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Anthropology of the death at Pompeii. Bioarchaeology, digging graves and study human osteology (Naples, Italy)

Location: Pompeii - Naples, Italy

September 8, 2014 to December 8, 2015

Session dates: 
1) July 26 - August 12; 2) August 12 - August 29

Application Deadline: 
Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Deadline Type: 
Contact for details

Flyer: PDF icon 038.pdf

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



The Sanisera Archaeology Institute for International Field Schools offers over 20 international courses focusing on archaeology, anthropology, GIS, underwater archaeology, conservation, art, museums and archaeological film. Student's fieldwork centers on the survey and excavation of classical sites. - See more at:

Project Director:

Llorenç Alapont, Stephen Kay & Rosa Maria Albiach

Project Description

Sanisera Archaeology Institute for International Field Schools

Our commitment is to promote Archaeology in its different aspects of research, training, and conservation, with a basic and clear purpose: to involve anyone from around the world who wishes to gain access to this scientific field. Sanisera is an international archaeological organization whose main aim is that of promoting and developing research , so that our current and future generations can be enriched by culture and education in this field.

We are not only in Spain, but we also have courses in Greece, Portugal, France, UK, Croatia, Turkey and Italy. We offer students more than 20 courses that can enrich their CVs, validate university credits and get recommendation letters to enter the job market or get into prestigious scientific research centers.

Our work is focused on the archaeological study of ancient cities, anthropology, osteology, digging graves, conservation in archaeology, art, museums, excavate shipwrecks and submerged cities of ancient ports in the underwater school in archaeology, how to make a movie, learning GIS Software for archaeologists and discovering the most important monuments from Ancient civilizations such as Athens and Rome.

Why participate?

General Information

The Sanisera Archaeology Institute for International Field Schools offers an annual archaeological dig near Naples, Italy. It organizes courses for students who come from all over the world to study abroad and who are interested in anthropology.


The necropolis of Pompeii offers an extraordinary opportunity to study the people who inhabited the most researched and internationally renowned Roman Empire city, due to the disaster caused by the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius.

During 2015 will be scheduled a specialized intervention in bioarchaeology in three places with different types and forms of burials.

The first sector is located in one of the cemeteries next to one of the doors -Porta Nola- of the city walls of Pompeii. In this way, students will discover new tombs and objects to go into detail about social aspects, customs and rituals of its citizens.

The second intervention aims to dig with great detail the singular tomb of a famous character from Pompeii named Obellius Firmus, discovered in 1979. In the third action is intended to excavate a schola tomb in order to dig up cremation burials deposited in urns.

And finally, absolutely outstanding, another aspect also scheduled for this course will be the study of 15 casts of the bodies of dead people that have been discovered in Pompeii, people who died in terror while trying to leave the city during the volcano eruption in 79 AD. The victims were walking as they could in the darkness, helping each other, and unfortunately ended up falling suffocated by breathing ashes in a section of the street located close to the city walls.

All this means the multidisciplinary research and the participation of diverse archaeological sciences, funerary archaeology, physical anthropology, bone-archaeology, palynology, etc. All with the most modern technologies of topography, geophysics, increased reality, etc.

The fieldwork focuses on funerary structures, specifically inhumation and cremation graves. Students will also participate in lectures on anatomy and skeletal pathologies, exercises and excursions related to the course material.

The organization of the scientific project brings together specialists in physical anthropology, experts in classical archeology and supervisors of institutions: British School At Rome, Museum and Department of Archaeology of CDL (Valencia, Spain) and Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni archeologici di Pompei, Ercolano e Stabi (Naples, Italy).

What you will learn

In the Fieldwork:

  • How to dig and which archaeological techniques are used.
  • Use and handling of the tools that are used during the excavation process.
  • Basic principles of stratigraphy.
  • Basic procedures for collecting C14 samples.

In the Laboratory

  • Cleaning, inventory and cataloging of recovered human bones during the excavation process.
  • Basics of the methods used in human osteological analysis, including skeletal anatomy, palaeodemography and palaeopathology.
  • Learning how to identify age, sex and height of buried individuals.
  • Relative dating based on the classification of archaeological artifacts discovered in stratigraphic sequence.


  • Introduction to Physical Anthropology and Bioarchaeology
  • Skeletal Anatomy –Terminology-: generalities, dental structure, skull and other bones.
  • History, archaeology, economy and culture of the Roman civilization.
  • Introduction to the History, urban planning, architecture and art of the Pompeii Site.
  • The background of Roman funerary rituals.

Directed at

If you are interested in studying anthropology or are already doing so in your school and would like to gain experience as a fieldwork volunteer excavating cemeteries and graves, this may be the best choice for you. This program accommodates participants with or without previous experience.

In the necropolis of Pompeii, without much physical exertion, and due to the stratigraphic conditions, you easily find and excavate tombs and their contents. You will excavate tombs and learn anthropological techniques used to recover human remains and grave goods. In the biological anthropology laboratory, you will learn how to treat and classify bones and grave goods recovered from the necropolis.    

This course is designed primarily for students interested in excavating human remains with fieldwork focusing on a Roman cemetery. Time dedicated to laboratory work is less than excavation time, but students will learn the basics of anatomy.

After completing this program, the experience gained will enable you to decide if biological anthropology is the area of study best for you and if you would like to continue on with anthropology in your professional future.

Finally, it should be underlined that participating in a course of Bioarchaeology that is carried out in fabulous Pompeii is something unusual and unique. It will be interesting to document related aspects of the eruption of Vesuvius and the way in which students will discover the dead and their belongings.

Previous knowledge or experience in archaeology or computer systems is not required.

Field School life & language

The fieldwork runs 7 hours a day with time dedicated to both excavations, the study of human osteology by the analysis of the skeletal remains.

Participants will learn and apply excavation techniques used in biological anthropology during fieldwork. In the laboratory, participants will follow guidelines set by an anthropologist and other specialists for the classification, study, and conservation of skeletal remains and other related material found.

Participants will also be given lectures on methodology, roman archaeology, human osteology and classification of archaeological materials.

Participants will visit other archaeological sites on the Naples coast through organized excursions. The course is taught in English and Spanish. Free days on Saturdays and Sundays.


At the end of the Field Program, students will receive a certificate of participation stating the hours and activities of the course.

Participants that perform exceedingly well in the course may receive a letter of recommendation from our organization upon request.

Sessions & Cost

In 2015, 2 session, 16 days each

Session #1 July 26 - August 12 $ 2,800

Session #2 August 12 – August 29 $ 2,800

Spaces available

The course is limited to 8 participants per session. Reservations are only effective when payment of the registration fee is received. If for any reason the course is cancelled, payment is returned according to the field school refund policy.



Period(s) of Occupation: Roman Archaeology

The training provided in this course and the experience you can acquire can be of importance in your future if you are thinking about biological anthropology, osteology and conservation or curation in a professional level.

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 16 days

Minimum age: 
18 (contact with questions about age)

Experience required: 

Room and Board Arrangements

Course fee includes

  • Course tuition
  • Accommodation in the Student Residency
  • Meals.
  • Accident insurance at the site.
  • Daily transportation to/from the archaeological fieldwork.
  • Excursions.
  • Certificate of participation


Airfare not included from the student home to/from Naples (Italy).



Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
Please, contact Cesar Gonzalez, our course coordinator, in order to get more information about this possibility
Number of credits offered: none


Contact Information
Cesar Gonzalez
Es Mercadal
+1 347 8710963
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