these types of surveys can have no bearing on the actual subsurface remains (Adams, David, Homsher forthcoming). The only way to temporally assess the locus of human activity is through physical archaeological excavation. The goal of the Advanced Physical Survey is to survey (with sample excavation) all unexcavated sites in the Valley, in order to create a comprehensive dataset of loci of human activity.

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