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Southern Costa Rica Archaeology Project 2013

Location: Bolas, Costa Rica

May 20, 2013 to June 18, 2013

Application Deadline: 
Saturday, April 20, 2013

Deadline Type: 
Exact date

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



College of Lake County

Project Director:

Dr. Scott Palumbo

Project Description

The Southern Costa Rica Archaeological Project (SCRAP) 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 low faculty to student ratio. SCRAP is certified by the Register of Professional Archaeologists (RPA) and formally permitted in Costa Rica. 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 all your lodging, meal, and transportation expenses within Costa Rica.

The 2013 field school will be centered upon the Bolas site, located in the highlands of southern Costa Rica (roughly 5,000 feet above sea level) and lies entirely within Cabagra (Bribrí) indigenous territory. Bolas 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 Aguas Buenas 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 through the site, 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 traversing and topographic mapping, shovel testing, block excavation, pedestrian survey, 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.

Costa Rica is a tranquil, beautiful and comfortable country for foreigners (see for information). Bolas is centered in a picturesque and temperate mountain setting within a reasonable drive to national parks or Pacific beaches. Shared field school accommodations will be based in Buenos Aires, Costa Rica, a town with access to modern grocery stores, clinics, pharmacies, restaurants, high-speed internet and a hospital. Southern Costa Rica is off the ‘tourist trail’, so you will be expected to try to speak some Spanish, sample the area cuisine, observe local customs, etc. SCRAP runs a six day, nine hour per day, work week (Sundays off), with rainy afternoons, some Saturdays, and 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 at a local restaurant each evening (vegetarian friendly). The first few days in Costa Rica will be spent touring the capital city of San José, its museums, and the archaeological site of Guayabo de Turrialba. One weekend will be spent touring portions of the Osa Peninsula on the Pacific coast, an area home to extensive beaches, excellent surf, and deep jungles.

The field school is sponsored by the College of Lake County in Illinois (CLC). The conservation of collections is under the authority of the National Museum of Costa Rica (Museo). The base cost ($2,170) covers your basic expenses within Costa Rica during the project dates (e.g. lodging, all 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 seperate student loans available for the summer term (one must adjust their spring or fall schedule accordingly to ensure financial coverage). Check with your school’s financial counselor for specifics.

Project Staff

Principal Investigator: Dr. Scott Palumbo, R.P.A., College of Lake County
Co-Director: Dr. William Locascio, R.P.A., Flagler College
Co-Director: Dr. Francisco Corrales, Museo Nacional de Costa Rica
Crew Chief: Laura Brodie, M.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison

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 (credit seeking students only)
  • Proof of payment (due April 20th, 2013)
  • The physical ability and willingness to work outside for nine hours at a time in high heat and humidity
  • 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 $2,170 program fee DOES cover:
Lodging and meals in Buenos Aires for seven days per week
Program fee
Laundry service
Transportation within Costa Rica
Hotel accommodations and meals in San José and the Osa Peninsula
Group excursions
Internet access
Access to all of the recommended reading materials

This program fee DOES NOT cover:  (totaling an additional $700 to $2,540)
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 $100)
Personal equipment (rain gear, trowel, field clothes, cameras, etc.)
Visa fees (if you are not an American citizen)
International Student Identification card (roughly $22)
Costa Rica airport departure tax ($28)
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. Students qualifying for in-district College of Lake County tuition pay $279/372 for 3/4 semester credits, out-of-district students pay $699/932, and out-of-state students pay $942/1256. There is an additional $16 per credit activity fee. 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 September 1st, 2012 and the final application deadline is April 20th, 2013. Payment of the full program fee ($2,070) is due by April 20th, 2013 to guarantee a spot on the team. This will be refunded in full if the project fails to run. The field school requires a minimum of 12 credit seeking students to run, and is capped at 16 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.

Period(s) of Occupation: Formative Period (300 B.C. to A.D. 900)

field school, Register of Professional Archaeologists, Costa Rica, excavation

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 

Room and Board Arrangements

Room and Board for seven days a week are included in the program base cost. Students will be housed in same-sex shared accomodations. Breakfast is typically fresh fruit and coffee, we eat a bag lunch in the field, and dinner arrangments are either contracted through a local restuarant or an in-house cook.

$2,170 plus tuition and airfare

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
College of Lake County
Number of credits offered 4
$436-1320, depending on your residency


Contact Information
Scott Palumbo
19351 W. Washington Street
(847) 543-2931
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.