Carroll College, Helena Montana
Archaeological Field School

Archaeological Field School

Carroll College Archaeological Field School

Stay tuned: The annual Carroll College summer archaeological field school will be offered again in Summer 2017. It is for 4 credits, either Social Science or Natural Science core credits. During the course of the summer, students will be introduced to the basics of archaeological field methods and research design directed through fieldwork on the local archaeological record.

Course Description

AN 341: Archaeological Field School

4 Credits (natural science core or social science credits)
Lab fee $150.00 (covers food and equipment)
Capacity: 10 students
AN/SO 341 Syllabus

The Carroll College Archaeological Field School will introduce students to basic archaeological field methods and research design in one of the most beautiful settings in the western United States. The 4 credit, ten day class is designed to train students in the basics of archaeological excavation and survey techniques. The 4 credits can be natural science core or social science credits.

The Field School research will be conducted within the Helena National Forest. The area is located in the northern Big Belt Mountains about 20 miles northeast of Helena. Students will be camping for 8 days and will be expected to participate in camp activities (cooking, camp upkeep, etc). Students should be prepared for full days of digging and/or hiking, sometimes in remote areas. A mobile laboratory will also be set up at the campsite. Thus, in addition to excavation and survey techniques, students will also learn laboratory procedures, including cataloging artifacts and performing basic artifact analysis. Evenings will also include informal lectures and discussions on local prehistory, history, geomorphology and ecology.

Students must provide personal camping gear, including sleeping bag, tent, sturdy hiking boots, weather appropriate clothing, water bottle, backpack, sunscreen, insect repellant and field notebook. A lab fee of $150.00 will cover the cost of food and field equipment.

Class Objectives

Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Read and use topographic maps, compasses and global positioning systems (GPS)
  • Identify prehistoric sites, artifacts and features
  • Survey for archaeological sites, including recording and mapping
  • Understand the basics of archaeological excavation
  • Understand the significance of preservation of cultural sites
  • Work effectively in groups
  • Have a working knowledge of local prehistory

Grading and Assessment

  • Ability to understand and demonstrate excavation, laboratory and survey skills
  • Participation and attitude (willingness to work hard in the field, share in camp duties, deal in a mature manner with instructors and peers)
  • Quality of record keeping (field notes, maps, site forms)

Specifically, the course grade will be determined by:

  • Participation and Attitude - 30%
  • Archaeological skills in the field - 30%
  • Record keeping - 20%
  • Laborator - 20%

Archaeology dig searches for ancient pollen

By Pat Hansen for the MT Standard

Darla (Lease) DexterMost people think of archaeology as the study of artifacts such as shards of pottery, tools, and arrowheads. However, an archaeological dig in 2011 at Beaver Creek Rock Shelter near Nelson, east of Helena, led Darla (Lease) Dexter to study pollen found at the site.

Dexter, a 1994 graduate of Powell County High School in Deer Lodge, became interested in archaeology while taking a Native American Studies class with Lauri Travis, at Carroll College in the fall of 2011.

Last May she joined archaeologist and anthropologist Travis and others for a two-week dig. The Beaver Creek Rock Shelter was used by Indian tribes for more than 2,000 years as a temporary shelter for two or three people at a time, so fire hearths, bones, shells and rock flakes chipped off during the shaping of arrowheads were found. Read more of this story

Current Research

The 2010-2014 Carroll College Archaeological Field Schools focused on the excavation of local rock shelters dating to over 6,000 years old. Our research centers on paleoenvironmental change and human adaptation. Our research has monitored climatic variability and documented the environmental responses, such as changes in vegetation communities, animal populations, forest fire frequencies, sedimentation rates, as well as prehistoric human adaptation to those changing conditions.