This listing expired on July 15, 2014. Please contact for any updated information.
Panama Field School (Chiriqui Archaeological Project, College of Lake County)

Location: Volcan, Panama

June 15, 2015 to July 15, 2015

Session dates: 
June 15 to July 15, 2015

Application Deadline: 
Friday, May 1, 2015

Deadline Type: 
Contact for details

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



College of Lake County

Project Director:

Dr. Scott Palumbo

Project Description

The Chiriquí Archaeological Project is proud to be one of the most economical non-profit field schools in Latin America, and one which offers transferable college credits while maintaining a very low faculty to student ratio. You will be involved in an active research project with involving excavation, survey, and lab analysis. The cost of the field school subsidizes many of the research expenses and covers the majority of your in-country expenses.

Importantly, this is one of the few field schools that offers RPA certification AND opportunities to co-author and co-present our findings with project staff.

The 2015 field school will be deal with the small farmstead and hamlet sites located between the Barriles political center and the pre-Columbian village community of Pitti-González. Barriles is a large pre-Columbian center notable for its early monumentality. The site contains numerous earthen mounds, stone sculpture, and sprawling residential sectors dating primarily to the Formative period (300 B.C. to A.D. 900). Our current research questions deal with the organization of particular activities. We seek to understand 1) how craft production and ceremonial activities were distributed between sites, 2) if and how these practices were associated with evidence for social rank, and 3) how these patterns changed over time. Each student will learn compass and tape mapping, shovel testing, pedestrian survey, stratigraphic excavation, laboratory processing and artifact cataloguing. Interested students may have additional opportunities to conduct community outreach, learn the basics of ArcGIS, co-author portions of the annual site report and pursue individual research projects in future years.

The Chiriquí mountains are a tranquil, beautiful and comfortable area for foreigners (see for information). Volcán is centered in a picturesque and temperate mountain setting within close proximity to national parks or within a reasonable drive to Pacific beaches (Google maps). Shared field school accommodations will be based in Volcán a town with access to modern grocery stores, clinics, pharmacies, restaurants and high-speed internet. Western Panama is directly on the ‘tourist trail’, but you will still be expected to try to speak some Spanish, sample the area cuisine, observe local customs, etc. We run a five day work week (Sundays off), with rainy afternoons, some Saturdays, and most of the final week spent in the lab. You can expect to spend approximately 170 hours at work during the project, split evenly between the field and the lab. We also offer evening lectures on field and lab methods, the archaeology of the region, data analysis, and archaeological theory. We typically eat a bag breakfast and lunch during the day and dinner will be arranged through a local cook each evening (vegetarian friendly). The first few days in Panama will be spent touring the capital city of Panama City, the canal and colonial ruins..

The field school is affiliated with the College of Lake County in Illinois (CLC). Students can gain up to six semester credits through an independent study (Archaeological Field and Lab Methods), but tuition is not required. The conservation of collections is under the authority of the Patrimonio Historico in Panama. The program fee ($2750) covers your basic expenses within Panama during the project dates (e.g. lodging, meals, in-country transportation, etc.), the costs of conducting research (e.g. equipment, fuel, worker pay, etc.,) and associated project expenses (e.g. equipment storage, printing costs, radiocarbon dates, etc.). Please note that student loans will cover educational expenses for credit-seeking individuals, but there are no student loans available for the summer term (one must adjust their spring schedule accordingly to ensure financial coverage). Check with your school’s financial counselor for specifics.

All registered participants will be required to have:

  • A completed field school application
  • A copy of a unofficial undergraduate transcript showing a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA, based on no less than 12 semester credits
  • Proof of payment
  • The physical ability and willingness to work outside for nine hours at a time doing manual labor
  • The capacity to endure different living conditions (e.g. cold showers, shared accommodations, etc.)
  • A personal phone interview with the Principal Investigator (if requested)

The $2,750 program fee DOES cover:

  • Lodging and meals in Volcán for seven days per week
  • Program fee
  • Laundry service
  • Transportation within Panama
  • Hotel accommodations in Panama City
  • Group excursions
  • Internet access
  • Access to all of the recommended reading materials

This program fee DOES NOT cover:  (totaling an additional $700 to $2540)

  • Optional College of Lake County tuition*
  • Roundtrip Airfare
  • Passport fees (approximately $135. If you do not already have one, anticipate 6 weeks for processing)
  • International traveler’s insurance (approximately $60)
  • Personal equipment (rain gear, trowel, field clothes, cameras, etc.)
  • Visa fees (if you are not an American citizen)
  • Transportation to and from your home airport
  • Miscellaneous personal expenses (we recommend $200 to $400)

* Credit is offered through the College of Lake County’s Archaeological Field Methods (3 credits, ANT 226) and Archaeological Laboratory Methods (1 credit, ANT 299) courses. ANT 226 is a required prerequisite for ANT 299. Tuition varies if students qualify as in-district, out-of-district or out-of-state.  Information about tuition and residency requirements may be found at:

Application Deadline:
The program offers open enrollment. Interested applicants may email their application to the Principal Investigator as early as October 1, 2014 and the final application deadline is May 1, 2015. To ensure acceptance to the field school, applicants must meet the minimum standards described above and send a non-refundable deposit at least $500 (this is only refundable if the field school is cancelled or the student is rejected). Students must register and pay through

   The field school requires a minimum of 4 credit seeking students to run, and is capped at 8 students to ensure an optimal faculty to student ratio (a condition for RPA certification). Preference is given to credit seeking students who have had some exposure to archaeology and Spanish. Non-credit seeking participants are also welcome. If the program becomes filled, a wait-list will be generated and applicants notified of their position.

Additional Information: Please contact the Principal Investigator, Dr. Scott Palumbo through the project website or by his office phone; (847) 543-2931.

Period(s) of Occupation: Aguas Buenas (or Formative) period (ca. A.D. 300 to 900)

Regional survey, household archaeology, GIS, GPS

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 
No experienced required. Participants should have completed at least 12 semester credits at an accredited college or university and have maintained at least a 2.75 GPA.

Room and Board Arrangements

Students will be housed in a rented field house and dinners contracted through a local cook. Breakfasts usually involve fruit and coffee and bag lunches are arranged in the field. Students can expect to share same-sex accomodations with other students.

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
College of Lake County
Number of credits offered 3 required (ANT 226 or Archaeological Field Methods) 3 optional (ANT 229 or Archaeological Lab Methods)
varies depending on your residency status


Contact Information
Dr. Scott Palumbo
19351 W. Washington St.
United States
Recommended Bibliography: 

Hester, Thomas R., Harry J. Shafer, and Kenneth L. Feder. 2008, Field Methods in Archaeology (7th edition). Left Coast Press.

Quilter, Jeffrey. 2004, Cobble Circles and Standing Stones: Archaeology at the Rivas Site, Costa Rica. University of Iowa Press.

Stone, Doris Z. 1977, Pre-Columbian Man in Costa Rica. Harvard University Press.

Sutton, Mark, and Brooke Arkush. 2010. Archaeological Laboratory Methods: An Introduction (5th edition). Kendall Hunt Publishing.