Field Techniques in Archaeology

  • TAU: 3 undergraduate credits
  • TAU: 3 graduate credits

The Kiriath-jearim Excavation’s Field Techniques in Archaeology course will train the student in the methods and practices of modern Near Eastern field archaeology, using the site of Kiriath-jearim, the highlands of Judah, and the larger region of Israel as case studies. The course will enable the student to acquire and develop the skills required for proper stratigraphic excavation and technical archaeological recording. In addition to field skills, the research questions and excavation strategies of The Kiriath-jearim Excavation will be discussed and used as an example to help students contextualize the work they will do on-site.  Emphasis is placed on basic field technique and strategy, stratigraphic analysis, documentation, and chronological tools. Students will gain these skills from lecture presentations, in workshops and hands-on experience as they participate in primary research during the excavation at Kiriath-jearim.

Course Materials:

Hester, Thomas R., Harry J. Shafer and Kenneth L. Feder. 2009 Field Methods in Archaeology. Seventh Edition. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. (=FMA below)

You are encouraged to bring a copy of this text book with you as it is the primary reading source. There will be a few copies available for your use in the dig office—but they may not leave the office, so plan accordingly.

 Other articles on the syllabus not from FMA will be provided to you in electronic format.

Requirements for all registered students:

  1. Complete all assigned readings before class time and be prepared to use them in discussion as appropriate.
  2. Attend and be engaged at all class meetings. Material will be presented and discussed, and students will also be taught and practice specific skills. Topics will include stratigraphy, top plans, section drawing, computer applications, use of optical and electronic theodolites, registration, pottery reading, lithic analysis and archaeozoology. Field Tutorials take place on site during the excavation hours. Workshops and Lectures take place back at camp in the afternoons and evenings.
  3. Attendance at designated pottery readings. This is the preliminary sorting and analysis of pottery recovered in excavation. Further details to be announced on site.
  4. Receive on-site instruction from supervisors and complete assigned tasks in the field. Students in the techniques course may be given certain additional responsibilities in the field as part of their study and will have an opportunity to demonstrate skills taught in course workshops.
  5. Keep a field notebook according to the parameters set out by the area supervisor. Daily entries may include elements such as a daily top plan drawing with locus number and elevations, description of soil, architecture and artifacts/or additional material as warranted by the particular excavation unit.
  6. Write a final summation of your excavation and analyses in the field notebook, concerning the area in which you have been excavating, at the end of the course. Instructions will be given on site.

Course Assessment for Undergraduate Credit:

On-site application of skills, 25%: Students will be evaluated based upon their daily performance of field work, including positive attitude, willingness to take instruction, and readiness to learn and improve field skills. Field technique students may be tasked with specific additional responsibilities as needed.

Notebook 25%: Students will be responsible for turning in their completed report prior to departing the Expedition. Reports will be assessed on the basis of the inclusion of all required elements, the clarity of presentation of the archaeological data, and the level of understanding of stratigraphic analysis demonstrated. and how their work fits into the larger context of the Expedition’s research goals.

Specific instruction will be given by supervisors. Students will receive feedback and suggestions on their notebooks throughout the course.

Final field report 25%: Students will prepare and submit a final report on the square(s) or area in  which they have been excavating at the end of the course. Depending upon the area of the site in which you are working, the report will consist of a narrative summary of their square, schematic top plans, a section drawing, descriptions of the loci, description of pottery and artifacts, elevations, and a stratigraphic analysis.

Workshop and classroom participation, 25%: Attendance at all workshops is mandatory. Students will be evaluated on their active participation in skills workshops and other instructional meetings and will be expected to be on-time, engaged and willing to practice new skills and perform excavation tasks as necessary. Appropriate participation includes: attendance at all class meetings; active listening in lecture and thoughtful participation in discussions; overall appropriate personal and academic conduct in accordance with the rules of the Expedition.

Course Assessment for Graduate Credit:

Students wishing to receive graduate credit for this course must complete all the above requirements AND write an archaeological site report on a site of their choosing in consultation with instructors.  The site report should include discussion of the following information, and should especially demonstrate the student’s intellectual grasp of current debate regarding the site’s interpretation and its relevance to larger historical, geographical, or methodological issues in the field.

  • Geographical and historical description of the site
  • Chronological chart of historical events
  • History of the site, with a focus on the Bronze Age to the Roman Period
  • History of excavations of the site including major disagreements among the archaeologists
  • Artifacts or finds including: any architectural remains, features, installations, pottery collections, texts.
  • Any biblical or ancient Near Eastern references
  • Description and illustration of site plan, such as top plans
  • Bibliography
Day Event Instructor Description Preparation Prior to Meeting
MON Class Meeting #1

Field Tutorial


Area and Assistant Supervisors Field Safety and Introduction to Basic Daily Activity



FMA: 21-25, 69-92, 104-110

Class Meeting #2

Site Tour


Directors The Directors will lead a study tour of the site.
TUES Class Meeting #3

Field Tutorial


Area and Assistant Supervisors Field Registration, Part I

Notebooks begin!





FMA: 113-37

Class Meeting #4

6:00pm Workshop


Cohen and Area Assistants Field Registration, Part II and

Review of Course Requirements

WED Class Meeting #5

Field Tutorial

Area and Assistant Supervisors Top Plans and Basic Elevations, Basic concepts in stratigraphy Readings:

FMA: 235-51

Class Meeting #6

6:00pm Workshop

Kleiman Pottery processing and diagnostics workshop Readings:


THURS Class Meeting #7

6:00pm Workshop


Dr. Ruth Shahack-Gross Intro to Geoarchaeology Readings:




Day Event Instructor Description Preparation
MON Class Meeting #8

Field Tutorial


Area and Assistant Supervisors Micro-archaeology and the Collection of Samples in the Field Notebook check




FMA: 298-318

Class Meeting #9

6:00pm Workshop


Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen Collection and processing of zooarchaeological finds
TUES Class Meeting #10

Field Tutorial


Area and Assistant Supervisors




Additional Excavation Skills/Review  






FMA: 143-158

Class Meeting #11

6:00pm Workshop


Office Staff Registration and Field Office; Artifact Labeling and Recording
WED Class Meeting #12

6:00pm Workshop


Mordechay Benzaquen Intro to Paleobotany Readings:

FMA: 283-297

THURS Class Meeting #13

6:00pm Workshop




Total Station and other computer assisted topics



FMA: 178-180; 212-234


Day Event Instructor Description Preparation
MON Class Meeting #14

Field Tutorial


Area and Assistant Supervisors Review and Instruction for Final Reports Notebook check




FMA: 328-335

Class Meeting #15

6:00pm Workshop


Yoav Vaknin Paleomagnentic Analysis
TUES Class Meeting #16

Field Tutorial


Area and Assistant Supervisors Discussion of Use of Sections  







Class Meeting #17

6:00 Workshop


Assistant Supervisors Section drawing and

Questions on Final Reports

WED Class Meeting #18

Field Tutorial

Area and Assistant Supervisors Stratigraphic Interpretation/Mid-late season conclusions Readings:

FMA: 319-327, 335-343

Class Meeting #19

6:00 Lecture:

Conclusions Thus Far


This lecture is required for students in both courses.

Directors In this lecture, the Directors will discuss observations from the excavations thus far this season, and will share any conclusions that have been established at this point. General Review
THURS Class Meeting #20

Time TBA

Area and Assistant Supervisors Last minute questions and any edits for Final Reports Notebooks and Final Report DUE