Field Experience in Bioarchaeology in Ohio

This listing expired on May 6, 2019. Please contact for any updated information.

Location: Lockbourne, OH, US

Season: May 6, 2019 to June 7, 2019

Session Dates: We are pleased to announce a 4-week option running from May 13th - June 7th 2019. We have added this option to accommodate a wider set of academic calendars. This option is priced at $850.00

Application Deadline: March 31, 2019

Deadline Type: Rolling


Program Type:
Field school

RPA Certified:

Institute for Research and Learning in Archaeology and Bioarchaeology (IRLAB)

Project Director:
Executive Director/PI - Giuseppe Vercellotti, Adjunct Assistant Professor, OSU. Co-Director - Francesco Coschino, Università di Pisa (Italy)

Project Description:


This exclusively field-based program aims at familiarizing participants with the professional excavation of human remains from archaeological contexts. Participants will work side by side with professional archaeologists and bioarchaeologists in the excavations of a historic cemetery in central Ohio (HTCC).

The cemetery, located just 20 minutes away from downtown Columbus, was originally established as early as 1804 to serve as a burial ground for the local community. Due to its proximity to the Ohio-Erie canal, the site was subsequently used as a resting place for victims of the infectious disease cholera – an infection of the small intestine that killed tens of millions of people worldwide through various pandemics since 1815. The cemetery remained in use until 1859.

Preliminary investigations at the site have revealed the presence of several single burials with predominant east-west orientation, which appear largely undisturbed and lined up in the western two thirds of the cemetery. Several tombstones or simple markers are scattered throughout the field, but evidence of vandalism and consequent removal and restoration attempts by the township administration suggest that their current location does not mark any specific graves and does likely not correspond to the original layout of the cemetery. In the easternmost third of the cemetery, it is not possible to detect features corresponding to single burials; however, larger, more marked depressed areas suggest the presence of more complex features, consistent with the notion that one or more mass graves may be present at the site.



The excavation of the HTCC site is a multifaceted project with potentially important implications for reconstructing relatively unknown events in the history of the county, for shedding new light on the lives of individuals too poor to be visible in official histories, and for gaining insights on a disease that reaped millions of lives during the 19th century and that still persists in the developing world. Specifically, the primary goals of the research projects are:

  • Locating individual and mass graves, which, following years of neglect and several episodes of vandalism, are no longer marked. If gravestones can be found, they will be erected to mark actual grave locations, thus restoring the cemetery’s original appearance.
  • Reconstructing the life conditions of the individuals buried at the site (for both cholera victims and non‐epidemic burials);
  • Providing accounts of the life and social identity of canal and farm workers, who are often stereotyped and almost invisible in historical accounts due to their low socioeconomic status;
  • Investigating the presence of Vibrio cholerae at the site by conducting soil analyses aimed at amplifying and identifying ancient DNA, ultimately with the goal of studying human/pathogen interactions;
  • Comparing skeletal and genetic characteristics of cholera victims and non‐victims to determine whether certain factors predisposed individuals to perishing from the disease and possibly improving modern approaches to treating the disease.



The field experience is designed to provide participants with first-hand experience of the archaeological and bioarchaeological field methods applied in a professional excavation. Typically, participants will work alongside researchers in a variety of activities, including survey, excavation of human remains, and documentation of findings. Given the research focus of the project, no formal lectures will be held and the didactic components of the field experience will be limited to hands-on excavation and work under the supervision of senior personnel.

Excavation will take place daily, Monday through Friday, between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, with a short lunch break. All participants will be required to attend a general orientation at the beginning of the program, and daily briefings in the morning prior to starting fieldwork. IRLAB does not provide meals, lodging or transportation as part of this program, and participants are expected to make their own arrangements.

Period(s) of Occupation: Post-contact historic, Early Ohio statehood

Bioarchaeology, Historic archaeology, Cholera cemetery, Burials, Excavation, Research, Field Experience

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 4 weeks

Experience Required: The program accepts a limited number of participants and welcomes applications from undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students in archaeology, anthropology or allied disciplines from any country and institution. Current enrollment in a university is not a requirement. Local high school students and other members of the local community are also welcome to apply. All applications are evaluated equally and acceptance decisions are primarily based on merit. The program has no formal prerequisites and participants will be fully trained for all the activities they experience. Individuals interested in applying for the field experience must fill out and submit the online Application Form. Curriculum vitae and/or reference letters (e-mails) may be requested. The staff reserves the right to verify any of the information reported in the application form and request supporting documentation (e.g., advising reports; references) in its sole discretion. Staff will make final decisions regarding enrolment.

Room and Board Arrangements:
No official room and board arrangements are available to participants in the Field Experience. Participants unable to commute to and around the southern Columbus area are encouraged to explore options including extended stay hotels and hostels. Cost: $1,000.00 - Participation fees cover general excavation equipment, personnel costs, and participant insurance; a personal excavation kit will also be provided to each participant. Fees do not include lodging, meals, transportation, personal gear and equipment, or any other costs not expressly specified. Additional documentation and/or payment processing fees (not to exceed $50) may be applied to the final invoice. Discounts and Scholarships Loyalty Discount – A 10% discount ($100) is available for students participating in more than one of IRLAB’s 2018 field-based programs (i.e., discount is not applicable to laboratory-based programs and short courses) and for individuals who have previously participated in other IRLAB programs. Discounts cannot be combined – the greatest discount available will be applied to the invoice upon receipt of supporting documentation. “Archaeologist for a day” Outreach Program – Members of the local community (i.e., residents of Fairfield, Fayette, Franklin, Madison and Pickaway county) interested in learning more about the practice of archaeology may also participate in the excavation for a day at no charge, provided they will meet all other program requirements. If you are interested in joining us in the field for a day, send us a message.

Contact Information:

David Hubin

4356 39 1/2 Ave S




United States

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