This listing expired on July 1, 2013. Please contact for any updated information.
Exploring Desert Adaptations at Spitzkloof Rockshelter B, South Africa

Location: Richtersveld, South Africa

June 30, 2013 to August 3, 2013

Session dates: 
Single session

Application Deadline: 
Monday, July 1, 2013

Deadline Type: 
Exact date

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



Institute for Field Research, Harvard University, University of Toronto Scarborough, Connecticut College

Project Director:

Dr. Brian Stewart, Harvard University, Dr. Genevieve Dewar, University of Toronto Scarborough

Project Description

Archaeological investigations in South Africa’s rugged and remote Namaqualand desert are aimed at reconstructing the flexible survival behaviors so characteristic of our species. Ancient desert adaptations will be explored through excavations at one of three spectacular rockshelters – Spitzkloof B – and surveys in the surrounding arid landscape. Although the region boasts an extremely rich archaeological record stretching back well over 60,000 years, it remains virtually unexplored. Camping in a red-sand valley and working alongside experts in southern African prehistory, students will reconstruct ancient desert lifestyles and in the process gain experience with a range of archaeological materials, techniques and methods.

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Entire duration of field school

Minimum age: 
18 years old

Experience required: 
No prior experience required

Room and Board Arrangements

For the first five days we will stay at Atlantic Point Backpackers in Cape Town in order prepare for the field excursion. This is when the formal lectures will be offered including tours of the local museums, the Cape Castle and the flagship Iziko South African Museum. We will then move to the field site where we will be camping. You will be required to bring your own tent, sleeping bag, air mattress etc. You will receive an information package before we leave detailing the equipment you will be responsible for. Toilet and shower facilities are very basic but functional. Our toilets are frequently renewed, open-air (but secluded) long-drops. We wash using solar showers, which everyone is required to bring. There is enough water for everyone to wash at the end of ever workday.
We bring all food and water for drinking/washing into the field. This is a rugged, isolated desert environment with absolutely no supermarkets or stores in the immediate area; the closest supermarket is a 1.5 hour drive away over rough terrain. We thus cook our own meals in the field. We take turns cooking and doing the washing up, allowing budding chefs an opportunity to wow us all. We have also built our own rock-and-sand pizza oven at the site (it works!) that we use on Sunday evenings. We eat very well with typical meals consisting of risotto, pasta, curry, pizza and even calzones. As we do not have a fridge so most meals are vegetarian with the exception of tinned tuna and dried meat (jerky, known locally as biltong). We do, however, have the occasional barbeque (meat and/or fish) on days we return from town with fresh produce and water (approximately once per week). Those who enjoy milk in their coffee/tea will also be happy to know we do have long life milk in camp. We can accommodate vegetarians, people with lactose intolerance, or who require Halal or Kosher food.
Please let us know when you apply for this program if you have special dietary needs, as well as any medical or physical conditions. We will advise you accordingly. The project is used to catering for vegetarians, those with gluten intolerance etc.

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
Connecticut College
Number of credits offered 8 semester credit units


Contact Information
Ran Boytner
1855 Industrial Street Unit 106
Los Angeles
United States
Recommended Bibliography: 

Dewar, G. & Stewart, B.A. (2012). Preliminary results of excavations at Spitzkloof Rockshelter, Richtersveld, South Africa.  Quaternary International 270: 30-39.

Dewar, G. & Orton, J.  (In Press).  Subsistence, settlement, and material culture on the central Namaqualand coastline In: Jerardino, A., Braun, D. & Malan, A. (Eds.), Archaeology of the  West Coast, South Africa. Witwatersrand University Press, Johannesburg. 44 pgs.

Dewar G. & Stewart, B.A. (In Press) Crossroads in the desert: MIS 6 to 2. In: Stewart, B.A. & Jones, S. (Eds.), Africa from MIS 6-2: Population Dynamics and Paleoenvironments. Springer, Dordecht.

Stewart, B.A. et al. (2012). Afromontane foragers of the Late Pleistocene: site formation, chronology and occupational pulsing at Melikane Rockshelter, Lesotho. Quaternary International 270: 40-60.

Stewart, B.A. & Dewar G. (n.d.). Adaptations to Marginal Environments in the Middle Stone Age (Project AMEMSA): Research Design and Goals. Unpublished report.