Dig the Neolithic: Archaeology Field School 2024

DEADLINE: DECEMBER 5, 2023. To Apply: Use the Willamette study abroad application portal. The program name is Summer Scotland.



Please note:  Summer 2024 is the LAST summer this program will be offered.  The Ness will then be closed so that all of the years of research can be analyzed and documented in publications.  Don't miss out on this great opportunity to be part of an active dig location where discoveries are made often.


For NON-WU applicants:  Application portal will open SOON. While you're waiting, please work to get people to serve as your recommenders:  academic advisor, faculty, and personal.  Non-WU students must also have an official transcript sent to Willamette (900 State Street OIE, Salem, OR 97301)

For WU applicants:  Take a look at the tips on the How to Apply page for How to apply by DECEMBER 5, 2023.


Experience the Heart of Neolithic Orkney (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) first hand with the Willamette University Archaeology Field School.

Summer programs are an opportunity to study abroad outside of the academic year. All offer credit, however each program is structured differently and planned by individual faculty members. The Willamette University Archaeology Field School is an exciting opportunity to experience The Heart of neolithic Orkney first hand.

  • This program is open to WU students and non-WU students from other North American universities.
  • All majors and levels of experience (including no archaeology experience) are welcome.
  • Program participants are accompanied by a WU faculty member.
  • Students live together in a hostel (part of program cost).
  • Meals/food is purchased and prepared by students for themselves. This allows students to budget as they need.

Orkney was #12 on the Time Out list of 15 best places to visit in the UK in 2023!

NEW:  Nick Card has been nominated for Archaeologist of the Year by Current Archaeology magazine. Nick has put immense work into the Ness of Brodgar over the last 20 years. 

NEW:  This document shows the exciting finds and excavation activity during the summer 2023 program! 

VIEW:  This terrific website includes info about the Ness AND also other Orcadian sites.

VIEW:  The Stone Age comes to life via the Neolithic Mystery Tour StoryMap


Students 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 (AIA) 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, the program name is Summer - Scotland.

This WU program is open to students from WU and other institutions. It is open to ALL majors (not just archaeology or environmental science) and is open to students with an interest in the project. Background (or a major) in archaeology is not required.

**  EXCITED about this program?  See actual footage of work on the site, interviews, and more in this short video!  **

Special Conditions

Applicants for this summer program should understand that the program provides unique physical challenges while in the field. The number one priority is the safety of 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 the 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 in the program and 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. 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 for purchasing food and preparing their own meals. Students are encouraged to pair up and cook in teams to minimize cost, increase efficiency and build camaraderie. The hostel used for student housing has a kitchen where participants can prepare their meals. A full-size “Co-op” grocery store is near the hostel.  Students are sharing kitchens (storage and cooking) with other students and a private kitchen for those with severe allergies (examples include celiac, nuts) is not available.

Program Details


Ness of Brodgar, Orkney Islands, Scotland

Orkney College, University of Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute


Scott Pike, Professor of Environmental Science and Archaeology, 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. 

  • 4.0 credits of ARCH 355, Archaeology Field School OR
  • 4.0 credits of ARCH 498, Advanced Archaeology Field School (for students who have already taken ARCH 355)


The first course, ARCH 355 is a credit/no credit (CR/NC) course.  The advanced course, ARCH 498, earns a letter grade (A-F).


2024 Dates:  Saturday July 13 through Saturday, August 17.

Arrival date:  Accepted students will receive specific dates and arrival instructions at the pre-departure meeting during spring semester.  Please DO NOT book travel until instructed by the OIE staff.


2024 cost: Tentatively set for $5800 for WU students ($6000 for non-WU students) based on 13 people.  Cost can increase if we do not meet our minimum participation of 13 students.  FINAL price will be set at acceptance.

  • The program cost includes WU tuition, lodging, local transportation, 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. $2,500).

Scholar- ships

When offered (still being determined for 2024), 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 (up to $2,000) toward the cost of the program and travel to and from the site.  Prof. Pike will notify applicants of the availability of these funds if available.


To Apply: Current Willamette students will use the Willamette study abroad application portal. The program's name is Summer Scotland. The deadline is December 5, 2023 for summer 2024 participation.

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

All applicants can view general information about the Application Content and the Selection Criteria on the OIE website.

Information Session: Please see the events page for a list of study abroad information sessions.

For more information, email oieadvising@willamette.edu.

Non-Willamette Students

Non-Willamette students of all majors are welcome to apply. 

Students from other universities (not Willamette) should use the "Non-WU Students - Apply" button. Specific questions about the program or the application? Email the Office of International Education at oieadvising@willamette.edu.  

Since space is limited, priority is given to qualified WU students. Typically, non-WU students have participated in the program each summer. Non-WU students are strongly encouraged to apply.

Interested in learning more?

Program and site information:

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

"Neolithic cathedral" on the Ness of Brodgar

Apply for Summer Scotland

DEADLINE:  December 5, 2023. 

See the How to Apply link (to the left) for application due December 5, 2023.

WU Students - Apply

Non-WU Students: Apply here

July 2014 National Geographic feature

July 2014 National Geographic feature

Willamette University

Office of International Education

Global Learning Center
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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