Topic ID #25339 - posted 12/6/2012 4:51 PM

PIARA 2013 Archaeological Field School at Hualcayán, Peru


Field School Website:

Join PIARA this summer in the spectacular Andean highlands of Peru!  In 2013 we introduce an exciting new format for our field school, where students will focus their studies on a particular analytical specialty in addition to gaining experience in excavation and laboratory analysis.  Students will excavate monumental tombs and ritual structures at Hualcayán, then focus their studies on one of the following methodological concentrations:

Bioarchaeology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Artifact Analysis

These are all important in the field of archaeology today, and this course will allow students to explore new methods or broaden their knowledge in these areas.  During the field school, participants will live and work in the rural Quechua community of Hualcayán, as well as travel to important archaeological sites and museums in three cities and visit stunning natural features likes high altitude lagoons and glaciers.  In 2011 and 2012, a total of 99 students completed the PIARA archaeological field school at Hualcayán over six sessions.  These students came from all over the world including the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Venezuela, Australia, and China.

Hualcayán is located in the stunning Cordillera Blanca mountain range of the Peruvian Andes, situated below the famous Alpamayo glacier in the Parque Nacional del Huascarán: an UNESCO World Heritage Site protected for its extreme beauty and rare ecosystem.  We invite you to come experience this amazing landscape, its people, and its ancient past!

What You Will Learn

The 2013 course Analytical Methods in Archaeology is a unique, intensive learning experience that provides detailed training in a variety of important methods used in archaeological investigation.  Students will spend half of their time learning general excavation and laboratory techniques.  For the second half of the field school, they will specialize in a specific analytical method.  Students may select bioarchaeology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), or artifact analysis as their concentration.

Participants will learn excavation techniques in a variety of contexts, including tombs and ceremonial mounds at Hualcayán.  They will learn how to properly lay out excavation units, how to draw plan maps and profiles of stratigraphic and architectural features, and how to digitally record data and make digital drawings using iPads in the field.  Students will also attend workshops in total station mapping and laboratory methods such as ceramic analysis, artifact illustration, bioarchaeology, GIS, soil fine screening and flotation, and textile analysis.

Students will then choose one of the following concentrations:

1. Bioarchaeology  Students will focus their studies on the excavation of ancient tombs and the analysis of human skeletal remains.  PIARA has an incredible sample of mummified and non-mummified remains.  Students will develop and/or refine their ability to: identify human bones, determine the sex and age of human skeletons, and document the number of individuals (MNI) present in comingled contexts. They will also learn more advanced bioarchaeological analysis skills by finding evidence for ancient diseases and nutritional deficiencies (paleopathology), identifying evidence for trauma, violent interactions and activity patterns, and studying trephanation techniques and cranial modification practices.  Students will reconstruct mortuary practices at Hualcayán through an analysis of funerary architecture, context, entomology, and material association (textiles, ceramics, metal objects, and macrobotanical remains).  Finally, students will learn proper techniques for the cleaning and curation of skeletal materials.  Participants must be comfortable working in small, enclosed tomb spaces.

2. GIS  Students will focus their studies on archaeological and environmental survey, mapping, and the management and analysis of this data using GIS software.  In the field, students will discover and document archaeological sites using total stations and GPS units (survey) and will study the architecture and environment of these sites (architectural and landscape analysis).  These data will be collected through a series of assignments designed to teach a variety of GIS techniques and analyses that are commonly employed in archaeology.  In the lab, students will import, create and manage spatial data, learning to: georeference maps, photographs, and satellite images; conduct visibility and cost-path analyses; manipulate, generate, and convert different types of spatial data such as shapefiles, DEMs and TINs; and process these data for 2D and 3D visualization.  Students will also learn to manage and visualize excavation data in GIS.  All students must bring a PC laptop (or Mac running Bootcamp) with these requirements in order to participate in the GIS concentration.  They must also be able to walk long distances in mountainous terrain at high altitude.

3. Artifact analysis  Students will analyze excavated artifacts from particular contexts at Hualcayán to construct and interpret artifact assemblages across space and time.  PIARA excavations have amassed an extensive and varied artifact collection from a variety of contexts and prehistoric periods, from which students will select a specific theme, area, and/or period to intensively study. Students will learn to perform detailed attribute analysis on these artifacts, with a primary focus on ceramics and textiles.  The proper techniques of ceramic illustration, photography, and reconstruction/restoration will be an important part of this training.  Students will also learn to process soils through fine-screening and flotation in search of micro artifacts and botanical materials.  Participants will process new materials from current excavations as well as already excavated materials.

*Lab-intensive option: Students may also choose a lab-intensive course, where one half of the course is oriented towards artifact analysis (as opposed to excavation), with bioarchaeology or GIS as their secondary concentration.  Alternatively, lab-intensive students may spend the entire session focusing on artifact analysis.

The PIARA field school offers an incredible opportunity to explore a variety of methods and conduct research on a topic that interests you.  In addition to field and laboratory work, assigned readings and lectures will provide you with knowledge on Andean prehistory and methodological training.  For your final project, you will focus your data collection on a specific topic and prepare a final group presentation that synthesizes your findings.  You will receive eight credit hours from the Univerisad Nacional de Ancash - Santiago Antúnez de Mayolo (UNASAM) for successfully completing the course.  UNASAM students will simultaneously participate with you in fieldwork at Hualcayán, providing an intercultural learning experience.

We invite you to explore the exciting Andean past, learn advanced archaeological methods, and experience traditional Andean culture at Hualcayán with us this summer!

Visit our website for complete details:
Visit our Facebook page for more photos:


Visit our Employment Network websites: - - For information on advertising on this website, contact