Dig the Neolithic: Archaeology Field School (2017)

The Willamette University Archaeology Field School offers students the exciting opportunity to experience The Heart of neolithic Orkney (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) first hand.

Students from WU and non-WU schools will work with Orkney College as it unearths a "Neolithic cathedral" on the Ness of Brodgar. This excavation is redefining the understanding of the Neolithic World and was listed by the Archaeological Institute of America as one of the top 15 "most significant discoveries of 2009."  Located in one of the most archaeologically significant parts of the United Kingdom, Orkney College is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands.  WHEN APPLYING, LOOK FOR THE PROGRAM "SUMMER SCOTLAND" TO COMPLETE AN APPLICATION.

This program is open to students from ALL majors (not just archaeology and/or environmental science) and is also open to students without any background or limited background in archaeology.

Special Conditions

Students applying for this summer program should understand that the program provides unique physical challenges while in the field. The number one priority during the program is the safety of the participants.

  • Unpredictable weather extremes: Sitting in the North Atlantic, Orkney can be sunny and warm one minute and wet, cold and windy the next. Typically temperatures will be in the fifties and sixties, but can change rapidly. Participants need to be prepared for rain, wind, sun, cold temperatures, warm temperatures and midges (tiny annoying biting insects that only come out when weather is calm and warm). Participants will be encouraged to dress in layers to account for the alternating weather conditions.
  • Working Conditions:  As members of an archaeological excavation, participants will be outside for extended periods of time, even during prolonged rains. Snack and lunch breaks will also be taken outside. All team members are responsible to bring their own snacks and lunches and you are encouraged to bring a waterproof lunch carrier. Living and working in such close proximity to fellow excavators has the potential for great rewards such as building strong camaraderie and promoting a comfortable and secure “dorm-like” living arrangement. It also has the potential to be very challenging at times. Participants need to be accepting and patient with others on the program and to understand that their actions affect those of the whole group.
  • Physical Expectations:  Beyond tolerance for changes in weather, participants will be expected to carry buckets of soil and push soil-filled wheeled barrows. Other light lifting of rocks, wood supports, etc. may also be necessary. For much of the day excavators are crouched down on their knees and sometimes can be seen laying on their stomachs.
  • Food:  Participants are responsible to prepare their own meals. Students are encouraged to pair up and cook in teams to minimize cost, increase efficiency and build camaraderie. The Hamnavoe Hostel has a well-equipped kitchen where participants can prepare their meals. A full-size “Co-op” grocery store that is about 1 minute away from the hostel has recently opened.

Program Details


Ness of Brodgar, Orkney Islands, Scotland
Orkney College, University of Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute


Sunday, July 16, 2017 (first day of instruction) through Saturday, August 19, 2017.  Students will need to arrive on Saturday, July 15, 2017 but will be given specific instructions at the pre-departure meeting in spring semester.  Please do not book travel until instructed by the OIE staff.


Scott Pike, Associate Professor of Environmental and Earth Science, Willamette University


This program is open to students from ALL majors and should also be considered by students without any or limited background in archaeology. 

  • 1.0 cr. of ARCH 355, Archaeology Field School or for students who have already taken ARCH 355
  • 1.0 cr. of ARCH 498, Advanced Archaeology Field School


Tentatively $5,296 for WU students ($5,496 for non-WU students) based on 13 people but details are still being finalized for 2017 so this amount is subject to change.

  • The program cost includes WU tuition, lodging, local transportation and ferry fees, study abroad health insurance, museum fees and field trips.
  • The program cost DOES NOT include meals so that students can economize as they choose with a suggested budget of $750 for food.
  • Transportation to and from the island is NOT included (est. $2,000).


Willamette University students who are interested in participating in the field school are encouraged to apply to the Center for Ancient Studies and Archaeology Student Field School Grants that provide some funding ($3,000) toward the cost of the program and travel to and from the site.


The deadline for this summer program is December 6, 2016.  Students must use the link to apply, but when completing their application, should apply under the "Summer Scotland" program. 

For any questions or if you experience problems, please email oieadvising@willamette.edu

Non-Willamette Students

Non-Willamette students of all majors are welcome to apply using the same application, but must meet all WU deadlines. In addition to applying using the application on the OIE website, if you are a non-WU student applying, please have your home university (and any other universities you've attended) send an official transcript to: International Education, Willamette University, 900 State Street, Salem, OR 97301. Transcripts must arrive by the application deadline for full consideration.  

Interested in learning more?

Program and site information:

The site and the Willamette program have been featured in a number of places:

Information Session: Please see http://www.willamette.edu/dept/oie/abroad/events/index.html for list of study abroad information sessions.

For more information, email Scott Pike or oieadvising@willamette.edu.