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Archaeology & Anthropology Field Schools

Europe - Greece - Astypalaia - Bioanthropology Field School - 2014

Europe - Greece - Astypalaia - Bioanthropology Field School - 2014

Archaeology Field School Location and Dates

Application Deadline
Start Date 2014-07-09
End Date 2014-08-11

Archaeology Field School Location


Academic Credit

None - although students may negotiate with their home university and the project director will send evidence of their grades

Archaeology Field School Tuition

$4250 USD fees - includes room and board

Archaeology Field School Room and Board

Included in the fees. Food is provided on working days (6 days per week) but students find their own food on their day off

Archaeology Field School Travel
$1500 from North America
Additional Information on Tution/Room and Board/Travel Costs

Students arrange their own travel from home to the island of Astypalaia, so their costs include a flight to Athens and then either internal flight or ferry to the island. We meet them at Astypalaia airport or ferry terminal and arrange transport to the accommodations.

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 2700 children’s burials. Astypalaia is one of the smallest inhabited islands of Greece, with a permanent population of around 1,400 people. 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, students learn the specialist skills required to excavate, record, identify, conserve, measure and catalogue the tiny bones and teeth of young children. This is one of the few sites 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, including 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 Lebanon, between around 750 B.C. and A.D. 100. As well as bones, students therefore get a chance to handle a large range of 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 the UCL Institute of Archaeology at University College

The 2014 course begins on Wednesday July 9 and will meet six days per week until Monday August 11. 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 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. We work six days a week and we follow the local working day, which is governed by the heat: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the laboratory (including short breaks for breakfast and lunch). Students live in basic but comfortable studio style accommodation and each working day, the
evening meal is served in the yard area outside. 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. For this reason, both students and staff need to be reasonably physically fit. The walk is on proper roads and paths, but the hill is steep in place.

After initial training, 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.

Archaeology Field School Additional Information

Archaeology Field School Type

Bioarchaeology / Bioanthropology

Time Period

Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman
Approximately 750 BC to AD 100

Field School Setting/Conditions

Astypalaia is a small island with a permanent population of around 1400. In the summer, a plane and ferry visit most days but it is relatively off the beaten track. Tourists do visit although the numbers are far less than some of the bigger islands and Astypalaia could be described as unspoiled. During the summer when the school runs, the weather is hot and it very rarely rains. The wind blows most days, however, sometimes quite strongly and this keeps the heat down. Students work indoors, in the old school building, which has 5 large classrooms that we use as laboratories.

How is the project area accessed each day

Our accommodations are near sea level and the laboratories are up near the Venetian castle in the old town. We walk up the hill to work in the cool of the morning and then down again in the afternoon.

What is the daily schedule for the field school

We work 6 days per week
Work starts 7 am and finishes 3 pm

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

Not applicable

Directors and Instructors

Professor Simon Hillson

Specialized skills you will have the opportunity to learn

Identification of skeletal and dental remains of children
Micro-excavation of bones in a hard burial matrix
Photography and mapping of burials
Mapping with computer graphics software
Conservation of bones and teeth
Methods for recovery and storage of human remains
Recording and measurement of children's remains
Methods for studying growth and development
Use of human remains database

On rain days will there be lab work?

It almost never rains during the field school and all work takes place in a laboratory

Will there be additional organized activities?

Each week a restaurant or barbecue meal is provided.
We provide basic instruction in modern Greek language.
Tide and wind permitting, we include a field trip by boat to other parts of the island (dirt roads make it difficult to take a large group by any other means).

Will there be additional organized activities?

Lectures and seminars take place during the working day.

Is travel restriced during free time?

Travel is not restricted during free time but Astypalaia is small. For safety reasons, we do not permit students to rent cars or motorbikes.

Other resources students will find useful

Archaeology Field School Contact Information and Website

Field School Website:

Field School Contact Information

Prof. Simon Hillson
UCL Institute of Archaeology
University College London
31-34 Gordon Square
United Kingdom

Field School Contact E-mail:
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