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Field Schools

Learning in a classroom is important, but getting into the field and seeing that knowledge in action is just as vital for students in Saint Louis University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

The department hosts three field schools where you can perform fieldwork: the Cahokia Mounds Archaeology Field School, the Urban Ethnography Field School, and the Primate Behavior Field School in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Archaeology Lab

Students can extend their experience at the Cahokia Mounds Archaeology Field School with a supplementary course in the archaeology lab. 

Cahokia Mounds Archaeology Field School

Each summer, SLU conducts a four-week archaeological field school at the prehistoric chiefdom of Cahokia under the direction of Mary Vermilion, Ph.D. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Collinsville, Illinois. The site is integral to our understanding of sociopolitical complexity and how complex social systems come to power and decline.

Field school students receive training in various aspects of archaeological fieldwork, including site survey and mapping, excavation and recording techniques, artifact identification, analysis, processing and inventory. The number of students admitted is limited to ensure individual instruction and hands-on experience. This course is certified by the Register of Professional Archaeologists.

This field school is four-credit-hour course (ANTH 4710) and open to SLU undergraduate students as well as visiting students from other institutions. No previous field experience is necessary. The field school meets Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. You must provide your own food and transportation to and from the site.

Following the field school, SLU offers a two-week, two-credit-hour archaeological lab analysis course (ANTH 4720) that emphasizes the scientific methods and procedures used by archaeologists to investigate, reconstruct, interpret, preserve and learn from artifacts, features and ecofacts. Students learn to process, inventory, analyze and interpret the archaeological record within both regional and site contexts.

This course meets Monday through Friday, 8 a.m to 3 p.m. in the archaeology lab in Morrissey Hall.

You can enroll for either or both courses.

For more information, contact Mary Vermilion, Ph.D., at

Primate Behavior Field School in Nicaragua and Costa Rica

During select summers, Katherine MacKinnon, Ph.D., teaches a field school on primate behavior in either Ometepe, Nicaragua or La Suerte, Costa Rica. When the course is taught at the Nicaragua site, the focus is on social behavior and ecology of the mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata). When it is taught in Costa Rica, both howler monkeys and white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus) are studied.

This course is designed to provide students with a sound foundation in primatological concepts and field techniques, as applied in a tropical setting. The material covered is equivalent to an upper-level university course in primate behavioral ecology. The course is divided into five distinct categories: formal classroom lectures, informal field lectures, readings and critiques, group projects and individual research projects. In addition to the course mechanics, you will have the opportunity to interact with the local people and gain insight into the cultural histories of this Central American region.

Form more information, please contact:
Katherine C. MacKinnon, Ph.D.
Morrissey Hall, Room 1927

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