Archaeology Field Schools

Research & Collection

The Montpelier Archaeology Department has hosted field schools for more than two decades, beginning in 1987 with James Madison University. The program has grown to include students from many other schools: the University of Virginia; Virginia Commonwealth University; Purdue; Mary Washington; Sweetbriar; Harvard; University of Florida; SUNY Potsdam, and SUNY Plattsburgh. Students are housed at our intern house on the property.

The Archaeology Field School at James Madison’s Montpelier is 4-5 weeks long, and is offered as a 4, 5, or 6 credit-hour course. A no credit course is also available, space permitting. While Montpelier manages both prehistoric and historic sites, the field school focuses on the historic archaeology of the 18th and 19th centuries. The focus for this year's field school is home for an enslaved family located in the South Yard adjacent to the Montpelier main house.

The field school is an intensive course designed to give students training in field and laboratory techniques. Students will be introduced to the archaeological method through practical experience while engaged in unit excavations (Phase II and III). Students will also be introduced to survey tools (laser transit) and their use in topographic surveys and establishing a grid.  

The field experience is supplemented by a series of lectures detailing artifact identification, stratigraphy, site formation processes and interpretation, and the overarching interpretation of archaeological sites through their artifacts and features. In addition, students are introduced to post-excavation material analysis and processing in the Archaeology Laboratory.

Students who have participated in the Archaeology Field School are also invited to apply for competitive internships (including paid internships) over the summer and winter months. See the Montpelier Internships page for more information on these opportunities. The $400 fee for the field school also includes housing. We do offer scholarships for African American students.

The Montpelier Archaeology Field School is accredited through James Madison University and SUNY Plattsburgh. For more information on how to participate in a field school, send an email to Dr. Matt Reeves, Director of Archaeology and Landscape Restoration.

2016 Archaeology Field Schools

  • James Madison University Archaeology Field School: May 16 — June 10, 2016
  • SUNY Plattsburgh Archaeology Field School: June 19 — July 15, 2016

Click on the link to download a sample of the Field School Syllabus.

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Field School students at the Tobacco Barn 
Quarter site during the 2012 summer season

South Yard Restoration Video: