Summer Archaeology Field School


Every summer, the University of Lethbridge conducts a field school, providing students with "hands-on" experience in archaeological excavations and material culture processing. Students from all disciplines are welcomed although ARKY 1000 is a prerequisite for earning course credit.

Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump Archaeological Field School 2022

Want to have the experience of a lifetime this summer and earn 9 credits (three, 3000-level archaeology courses) doing it?

The Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump archaeological field school is a seven-week, 9-credit program (three third-year courses: ARKY 3000, ARKY 3300, and ARKY 3400 ), that runs from May 9 to June 26, 2022.

Prerequisites: Students should have completed at least one other archaeology course before applying for the field school.

This field school has three main components:

  1. A two-week online course to prepare students for the project
  2. Four weeks of excavation at Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump; and
  3. One week of laboratory work at the U of L Westcastle field station.

Students will be introduced to the archaeology and history of the northern Great Plains, theoretical methods for approaching North American archaeology, Indigenous archaeologies, and Indigenous consultation. They will gain experience in excavation and survey methods, and field documentation through experiential learning activities. Students will also be introduced to the practical and intellectual challenges presented by field research.

Students will receive further training in laboratory analysis and will have the opportunity to catalogue the cultural remains they found. The broader context of the archaeological finds and the site will be explained through discussions, lectures, and workshops.

Research Objectives of the Project

Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump is an elaborate hunting complex spread across the landscape where, for at least the past 5,500 years, hunters used the natural topography to drive herds of bison off cliff edges and then process the animals in the vicinity. The site is remarkable not just for its striking topography but for its long-term use as an important Indigenous component of subsistence and cultural practice in the northwestern Great Plains. It is one of the most important locations of Indigenous heritage. Our work at the site aims to clarify chronological and contextual issues related to the earliest occupation phases, evaluate the relationships between different activity areas, and identify earlier uses than those currently well documented. Through this work, students will learn about the site and develop key skills necessary in North American archaeology.

A Typical Day on the Dig

7:30 Rise and shine
7:45 Breakfast
8:30 Travel to the site
8:45 Work begins
12:00 Lunch time
12:30 Back to work
17:00 Pack up equipment
17:30 Return to basecamp
18:00 Workshops and camp chores
19:15 Dinner time!
22:00 Lights out

A similar schedule is in place for the laboratory work at the Westcastle field station.

Field School Learning Outcomes

By the end of the field school, you will have a solid understanding of archaeological field methods, know the value of detailed excavation records, and have experience in laboratory analysis. You will also learn how your efforts and discoveries contribute to the academic goals of the research project You will be immersed in the local environment and culture of southern Alberta, learn about the people that live there, and make many new friends!

Interested in Participating?

An archaeological field school requires real, hard work in a camp environment. The weather may be hot or cold, rainy or sunny. You will get dirty and be very tired by the end of the day. We hope that the thrill of discovering artifacts that were buried for thousands of years outweighs the stiff muscles and long days. There is no better way to learn how to do field research than actually doing it! If you would like to participate in the 2022 field school at Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump please contact Dr. Shawn Bubel ( at the University of Lethbridge.

Application packages as well as the letter of reference form can be found on Dr. Bubel's website.

The complete application package is due on April 25, 2022.

IMPORTANT: Though the Alberta government has lifted most of the COVID-19 restrictions, we must do our best to limit our exposure to the virus. We do not want anyone in the group to contract COVID-19 and subsequently spread it to the rest of the excavation team. Therefore, students should view the two-week online course as a self-isolation period to ensure they are COVID-19 free when they arrive at basecamp.  We will then continue to limit our exposure to the virus throughout the field school.

Information Session

We will be hosting an online information session about the project and field school on Wednesday, April 20 at 8:00 pm. Dr. Kevin McGeough and Dr. Shawn Bubel will go over the research aims of the project, the field school components, costs, and logistics. Please attend the information session if you are planning on applying to the field school or just want to hear more about it! Please contact Dr. Shawn Bubel ( for the Zoom link.