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Hands-on Experience

Funding Your Field School Experience

There are several opportunities open to help McMaster students with the expenses associated with field school programs. See the following links for more information regarding eligibility and the application process:

Scholarships & Bursaries- Office of the Registrar

Experiential Education Student Experience Grants


Archaeological Field School

3CC6 Archaeological Field School

Take part in a 6-week archaeological excavation at Coote's Paradise in Hamilton, Ontario

This 6-credit course provides all the required experience needed to work as an archaeologist in cultural resource management. Students will also acquire new laboratory, analytical and research skills.

The 2023 Spring field school is scheduled to run! Enrollment will be available via MOSAIC in early March. If you would like to be included on a mail list update please contact Christine Cluney, Instructional Assistant.

For more information contact Christine Cluney


The Archaeological Field School will take place on the north shore of the Cootes Paradise marsh within the property of the Royal Botanical Gardens. Undergraduate students from McMaster have been working at this site since 2006, 2009, 2016, 2018 and 2022 under the direction of Dr. Scott Martin, and 2010 and 2011 under the direction of Meghan Burchell. Although the precise date of the earliest occupation is unknown, it is believed that the site is at least 3000 years old based on the presence of Archaic style projectile points. The site was also occupied during post-European contact era, and as a farmstead prior to the establishment of the Royal Botanical Gardens in 1930.

Field school students have uncovered glacial deposits from earlier shorelines, features such as pits and posts, as well as a suite of artifacts, including pre-contact ceramics, lithics and faunal materials. Examples of historic artifacts include ceramics, metals, glass trade beads, as well as military paraphernalia that may be associated with conflicts between Upper Canada and the United States, such as the Battle of Stoney Creek and the War of 1812.

There are 18 archaeological sites located within a two-kilometer radius, and some are associated with the 'Princess Point Culture'. The Princess Point complex has been identified based on cord-wrapped stick impressed patterns on pottery and triangular arrow points, in addition to other types of stone tools.


Course Description

The Archaeological Field School provides hands-on experience in the methods and techniques of archaeological excavation. Following legislation set forth by the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries (MHSTCI), this course teaches students the required elements of archaeological field practice for both professional (CRM) and research-based archaeology. While most of the time is spent in the field conducting excavation, time is also devoted to learning new laboratory practices, analytical techniques and refining research skills.

By the end of the course, students will be capable of participating in the full spectrum of archaeological practice, specifically survey, mapping, excavation, research, analysis and report writing.

A Day in the Field

The course will begin each day at 9am and work will continue until about 3:45pm. There will be a morning and/or afternoon break (15 minutes) and a lunch break at 12pm (1 hour).

In addition to days spent in the field, students will also spend time in the McMaster archaeology labs. As work permits, there may also be field trips to other local archaeology sites, museums, and research facilities.

Although outdoor work will not take place if there is lightening (or serious potential for lightening), students should be prepared to work in a range of weather conditions, including light rain.

Anthropology students have the right tools for uncovering history

Registration and Tuition Details

Course Instructor: Dr. Scott Martin
Course Assistant: Christine Cluney

McMaster Students: Registration for this 6-credit course is done online through MOSAIC. Tuition is the equivalent of a regular 6-credit course through McMaster and is paid through McMaster Student Accounts and Cashiers.  Students will be responsible for the purchase of appropriate footwear, trowel, and a few other small tools, totaling no more than $100.

Visiting Student? If you are a student from outside McMaster, but would like to take the field school, please visit the Office of the Registrar website to apply as a visiting student. It is a good idea to apply as quickly as possible, as you need to apply through the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) system.

See MOSAIC for details and dates for registration

Bioarchaeological Field School

3BF3 Bioarchaeological Field School

Take part in a bioarchaeological excavation near Gravina in Puglia, Italy.

Learn about bioarchaeological research methods while excavating a Roman cemetery in this 3-credit course.

Due to the uncertainty of international travel, the 2023 field school will not be running.

Please keep checking here for updates for the next 3BF3 field school in the summer of 2024.


Were Roman Slaves Hungry? Recent work on Vagnari and environs: Current World Archaeology.


See the 2020 Vagnari Volunteer Form

Contact Dr. Tracy Prowse

Site Background

The site of Vagnari is located in the Basentello River valley, near the modern city of Gravina in Puglia. During Roman times it was likely situated close to one of the main highways (the Via Appia) that connected the city of Rome to the southern coast of Italy. Excavation and survey on the site since 2001 (under the direction of Professor Alastair Small) has identified substantial architectural remains and structures associated with industrial activities, including iron working and the production of pottery and tiles in kilns. Archaeological evidence from the site suggests that Vagnari and the surrounding territory was likely part of a large Imperial estate.

Excavations on the site of Vagnari continue to fill out the picture of this settlement and its activities. The McMaster bioarchaeological field school will focus on the cemetery located on the south side of the site.

Vagnari is located on modern farmland, which made it accessible for research. It is divided into two parts by a ravine created by seasonal runoff and the centre of the village seems to have shifted from one side of the ravine to the other during the long occupation of the site (from the 4th century BC through the 6th century AD). 

Course Description

This course gives students hands-on training in the excavation and analysis of human skeletal remains from a Roman cemetery. In addition to learning how to excavate burials, students will develop skills in the documentation and analysis of skeletal remains and associated burial artifacts. Additionally, students will be introduced to general field excavation and survey techniques and will develop skills in recording ongoing observations in the form of a daily journal.


Travel and Accommodations in Southern Italy

Students are responsible for their own travel arrangements. Upon registration and acceptance in the field school, students will be sent a detailed handbook that will provide instructions on traveling to Italy. We will also have a fieldwork orientation meeting in April.

Most students will fly to Rome, before taking a train or bus onto Bari, and then onto Gravina, a small city of ~75 000 people. Once in Gravina, students will stay in an apartment (spartan and crowded, but comfortable). A light breakfast and lunch will be provided at the apartment each day, in addition to an on-site mid morning snack. Dinner will occur at one of two local restaurants.

In a typical day, students will leave for the field by 6:15 am, where work will proceed until about 12:30pm. At about 3:30 pm, some will return to the field and continue until 6:00 pm, though some may wash pottery or process finds instead. Dinner at the restaurant will often be at 8:00 pm. The work week is from Sunday to Thursday, with 'weekends' (Friday-Saturday) free for exploring and short trips (not covered by course fees).

Registration and Tuition Details

*DUE TO COVID-19 the 3BF3 field school will not be offered in 2021.


Volunteers must submit an enrollment form to Dr. Prowse in order to participate in the excavations.

There is a mandatory program fee ($2800) for instruction, lodging in a shared apartment, all meals on-site, local transportation to and from site, site books, and program administration that is paid to the Department of Anthropology. The program fee does not include flight and ground transportation to and from Gravina (roughly $1500). Students must also factor in the cost of a passport, comprehensive health insurance and other personal expenses.

3BF3 Field School Students

Students must submit an enrollment form to Dr. Prowse in order to be accepted into the course. Once accepted, registration for this 3-credit course is done online through MOSAIC. 

Tuition for undergraduate students is the equivalent of a 3-credit course at McMaster (roughly $675 - paid directly to McMaster University). Non-McMaster students can also enroll in the course by applying as a part-time student to McMaster University. There is a program fee ($2800) for instruction, lodging in a shared apartment, all meals on-site, local transportation to and from site, site books, and program administration that is paid to the Department of Anthropology. The program fee does not include flight and ground transportation to and from Gravina (roughly $1500). Students must also factor in the cost of a passport, comprehensive health insurance and other personal expenses.


See the Office of the Registrar for registration information

For information and a registration form

Please contact: Dr. Tracy Prowse

photo of Tracy Prowse

Tracy Prowse

Ph.D., Anthropology, McMaster University2001

(she/her); Associate Professor; Associate Dean Academic, Faculty of Social Sciences; Associate Editor, American Journal of Biological Anthropology