Field School for Quaternary Palaeoanthropology and Prehistory of Murcia, S.E. Spain, 33rd Field Season 2024 at Sima de las Palomas

Location: R42C+CF San Cayetano, Spain

Season: July 22, 2024 to August 12, 2024

Session Dates: July 22, 2024 - Augst 12, 2024

Application Deadline: July 1, 2024

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 council of 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, 2022-2024 Chairperson, MUPANTQUAT; Co-director Dr. Gonzalo Linares-Matás, MUPANTQUAT commitee member, post-doctoral research fellow in Archaeology at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

Project Description:

The main objective of the research project is to increase the finds of Neanderthal hominin fossils, Palaeolithic artifacts, and palaeontological remains,  by excavation at  Sima de las Palomas (Dove Hole) del Cabezo Gordo de Dolores de Pacheco, near Torre Pacheco, in the south-east Spanish province of Murcia. Sima de las Palomas is 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. It is the most abundant Neanderthal site in Mediterranean Spain, and research has been ongoing for the past thirty years. The excavations are conducted by the not-for-profit Murcian Association for the Study of Palaeoanthropology and the Quaternary, MUPANTQUAT, in association with its annual summer Field School. We welcome new participants who will gain practical skills and knowledge; prior experience is not required.

Session:  The 2024 session is from July 22–August 12, 2024.

Itinerary: Participants who have informed us that they will fly into Murcia International Airport on July 22 will be met driven to our base at Dolores de Pacheco, and driven back for homebound flights on August 12. For further information,  consult the brochure “Briefing You in 2024.” 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.

Age: Minimum 18

Qualif.: Previous experience is not necessary 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, Neanderthals, 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 school building 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 includes you in the MU insurance policies that cover MU students and personnel.)
Applic.: There is no application form: send a letter by email with a brief c.v. attached to the Co-ordinating director with cc. to Co-directors,,

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) copy of up-to-date 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 2024”, 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 the full 3-week session whose deposits have been received by June first 2024. Late applications may be considered up to July first 2024 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. 130,000-45,000 BP

Field School for Quaternary Palaeoanthropology and Prehistory of Murcia, S.E. Spain; 33rd Field Season. Following our 32nd Field School in 2023, we look forward to holding in 2024 the 33rd season of our Field School and Excavations at the Neanderthal and Middle Palaeolithic site in the region of Murcia (SE Spain) from July 22 to August 12, 2024, 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 in the Dolores de Pacheco Public School; and at the nearby Social Centre your meals and organisation of laundry. We give you practical instruction on site and in the lab, seminars, and field excursions. Participants are expected to attend the complete session in order to get full advantage of practical training, seminars, talks and excursions to relevant sites. Minimum age: 18 before July 21, 2024. 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), archaeologist Mariano Lopez-Martinez, and Dr. Gonzalo Linares-Matás (postdoctoral research fellow in Archaeology at Emmanuel College in the University of Cambridge). 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 not-for-profit Murcian Association for the Study of Palaeoanthropology and the Quaternary (MUPANTQUAT) which was established in 2012 by members of the official Murcia University research group "Ecce Homo" (Caenozoic and Quaternary Ecology and Homo) and took over from it the running of the annual Field School and excavations, 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 council of Torre Pacheco and 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 2024 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 a well-equipped modern public hospitals at nearby San Javier and an hour's drive gets us 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 pubications. They include the monograph The People of Palomas editead by Professors Erik Trinkaus and Michael Walker. There are many 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. 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 July 1st 2024 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 2024. 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) copy of up-to-date 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 2024. Our not-for-profit MUPANTQUAT assoiation 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 (e.g., Torre Pacheco). 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 the 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 2024 - 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!) In order to guarantee reservation of a place at our Field School a non-returnable deposit of your contribution is required by June 1st 2024 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 3 times ice 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. Finally, since 1990 we have been excavating annually at the late Early Pleistocene Palaeolithic site of Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Río Quípar, near Caravaca de la Cruz, in north-west Murcia, and we hope to take you to visit it. However, this year we shall not be exvcavating there, in order during 2024 to attend to laboratory research on the abundant material excavated from it. We anticipate resuming excavation and holding a session of our Field School there in 2025, as it has been popular with our international participants. The past four years have seen the publication of several articles in importnt international scientific journals on aspects of research at the site, about which we shall certainly give a talk during the 2024 Field School at Dolores de Pacheco.

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: e complete session is recommended.

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:
  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 public 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 between the Social 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 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 2024" 4 and scroll down to download and read "Briefing You in 2023") Cost: Attendance at the July 22-August 12 2024 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 2024 on July 22 and depart from it on August 12. Please see "Briefing You in 2024" for possible arrival/departure arrangements that may be suitable for people who are not flying into/from Murcia International Airport. You must pay for your own travel to and from Murcia International Airport!

Academic Credit:
Not offered (see Notes and BROCHURE "Briefing You in 2024" on and scroll down to download and read "Briefing You in 2024"). 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 2024". We frequently assist undergrads from around the world who wish to present a piece of work involving their participation at our Field School and excavation on their return to the university or college where they are studying for degree, and we are very willing to advise them and the faculty members at their institutions (for example, in 2023 we helped a U.S. undergrad to undertake work for a small thesis on fauna excavated here, which was presented for assessment by the U.S. institution's faculty).

Contact Information:

Professor Michael Walker

Michael Walker, Avenida de Levante 6, La Torrre de la Horadada, El Pilar de la Horadada

El Pilar de la Horadada




Phone: +34-620267104

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