Field School for Quaternary Palaeoanthropology and Prehistory of Murcia, S.E. Spain, 32nd Field Season at Cueva Negra and Sima de las Palomas

This listing expired on June 25, 2023. Please contact for any updated information.

Location: Murcia, MU, ES

Season: June 30, 2023 to August 11, 2023

Session Dates: Session 1: Friday June 30 – Friday July 21, 2023, at Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Río Quípar (Caravaca, Murcia, Spain). Session 2: Friday July 21 – Friday August 11, 2023, at Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo (Torre Pacheco, Murcia, Spain).

Application Deadline: June 4, 2023

Deadline Type: Exact Date


Program Type:
Field School

RPA Certified:

Murcian Association for the Study of Palaeoanthropology and the Quaternary, MUPANTQUAT. MUPANTQUAT is a nonprofit organisation, registered with the Murcian Regional public authority, and it has official agreements of collaboration signed with Murcia University (which arranges 3rd-party-liability indemnity and personal accident insurance cover for participants) and the city councils of Caravaca and Torre Pacheco.

Project Director:
Hon.Emeritus Dr Professor Michael J. Walker, Dept. of Zoology and Physical Anthropology, Murcia University, Spain, 2012-2022Chairperson, MUPANTQUAT; Co-director: Archaeologist Mariano López-Martínez, Secretary, MUPANTQUAT; Co-director: Prof. Dr María Haber-Uriarte, Dept. of Prehistory and Archaeology, Murcia, University Spain, 2022-2023Chairperson, MUPANTQUAT

Project Description:

The main objective of the research project is to increase the finds of Pleistocene hominin fossils, Palaeolithic artifacts, palaeontological remains, and evidence of fire, by excavation at two sites, Cueva Negra (Black Cave) del Estrecho del Río Quípar de La Encarnación and Sima de las Palomas (Dove Hole) del Cabezo Gordo de Dolores de Pacheco, in the Spanish province of Murcia. An important objective is to compare and contrast how Neanderthal folk and their H. heidelbergensis forebears  used natural resources near to the sites, which are in very different local environments. The results will be of importance in developing research into fossil man of the ice age in Mediterranean Spain. Fieldwork since the early 1990’s has very significantly increased the numbers of Pleistocene hominin remains, as well as the Middle Palaeolithic stone tools and Middle-early Late Pleistocene faunal remains, and the earliest remains of a fire from a Palaeolithic site in Europe. The results are greatly helping to extend our knowledge about H. heidelbergensis and H. neanderthalensis, their origins and their lifeways.


Excavation and instruction at Pleistocene Palaeolithic sites with hominid remains:

Cueva Negra: a late Early (i.e. Lower) Pleistocene Palaeolithic site dated to 990,000-772,000 years ago, with the earliest evidence of fire excavated at any Palaeolithic site outside Africa, the earliest hand-axe excavated in Europe, abundant small stone tools and a rich faunal assemblage.

Sima de las Palomas: an early Late (i.e. Upper) Pleistocene site with levels dating from between 130,000 and 45,000 years ago, all of which have provided Neanderthal skeletal elements, Mousterian (Middle Palaeolithic tools) and faunal remains; there are bones or teeth corresponding to 15 different Neanderthal individuals of whom three were uncovered with many bones still in their skeletal positions, including one almost complete female skeleton.

Period Session 1, June 30 – July 21, 2023; Session 2, July 21–August 11, 2023.
Session 1: Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Río Quípar (Caravaca, Murcia, Spain);
Session 2: Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo (Torre Pacheco, Murcia, Spain)

Participants who fly into Murcia International Airport on June 30 and July 21 will be driven to our bases, and driven back to it for homebound flights from there on July 21 and August 11. People who are flying into/out of Murcia International Airport should consult the brochure “Briefing You in 2023” for possible alternative ways of getting to our bases.

Participants wishing to make alternative travel arrangements should consult us beforehand, but it mayn’t be possible to meet you so you may have to make your own way to our bases or back to the airport.

Duration Two three-week sessions. In order to get the most out of their stay we strongly recommend participants to stay for one full session at least.
Age Minimum 18

Qualif. Previous experience is not essential though preference is given to undergraduates and graduates in appropriate subject areas.
Work All participants take part in excavation and cleaning and sorting finds, and will receive both practical instruction and talks about our research and about human evolution and Palaeolithic archaeology in the Pleistocene.

Lang. English; knowledge of Spanish is not necessary (though nice for you if you have some).

Accom. Bunks in schools with showers etc. Bring your own sheets and towel. Meals: light breakfast, mid-morning sandwich, cooked lunch, cooked evening meal. Strict vegan, halal, kosher menus, or self-cooking are NOT available. However, provision can be made for people with gluten and lactose intolerances, or flexible vegetarians who are not strict vegans.
Cost 50 euros per night includes bed, meals, instruction, local travel from airport and back, daily travel from our base to site and back, official excursions. You must pay your own air fares to Murcia Airport and personal expenses. (For periods of less than one full session the charge is 60 euros per night; for two full sessions the charge is reduced to 45 euros per night.). (You are insured for 3rd-party liability indemnity and personal accident through the agreement with Murcia University whose insurer (Markel in 2019) includes you in the MU insurance policies that cover MU students and personnel.)

There is no application form: send a letter by email with a brief c.v. attached to the Director with cc. to Co-Directors and or

The c.v. MUST include (1) given and family names, i.e. forenames and surnames; (2) date of birth, (3) nationality and passport number; (4) covid vaccination certificate; (5) permanent home address; (6) contact address; (7) email.address(es) and contact phone number(s). We reply only to enquiries providing all 7 items.

Visit our web-site, click on Union Jack flag, go to Field School, look for the pdf of a long download called “Briefing You in 2022”, save it and read it carefully.

A non-returnable deposit in advance is required of 250 euros per each 7 days of intended stay or part thereof, with the balance payable on arrival. Preference is given to those applicants wishing to stay for a full 3-week session (or longer) whose deposits have been received by June first 2022. Late applications may be considered up to June 15th 2022 provided there are vacancies.

Notes We issue attendance certificates with number of hours of practical experience and instruction. Although US college credit is NOT available from us, undergrad US college students often can arrange beforehand with their faculty professors to gain credit for participation by presenting papers about it after their return home and we are willing to assist in orientating them during their period on site. We sign certificates of attendance issued by universities and colleges to their students who attend our Field School and excavations; such certificates of compliance with their practical course-work curricular programs are required by many UK and Commonwealth universities, and those of some other countries, to demonstrate fulfilment of undergraduate degree requirements.

Period(s) of Occupation: Palaeolithic

Field School for Quaternary Palaeoanthropology and Prehistory of Murcia, S.E. Spain; 32nd Field Season. Following our 31st Field School in 2022, we look forward to holding in 2023 the 32nd season of our Field School and Excavations at two Palaeolithic sites in the region of Murcia (SE Spain), as follows: Session 1, Julne 30 - July 21, 2023, at Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Rïo Quipar near Caravaca de la Cruz (lat. 38.0374; long. -1.8850; 740 m above sea level); and Session 2, July 21 - August 11, 2023, at Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo near Torre Pacheco (lat. 37.7983; long. -0.8974; 125 m asl). We offer you residential accommodation, meals, laundry, practical instruction on site and in the lab, seminars, and field excursions. Participants are expected to attend one complete session in order to get full advantage of practical training, seminars, talks and excursions to relevant sites. Several participants attend both sessions, granting them a discounted rate of 45 euros a day. Minimum age: 18 before July 1, 2022. Field school and excavation directors are Dr Michael Walker, FSA,FSAScot,FRAI (Hon.Emeritus Professor of Physical Anthropology at Murcia University), Dr Maria Haber-Uriarte (lecturer in Prehistory at Murcia University) and archaeologist Mariano Lopez-Martinez. At least one director is present at any one time, day and night, 7 days a week. Other archaeologists and biologists assist with instruction, both on site, in the field lab, and with formal seminars, and also enthusiastic local university students act as monitors. Instruction is in English. The directors and staff belong to the official Murcia University research group "Ecce Homo" (Caenozoic and Quaternary Ecology and Homo), and in 2012 they established the Murcian Association for the Study of Palaeoanthropology and the Quaternary (MUPANTQUAT) which took over from the research group the running of the annual Field School and excavations at the two sites, as well as promoting interest in the subject among the general public through lectures, audiovisual presentations, field excursions, talks to school students, etc., and the Association soon drew active members from all walks of life. There are signed agreements of collaboration between the Association and the town councils of both Caravaca and Torre Pacheco, and also with Murcia University which on behalf of the Association, provides your 3rd-part indemnity and accident insurance cover with its insurer by including you with its students and personnel. Your well-being, health and safety are of paramount importance and information, and full information is available which can be sent on request and will be included in our BRIEFING YOU IN 2022 information document. Dr. Michael Walker is an Oxford medical graduate as well as an archaeologist and palaeoanthropologist. Medical emergencies are dealt with efficiently and speedily. A 15-minute drive from either of our sites gets us to well-equipped modern public hospitals at nearby towns, and an hour's drive gets us from either of our sites to the three teaching public hospitals of Murcia University's Medical Faculty at the large city of Murcia. For detailed information about the forthcoming 2022 Field Season and Excavations at Cueva Negra and Sima de las Palomas, go to the MUPANTQUAT web-site where you will find information in both English and Spanish, and look for Field School which has a poster and basic information about the forthcoming field season. If you are interested in joining us you should also download there a very detailed document called BRIEFING YOU which tells you about the sites, lists scientific publications about them, and tells you about what to expect when you are with us. We can send you, on request, pdfs of articles about our work published in leading English-language journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, Quaternary International, Quartar, Quaternary Science Reviews, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Journal of Human Evolution, Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology, Human Evolution, Antiquity, Historical Biology, etc. Cueva Negra is an 850,000-year-old Palaeolithic site with an Acheulian hand-axe, a complex industry of retouched small tools with abrupt edge-retouch made sometimes on flakes struck centripetally on small discoidal chert cores, and the oldest evidence of fire at any European Palaeolithic site. At Sima de las Palomas we uncovered three 55-50,000-year-old Neanderthal skeletons in anatomical connection; we are now excavating deeper levels of 130-90,000 years ago in which we have found a Neanderthal mandible and teeth, and abundant Palaeolithic and faunal remains - altogether Sima de las Palomas has provided over 300 skeletal items belonging to 15 Neanderthal individuals. You will have a chance to see them. Our work involves collaboration with many international centres and you may meet some scientists from one or more them during your stay; we have received collaborators from the universities of Oxford, Bristol, Reading, Leiden, Vienna, Bordeaux, Zurich, Trento, Tubingen, Tarragona, Barcelona, Madrid, Zaragoza, Simon Fraser, Queensland, Griffith, Williams College, Washington Univ of St Louis, Spain's National Centre for Human Evolution Research at Burgos, Spain's National Museum of Natural Sciences at Madrid, and the Leipzig Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Applications may be accepted until June 15th 2022 if there are still places available, though preference is given to all those from whom a financial contribution has been received preferably before June 1st 2022. There is no application form: just send an email to First-time applicants MUST attach a 1-page (brief) c.v. which MUST include (1) full name, (2) date of birth, (3) nationality and passport number, (4) covid vaccination cetificate; (5) permanent home address, (6) address for correspondence/contact, (7) contact phone number(s) and email address(es). First-time applicants will get reply only after ALL of those 7 pieces of information have been received, when the reply will give specific information about how to make the requisite financial contribution to cover your stay. Interested helpers should go to our web-site where you will find, and should open, study, and save, a long document entitled BRIEFING YOU IN 2022. MUPANTQUAT is largely self-funding and very rarely gets financial help from the governmental or regional authorities here. We are grateful for help we receive from the municipalities where we excavate (Torre Pacheco and Caravaca de la Cruz). However, the truth of the matter is that we rely on the contributions of our members and helpers to keep the fieldwork and research going. For attendance at one full 21-day session your contribution is rated at 50 euros a day (1,050 euros) for bed, light breakfast, mid-morning sandwich, cooked lunch, cooked supper, laundry, instruction, transport between base camp and site, excursions, transport between Murcia Airport to our base on official pick-up and set-down dates, and, most important, membership of MUPANTQUAT for the year 2022 - on account of your membership you will be regarded by us a valued colleague, because you will be a Field School helper (not a mere "volunteer digger" and "cannon-fodder" on site!). You can renew your membership annually if you want to (20 euros per annum for full membership; 10 euros for students, unemployed, retirees, members' dependents). Previous excavation experience is not essential. Although we give preference to applicants who are interested archaeology, prehistory, anthropology, palaeoanthropology, human evolution, palaeontology, biology, geology, etc., we also accept many who have no prior knowledge of these; sometimes a skill in other fields is helpful to us (e.g., IT, photography, engineering, even journalism!) Attendance at both sessions entitles helpers to a reduction to 45 euros a day (1,890 euros for 42 days). It is also 45 euros a day, a former-member's privilege, for helpers from previous years who wish to return for however many (or few) days. For first-time attendance for less than a full 21-day session, a contribution of 60 euros a day is required, as we may need extra money to contract someone to take your place for the rest of the session. On a case-by-case basis, and provided it does not produce numerical imbalance of helpers within a session, consideration may be given to allowing young students, who can justify impecunious circumstances and are first-time participants, to take part for 450 euros during a 10-day period (45 euros per day) corresponding either to the first or the second half of either session 1 or session 2, as follows: July 1 - July 10/11; - July 22; July 22 - August 1/2; August 1/2-August 12 (though such participation implies they will miss half of the 21-day programme of the session; and receive certification of attendance for only 80 hours for the half session, as against 160 hours for a full session). In order to guarantee reservation of a place at our Field School a non-returnable deposit of your contribution is required by June 1st 2022 of 250 euros for each week or part thereof of your intended participation. Because of that helpers might want to take out holiday insurance in case of last-minute inability to come. Deposits have to be non-returnable, alas, because we are in a holiday-resort area with flights that are heavily booked well in advance of the July-August high summer season. So even if we have someone on a waiting-list when you drop out, that person might not be able to book a flight only a very few weeks before the session begins. This means we might well have to use money deposited with us by a helper unable to come in order to contract one of our local university students, so as to take that person’s place (we had to do this twice during the past 30 years), in order to tempt them away from taking a vacation job in a bar or restaurant beside the packed beaches or at one of the many golf resorts beside the coast, because, in order to have adequate help on site at all times, so that we can carry out our excavations efficiently, we need always to have on site a basic minimum number of people, below which we cannot work well.

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: One complete session is recommended. You can stay for both sessions.

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: No experience is required but preference is given to undergraduate and graduates studying relevant fields of knowledge.

Room and Board Arrangements:
  Cueva Negra helpers will be accomodated throughout in Caravaca de la Cruz at the "Colegio Público "Ascruz" de Educación Especial" (Residential Public School "Ascruz" for Disabled Children). The children are away on holiday when we use the school. There are hot and cold showers and conventional sanitation, in separate men's and women's facilities. Meals are provided in a dining room. There is a common room and also a large well-lit workshop where we wash and sort our finds. There are bunks in separate men's and women's dormitories. A separate room may be made available for a couple, depending on how many people we are altogether and how many dormitories we need. You need only bring towel, sheets and pillowslip. You must bring soap or shower-gel and shampoo. Our cooks-cum-housekeepers take men's dirty clothes one day alternating with women's clothes another day, for washing separately in the large industrial washing-machine at the school, which can only work with full loads; once washed, the clothes are hung out on the washing-line to dry, before being ready for you again. There is an iron if you want to use one. All of us have to make our own beds and help keep dormitories tidy, and keep toilets clean by using the lavatory brushes. A professional cleaning staff sweeps and mops the floors and bathrooms. Sima de las Palomas helpers will be accomodated throughout in the village of Dolores de Pacheco, where we take three meals a day at the restaurant of the "Centro Social" (Social Centre) which has its own cooks. 400 metres away, we sleep in bunks in separate men's and women's dormitories, converted temporarily for us from class-rooms in the roomy village school which has showers with hot and cold water. We use large class-rooms for washing and sorting finds. A separate room may be made available for a couple should this be requested in advance. We use the village swimming pool and its shower block with hot and cold showers, which is half-way between the Civic Centre and the school. You need bring only towel, sheets and pillowslip. You must bring soap or shower-gel and shampoo. We collect men's dirty clothes one day, alternating with women's clothes another day, for washing separately in a large industrial washing-machine and drier at a nearby establishment, which can only work with full loads. All of us have to make our own beds and help keep dormitories tidy, and keep toilets clean by using the lavatory brushes. A professional cleaning staff sweeps and mops the floors and bathrooms. FOOD - All meals you take are included in the charge. This way we pay for the food and cooks whose responsibility it is to organize the catering. Our Spanish cooks at both the Caravaca "Ascruz" Residential School and the Dolores de Pacheco Social Centre are of the highest calibre. We CANNOT, alas, offer either strict vegan menus or kosher or halal cooking. Helpers may NOT use the kitchens to cook for themselves. Special diets CANNOT be provided, and that goes for vegetarians too, although those non-rigid vegetarians who eat fish, shell-fish, milk, cheese, yoghurt, and eggs, or who have no objection to sauces or soups based on strained meat or chicken broths, will find they will easily get enough to eat if they simply avoid eating pieces of actual meat; eggs or cheese can readily be supplied for them if they feel hungry --strict vegans and all others who adhere rigid to particular dietary restrictions CANNOT BE CATERED FOR.  However, provision can be made for people with gluten or lactose intolerances. Murcian lunches and dinners are invariably accompanied by communal platters of mixed salad, and there is no shortage of fresh fruit.  For further information, go to BROCHURE ("Briefing You in 2023" on and scroll down to download and read "Briefing You in 2023") Cost: Attendance at a 21-day session involves your contribution of 50 euros per night (1,050 euros in all), which includes bed, full board, laundry, instruction on site and in field lab, talks, seminars, excursions, and local transport within Murcia including to and from Murcia International Airport provided that you land at/fly from it in 2023 on June 30 or July 21, or (dep.) August 11. Please see "Briefing You in 2023" for possible arrival/departure arrangements that may be suitable for people who are not flying into/from Murcia International Airport. Attendance at both 21-day sessions allows a 10% discount (1,890 euros in all). Attendance for fewer than 21 days is rated at 60 euros per night and only permitted if there are spare places. You must pay for your own travel to and from Murcia International Airport.

Academic Credit:
Not offered (see Notes and BROCHURE "Briefing You in 2023" on and scroll down to download and read "Briefing You in 2023"). Attendance certificates are awarded indicating dates and total number of hours attended; attendance at one full session = 160 hours (= 8 hours daily for 20 days). Attendance certificates are awarded indicating dates and total number of hours attended; attendance at one full session = 160 hours (= 8 hours daily for 20 days). . Tuition is included as are seminars on relevant topics and on-site instruction in excavation and field lab techniques For further information see Brochure Document: "Briefing You in 2023".

Contact Information:

Professor Michael Walker (address: Calle Princesa 11, 30002 Murcia, Spain)

Emeritus Prof.M.J.Walker, Dept of Zoology and Physical Anthropology, Biology Faculty, Campus Universitario de Espinardo Edificio 20, Universidad de Murcia





Phone: +34-620267104

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