ARC 402: Field Methods in Archaeology, Cochabamba, Bolivia

2009 students excavating a human burial

This archaeological field school is a 4 week, 6 credit course. It will begin towards the end of May and conclude at the end of June when we return.  Unlike most other summer courses, your involvement in this course will be virtually every waking hour of every single day between the dates mentioned above.  This course will involve the practical application of the basic skills used in the excavation of archaeological sites including survey techniques, methods of surface collection and excavation, compilation of field data, and laboratory processing and analysis.  It includes hiking, digging with sharp shovels and trowels, screening dirt, carrying equipment and artifact bags, and careful paperwork, to name a few of the tasks you will be engaged in. For more information on this and other archaeological field schools offered through UW-L Archaeological Studies, click here.

2007 field school students

The field school will be based near the village of Parotani located west of the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia.  The Pirque Alto site is the focus of the field school. The site contains occupations dating from 2000 B.C. through Inca times and our excavations will focus on the Formative and Tiwanaku periods.  The Formative Period (ca. 2000 B.C. through A.D. 200) saw the establishment of the very first villages in the Andes, and the subsequent Tiwanaku Period represents the time during which the complex civilization of Tiwanaku reached beyond its Altiplano heartland into distant regions, including Cochabamba.  Excavations are likely to reveal large quantities of pottery, stone tools, human remains, animal bones and charred plant remains, as well as traces of architectural and domestic features.  The focus of the field school will be to train you in the skills of archaeological field work, including mapping, surface survey, hand excavation with shovels and trowels, screening, and the critical importance of recording excavations through paper work.  

2009 field school crew

In addition to your training in archaeological field methods, you will spend time in the major Bolivian cities of La Paz and Cochabamba, where you will visit interesting cultural and historical landmarks as well as museums containing collections of ethnographic and archaeological significance.  During your stay in Bolivia, you will also visit important archaeological sites associated with ancient Andean civilizations, foremost among these will be the ancient monumental center of Tiwanaku. 

Finally, you will learn firsthand about Bolivian culture by working in an indigenous village, observing and taking part in community activities (festivals, market days, etc.), and working closely with Bolivian archaeologists and local villagers hired to assist in excavations.  Thus, you will gain a great deal more than exposure to the methods implemented by archaeologists in the field.  You will live and work in a third world country and you will be exposed to a rich and diverse cultural landscape composed of indigenous Quechua and Aymara populations.

This course is offered every other summer.