Roncesvalles Ossuary and Cemetery

This listing expired on September 1, 2023. Please contact for any updated information.

Location: 31650 Roncesvalles, Navarra, España

Season: June 15, 2023 to August 15, 2023

Session Dates: June 15-July 4; July 6-25; July 27-August 15

Application Deadline: April 30, 2023

Deadline Type: Rolling


Program Type:
Field School

RPA Certified:

Aditu Arkeologia

Project Director:
Emma Bonthorne and Fran Valle de Tarazaga

Project Description:

The 2023 Aditu Archaeological Field School is a research project investigating the origins of the medieval ossuary and cemetery located at Roncesvalles (Northern Navarre, Spain) just a few miles from the French border. The purpose of the project is to investigate what is rumoured to be the burial site of the rearguard of Charlemagne’s army, ambushed in the Battle of Roncesvalles and immortalised in the medieval French work “La Chanson de Roland.” In addition to its historical significance, the location has long been an important rest stop for pilgrims hiking the Camino de Santiago from France, as it represents the traditional first stop upon crossing the Pyrenees mountains and entering the Iberian peninsula.

The ossuary consists of one of the oldest structures that forms part of the religious complex of Roncesvalles, with historical sources and previous interventions at the site attesting to the long chronology of burials present within the ossuary. The Aditu research project represents the most extensive excavation undertaken to date, with more than 498,000 human bone fragments and 27 articulated skeletons recovered during the first four years of investigation.

In 2023 our aim is to continue excavating and analysing remains from the upper layers of the complex (currently in 17th century layers). The focus of the 5th season of the field school will be on ossuary excavation methodology and the analysis of commingled remains and articulated burials, and will be accompanied by lectures on human osteology, calculation of MNI, archaeological practice, stable isotope analysis, Basque and medieval archaeology and relevant topics related to field methodology and finds processing. The field school represents a rare opportunity to excavate a unique site of huge historical significance and gain insight into different types of field and laboratory methodologies within commingled contexts.

The team responsible for the excavation, Aditu Arkeologia, has carried out excavations in Navarre for the past 13 years, including previous field schools at the sites of Santa Maria de Zamartze and San Miguel de Aralar, and are specialists in osteoarchaeology, landscape archaeology and GIS and Roman and Medieval archaeology. Results from the anthropological analysis of remains uncovered at Roncesvalles will form part of a wider study of the population of Navarre during the Medieval period, and samples from articulated burials are expected to provide data to be used in stable isotope analysis.

This is a very intensive osteology-focused course, with students spending 7-8 hours per day engaged in field work and anthropological analysis. Throughout the course, students will become proficient in excavation procedures, field drawing, documentation, and find processing and analysis. The focus will be on the excavation and analysis of human skeletal material, including fragmented and commingled remains.

Please note that a decent level of physical fitness is necessary to get in and out of the ossuary, as well as to work for extended periods kneeling. The ossuary is a large space, measuring 10m x 10m, but has no windows and only one opening for access. As such, this may be a difficult site for those suffering from severe claustrophobia.

For more information and applications please contact:

*Please note that we reply to every email we receive, however lately several requests have gone directly to our spam box. If you have emailed us and have not received a reply within a week, please reach out to and we will check the issue. Thanks!

Period(s) of Occupation: The site covers a long period of usage, from at least the 12th century to modern times. We are currently excavating layers that correspond to the 17th and 18th centuries.

Ossuary, Physical anthropology, Funerary, Necropolis, Human remains, Forensic, Spain, Osteology

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: One full session (20 days)

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: The field school is aimed at students or graduates of archaeology, anthropology and associated disciplines (forensic science, history, etc). As the focus of the field school is on excavation of the ossuary as well as post-excavation anthropological analysis, participants are strongly encouraged to have background knowledge and/or at least one class in human osteology before arrival to the site. The ability to recognise fragmentary skeletal elements is an essential part of the work involved in the laboratory component of the field school, and although this will be covered in the first lectures, there will be a very steep learning curve for anyone who has not previously worked with human remains.

Room and Board Arrangements:
Roncesvalles is a small town located just over an hour from the city of Pamplona. Board and accommodation will be provided within the town, just a few minute´s walk from the site, in shared accommodation. All necessary facilities (bathrooms and hot showers) are located on site. Students will be given 2 rest days in the middle of each session. Food is simple but hearty, with self-catered breakfast (ingredients provided), sandwiches for lunch and a hot dinner. Whilst we do our best to provide for those with dietary restrictions, we are in a relatively isolated location and it is not always possible to cater for all dietary preferences. If you have questions regarding dietary restrictions, please get in touch before submitting an application. The course fee of 1750 euros includes tuition, all meals on work days, accommodation for the duration of the course, administration and application costs. Fees do not include airfares or transportation to the site.

Contact Information:

Aditu Arkeologia

Maddalen 35





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