California Field School – Clear Lake Archaeology Project

Location: 257Q+HG Lucerne, CA, USA

Season: July 1, 2024 to July 14, 2024

Application Deadline: June 29, 2024

Deadline Type: Rolling


Program Type:
Field School, Volunteer, Staff Position

RPA Certified:

Foothill College

Project Director:
Dr. Samuel Connell

Project Description:

Foothill College’s Department of Anthropology is offering a low cost field program in California. Two week program focusing on the Clear Lake basin for a research and service learning program of study. Program fees are limited to costs for camping reservations for ten days in the Clear Lake State Park (approximately $300). Course credits are offered for Anth 52 – Archaeological Field Methods.  All other costs will be directly incurred by the students, to include food and transport.  We will provide options for group dining, fees to be arranged by the project directly with the provider. Preliminary application is here.

Led by Dr Samuel Connell and colleagues, we are studying the remarkable history of the Clear Lake region through time. This summer student survey and excavations will focus on the historical significance of settlement in Clear Lake over time. In uncovering unremembered stories of the past and working to incorporate the research ideas and goals of the local population of the region, we hope to gain a richer understanding of the past.  Previous student research included surveys of Native Californian settlement along the lake edge to the west of the State Park and testing at the original location of the Ely Stage Coach Stop. In 2024 survey of the lake side will continue, and the excavation component will be at the Kelsey Creek Schoolhouse, which is the last standing one-room school house in the county. Students will be learning all aspects of fieldwork from survey, ground-penetrating radar, excavation techniques and laboratory work. Each student is required to carry out individual research on a topic of their choice and prepare a Student Independent Pilot Project final paper. Lastly, every student will be heavily involved in community development projects with various stakeholders, to include the Lake County Historical Society.

The field school will begin July 1st at Foothill College at the Anthropology Lab where we will be training for 3 days before heading to Clear Lake for the project.  The students will be camping at Clear Lake State Park for 10 nights from July 4-14.  Preliminary application here puts you on the mailing list for all Foothill College’s California field schools.


Period(s) of Occupation: 1850s colonial contact with Pomo indigenous peoples and beyond. Clear Lake is the largest fresh water lake in California. It was densely settled by indigenous peoples as a central gathering place for millennia. In the 1850s the region escaped the Gold Rush, but farming and mining eventually came to dominate the colonial landscape. The native Pomo are world famous for basketry, and the farm land is as famous today for its pears and grapes. The climate mirrors the Mediterranean and the people are eager to show its riches. During the last century Lake County was the go-to destination for tourism because of its amazing thermal springs fed by active volcanic underground water sources. Massive resorts surrounded the lake, this was Hawaii and Cancun all-in-one. What happened? What is the story behind the relationships we see today between native California populations and western farmers. It is a complex history, it is an American story, all taking place in a beautiful lake basin that has been relatively isolated for centuries from the massive development that much of the rest of California has undergone. But it is coming. Roads are getting wider, highways are being developed, and people are moving in - forced out by rising housing costs and Covid, or an interest in the potential of making great wine from these grapes - the landscape is changing once again. There is a pressure to document what we can before it is lost.

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: No experience required, only a willingness to have fun in the sun.

Room and Board Arrangements:
Group camp ground at Clear Lake State Park which holds 40 people. In addition, cabins are being rented, but will cost more. People can also choose to stay in local accommodations. Fishing and water activities are all within the state park. Food will be catered by local professionals - payment directly for service to provider.

Academic Credit:
4 units of college credit. Anth 52: Archaeology Field Methods (4 units)

Contact Information:

Sam Connell

Foothill College, Department of Anthropology

Los Altos Hills




Phone: (650) 499-6500

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