NOMAD Science (Mongolia)

COVID-19 NOTICE: Please be sure to reach out to the project contact to find out the status of their upcoming season. Many projects have cancelled fieldwork for 2020 and the information below may not reflect that.

Location: Tugul, Mongolia

Season: May 16, 2021 to September 10, 2021

Session Dates: Session I: Survey Archaeology, May 16 - June 2, 2021; Session II: Salvage Archaeology, June 9 - 30, 2021; Intersession: Wilderness First Responder Certification, June 25-July 10, 2021; Session III: Soyo Archaeology Field School, July 5 - 25, 2021; Session IV: Ice Patch Archaeology, July 29 - August 18, 2021; Session V: Taiga Archaeology, August 21 - September 10, 2021.

Application Deadline: February 15, 2021

Deadline Type: Contact for Details


Program Type:
Field School, Volunteer

RPA Certified:

NOMAD Science, Flinders University, National Museum of Mongolia

Project Director:
Dr. Julia Clark and Dr. J. Bayarsaikhan

Project Description:

NOMAD Science is an international, interdisciplinary team of scholars passionate about Mongolian cultural heritage seeking like minded individuals to join our four unique fieldwork opportunities in northern Mongolia during May/June/July/August of 2021. No previous experience necessary. While many of our participants are working towards an archaeology degree, team members come from a variety of disciplines, educational backgrounds, generations, nationalities, etc. Whether this is a requirement for your bachelors/masters/PhD program, or you just want a once-in-a-lifetime experience, check out our 2021 program choices below.

Applications are due for early decision by February 15, 2021 a final due date for any remaining slots on April 1st, 2021. Program costs are listed below for each session. For support in applying for external funding, please contact us. This fee covers all costs for the duration of the project for food, transportation, permits, and equipment. This does not include international travel to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, travel insurance, or personal camping gear. If you’d like to be a part of our 2021 team, you can access the application HERE.

Below you will see a short description for each of the four sessions that make up NOMAD Science in 2021.

Session I: Survey and Exploratory Archaeology

May 16-June 2, 2021


Description: During this intensive, dynamic course, team members will be tasked with travelling to many different parts of Huvsgul province to locate and map archaeological sites with a focus on determining the scale of looting activity in the region. Illegal looting activity has been particularly destructive in this region of northern Mongolia, and it is hoped that this survey will provide a rich dataset to help understand the severity of the problem, what has been lost, what is salvageable, and the nature of looting with a goal of curbing future destruction of priceless archaeological sites. In partnership with Fish Mongolia/Mongolia River Outfitters*, the team will have the opportunity to raft down some of the region’s rivers to identify and record looted sites (*note – unfortunately, fishing will not be allowed at this time). This program is designed for fit, adventure-minded participants who relish a physical and mental challenge. They will travel by 4WD, on foot, by raft and by horse and will be rewarded with the comradery of passionate like-minded cultural heritage enthusiasts, amazing views and breathtaking campsites.


Dates: May 16- June 2, 2021

Fee: $2,900  USD


Session II: Salvage Archaeology and Field Conservation

June 9 – 30, 2021


Description: Building on the last 4 years of salvage work by NOMAD Science, this 3-week program is designed to salvage threatened material related to illegal looting activity in northern Mongolia. Thieves have targeted nearly every known cemetery in the region, hauling away untold treasures and destroying much of Mongolia’s priceless cultural heritage. Our teams travel to these disturbed cemeteries and recover what we can – which has historically actually turned out to be quite a bit! Despite the missing components and jumbled contexts, archaeologists can still learn a lot about ancient peoples from what remains. However, without our intervention, much of what remains will decay, be destroyed, lost, or looted again. This program is designed for participants interested in cultural heritage preservation, field conservation, salvage archaeology, and bioarchaeology. Participants will be stationed at a base camp and travel to various nearby cemeteries on a daily basis.


Dates: June 9-30, 2021

Fee:  $3,100  USD


INTERSESSION: Wilderness First Responder Training

June 25-July 10, 2021


Description: Researches like those of NOMAD Science often find ourselves working in remote places. While this can be thrilling, there are also many inherent risks. This training will take place between Session II and III of NOMAD Science providing the perfect opportunity for the participants of these sessions to obtain this important certifcation, though you do not have to be a participant of other NOMAD Science programs to sign up. The intensive hands-on course will take place in the Darkhad near the other NOMAD Science program sites. As with all other NOMAD Science programs, meals will be provided for all participants for the duration of the course, but participants must have their own personal camping gear. If you have questions about the course, be sure to contact us.


Dates: June 25-July 10, 2021

Fee:  $700  USD


Session III: Soyo Archaeology Field School

July 5 – 25, 2021


Description: This year’s 3-week program at the multicomponent (Neolthic-Bronze Age) site of Soyo will focus on groundtruthing geophysical results from previous years through targeted excavation, and continuing surveys that put Soyo into the larger landscape context in which it is found. The previous application of GPR, ERT, and Magnetometry have given us important clues as to what may lie beneath the surface of this important site that straddles the regional hunting and gathering to herding transition. This year, we will be using that data to target specific areas of the site that have shown suggestive anomalies in the geophysical data in the hopes of locating hearths, pits, and other cultural features related to the thousands of years of occupation at the site. Additionally, pedestrian survey around the site will be expanded to help illuminate land-use strategies and change through time. This program is designed for participants who want a traditional archaeological field school that gives them a wide range of new field skills, those interested in how to use and apply geophysical data, and those interested in the adoption of food production.


Dates: July 5 – 25, 2021

Fee: $3,100  USD


Sessoin IV: Ice Patch Archaeology*

July 29 – August 18, 2021

Description: In an attempt to salvage some of the world’s most vulnerable archaeological resources, a small NOMAD Science Session IV team will be partnering with a team from CU Boulder’s Museum of Natural History to recover materials in that Altai Mountains of far western Mongolia (our only program not in the Darkhad Depression of northern Mongolia). Because of global climate change, high elevation ice and snow patches are melting revealing for the first time in centuries or millenia archaeological materials that had been preserved in them. Without our intervention, these artifacts and all of the information they contain will be lost forever. The team will travel by 4wd, horse, and foot over some truly beautiful, but treacherous and high elevation terrain. Teammembers must have some mountaineering experience, be quite physically fit, have no known issues with high altitudes, and be adaptable and flexible.


Dates: July 29 – August 18, 2021

Fee: $3,950 USD


*Note – This is the only NOMAD Science program that has experience prerequisites. You must have some mountaineering experience in order to participate in this session. If you are unsure about your qualifications, please contact us to discuss the matter.

Session V: Taiga Archaeology

August 21 – September 10, 2021


Description: Throughout this challenging but rewarding course, participants will travel by horseback and on foot through remote regions of Mongolia’s taiga and tundra to investigate known archaeological sites, discover and map new sites, and search for the source of the region’s rich stone tool industry. Preliminary work in the 2019 field season finally resulted in the discovery of several lithic scatters in the high mountain areas now occupied by reindeer herders. The team will return to these sites to collect and map these finds, will build predictive models to help locate new sites, will work with local reindeer herder communities to help interpret and share their findings, and will follow tips to locate important resources used by the region’s ancient people – in particular the location of stone quarries. This program is designed for fit, adventurous participants who are up for a physical and mental challenge, willing to work as a team, and who’s curiosity always leads them over the next ridge.


Dates: August 21 – September 10, 2021

Fee: $3,750 USD


Period(s) of Occupation: Neolithic, Bronze Age, Medieval (mostly salvage)

Public outreach, citizen science, drones, GIS, Survey archaeology, excavation, horseback survey, taiga, reindeer herders, digital archaeology, conservation, geophysics, bioarchaeology, pastoralism, remote sensing, hunter-gatherers

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 3 weeks

Minimum Age: 18 or accompanied by a guardian

Experience Required: None - our participants are archaeology students at all levels, life-long-learners, and other interested travelers. Attitude is much more important than experience as Mongolia can be challenging (though very rewarding). The only exception is Session IV: Ice Patch Archaeology - we are requiring some mountaineering experience this year as we will be going to some truly hard to get to sites at high altitude.

Room and Board Arrangements:
Camping - participants responsible for tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad. Three meals a day provided by project. Hired cook prepares all meals. Water can be purified using a pump/tablets/etc. from abundant local streams, rivers and lakes.  Cost: $2900-$3950

Academic Credit:
Arrangements made on request - contact us for more details!

Contact Information:

Julia Clark




United States

Phone: +1 (406) 218-1720 (USA)

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