Home > Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project > Field school or field project?

Field school or field project?

One of the unique features of PKAP is that we are a hybrid project.  We involve students in almost all aspects of fieldwork, much like an archaeological field school (i.e. a project this is primarily designed to teach students archaeological method and practice), but we also maintain a strong focus on research and pursue fieldwork directed by very specific questions regarding the nature of Mediterranean exchange networks, settlement patterns, et c. 

This inevitable causes conflict among senior staff as to the nature and extent of student involvement.  This season (as in the past) our debates regarding student involvement revolve around differing philosophies of archaeological education.  I argue that students learn archaeological practice largely from practicing archaeology.  The experiences of a regular fieldwork routine focused on accomplishing a specific task — whether it be field walking, pottery washing, pottery sorting, or even data entry — give the students not only experience in the meticulous and detailed nature of archaeological research, but also provide them with a sense of accomplishment when they see how their specific responsibility fits into the larger goals of the project.  In the best cases, students who are given a specific task to accomplish over the course of a field season develops a degree of expertise in the specific task and can actually help us to refine the methods or procedures that we employ. 

Students enjoying the routine pleasure of fieldwalking

In practice, my philosophy involves assigning specific jobs to specific students.  For example, one student might be in charge of data entry for the season, another regularly assigned to a field team, another assigned to assist a more senior person in mapping survey units.  These tasks do not vary over the season ensuring that the student develops a degree of experience and “expertise” over the three or four weeks of work.

David Pettegrew, my arch nemesis in this matter, is a proponent of the “rotation school” of archaeological education.  The so-called “rotation school” cruelly deprives students of the wide-ranging pleasures of archaeological routine as they are “rotated” through various different tasks on a daily basis.  This practice is neither an ideal experience for the project — as it deprives us of students who have even limited experience at any task — but it is bad for the students as well as they never develop the sense of accomplishment that comes from performing an important function of the project consistently and well.

David, of course, sees this differently…

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