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Archeological Field School, 2009

Field Techniques In Archaeology

Anthropology 380, up to 6 credits
Dates: May 18 - June 26, 2009
Instructors: Dr. Dennis Toom and Michael A. Jackson
Application Deadline: April 17, 2009


The Department of Anthropology, University of North Dakota, invites students to attend its Archaeological Field School in the summer of 2009. The six-week field class will cover archeological survey and excavation techniques, and also precision mapping. The field school is scheduled to take place from 18 May through 26 June 2009. The course is being offered in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the USDI Bureau of Reclamation.

The 2009 summer field school will be held at multiple locations: (1) the Elkhorn/Ebert Ranch on the Little Missouri River north of Medora, North Dakota, and (2) Shadehill Reservoir, at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Grand River, Perkins County, South Dakota. A map of the field school locations is available at Google Maps.


Ebert/Elkhorn Ranch Survey

Little Missouri River ValleyThe first two-three weeks of the field school will involve an archeological survey of a portion of the Ebert Ranch, which was recently acquired by the USDA Forest Service and will be incorporated into the Dakota Prairie Grasslands. In the 1880s, the land that would become the Ebert Ranch was part of Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch, which was his cattle headquarters in Dakota Territory. Roosevelt remarked that he never would have become President, if not for his time in the North Dakota Badlands. His views on conservation were shaped during his time in western North Dakota. The remains of the Elkhorn Ranch proper lie directly west of the Ebert Ranch, and across the Little Missouri River. The Elkhorn Ranch is a unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The Forest Service recently acquired the Ebert Ranch to forestall development across from the National Park unit. The Forest Service is sponsoring the archeological survey of the Ebert Ranch. Its main purpose is to provide the Forest Service with a comprehensive archeological inventory of the property for future management purposes and to help plan the rehabilitation of the ranch property back to native prairie. In 2008, the UND field school surveyed waterfront property along the Little Missouri River. This work will be continued in 2009.

 2008 Student Surveyors  Ebert Ranch/Little Missouri River valley


Elkhorn Ranch Headquarters Mapping

A Young Theodore Roosevelt "My home ranch-house stands on the river brink. From the low, long veranda, shaded by leafy cotton-woods, one looks across sand bars and shallows to a strip of meadowland, behind which rises a line of sheer cliffs and grassy plateaus. This veranda is a pleasant place in the summer evenings when a cool breeze stirs along the river and blows in the faces of the tired men, who loll back in their rocking-chairs (what true American does not enjoy a rocking-chair?), book in hand--though they do not often read the books, but rock gently to and fro, gazing sleepily out at the weird-looking buttes opposite, until their sharp outlines grow indistinct and purple in the after-glow of the sunset."

(From Hunting Trips of a Ranchman by Theodore Roosevelt)


One week of the field school will be spent mapping the archeological remains of the Elkhorn Ranch proper, located on the left (west) bank of the Little Missouri River, nestled in the rugged badlands of Billiings County, western North Dakota. Using GPS receivers, a total station, historic mapping data, and modern GIS data, field school students will map the ranch headquarters. The resultant map will be used to help the National Park Service improve interpretative facilities at the Elkhorn Ranch Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Setting of the Elkhorn Ranch 2008 Field School at the Elkhorn Ranch  Students resting on support stones for the main cabin, Elkhorn Ranch  


Shadehill Reservoir Test Excavations

The final two-three weeks of the field school will involve test excavations at mulitple, prehistoric archeological sites at Shadehill Reservoir. The reservoir is managed by the USDI Bureau of Reclamation, the sponsor of the testing project. The sites to be tested have been found to contain buried, relatively intact archeological deposits. Students will receive training in all aspects of archeological fieldwork. This will include the use of different kinds of field equipment and techniques for excavation and artifact recovery, site mapping, documentation, and record keeping.

 Shadehill Reservoir   Valley Bottoms, North Fork of the Grand River  Shadehill Reservoir


Field Trips and Other Activities

Field trips are planned to archeological and other sites of interest in the Northern Plains. We may visit some or all of the following places:


Get Paid for School

If funds are available, students will be paid minimum hourly wages as student interns while working on the field school. This innovation in field school offerings allows students to earn some income while getting first-hand experience in field archeology and earning valuable university credits. Basic living expenses (room and board) are also provided from field school project funds. Most field schools charge special fees for room and board, but the UND field school does not. This is because it is linked to externally funded research projects which cover these expenses for our students.


Employment After School

UND Anthropology Research anticipates a busy schedule of archeological fieldwork this summer after the field school is over. There is a distinct possibility that we will be able to hire students to work as professionals on various field research projects during the rest of the summer.


Field School Credits and Cost

The field school will be offered as a regular six-week class from May 18th through June 26th, 2008. Students can enroll for up to six semester hours of undergraduate credit in Anthropology 380, Field Techniques in Archaeology (one credit hour per week). The application deadline is April 17, 2009. Enrollment is limited so please apply early.

Costs of the field school include:

  • a $35.00 admission fee (only applies to students newly enrolled to UND)
  • standard tuition and fees (see table below; rates subject to change without notice)


Undergraduate Residency Category

North Dakota


Minnesota (with reciprocity)


Contiguous States & Provinces, Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), & Midwestern Higher Education Consortium (MHEC):

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washingston, and Wyoming; Canadian Provinces: Manitoba and Saskatchewan


All Other States and Provinces (Nonresident)



Lodging and food will be provided. Local transportation, camping equipment (if needed), and all field equipment are also provided. Additional information regarding UND tuition and fees is available from the UND Student Account Services Office.


Application and Contact Information

For application forms and more information, students should contact Dr. Dennis L. Toom by phone (701-777-2437) or email ( The application is available online as a PDF file for you to print out. Completed applications should be mailed to:

Dr. Dennis L. Toom
Anthropology Research
Department of Anthropology
University of North Dakota
236 Centennial Drive Stop 7094
Grand Forks, ND 58202-7094

Alternatively, you may request an application by writing to the above address. Application forms are also available for general distribution in the Anthropology Department main office in Babcock Hall Room 104, on the UND campus in Grand Forks.

updated 6 February 2009


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