Join the Connley Caves research team to explore 13,000 years of human experience in the high desert of central Oregon.

Katelyn McDonough, Geoffrey Smith, Richie Rosencrance, and Dennis Jenkins are teaming up to offer an immersive, six-week archaeology field school at the Connley Caves. Located within the homelands of the Klamath, Modoc, and Northern Paiute peoples, ongoing research at the Connley Caves is changing our understanding of technology, foodways, and environment going back to the Ice Age. Students will gain hands-on archaeological experience in excavation and survey while diving deep into the area’s cultural heritage and ecology through lectures, workshops, and field trips.

Hands on Ancient History: check out what the 2022 Connley Caves field school experience was like.

Applications are closed for 2024. 





June 24 through August 2, 2024

This summer archaeologist Katelyn McDonough and her team will teach a six-week archaeology field school at the Connley Caves in the Fort Rock Basin. The course is designed to immerse students in diverse aspects of field archaeology and the fundamentals of research design. With over 70 years of combined experience in Great Basin archaeology, the team members each bring unique skill sets to share with the class. Students will round out their excavation, mapping, and cataloging skills by conducting pedestrian surveys and learning about lithic technology with co-PIs Geoffrey Smith and Richie Rosencrance of the University of Nevada, Reno, and exploring broader regional records with the former field school director and world-renowned archaeologist, Dennis Jenkins. By the end of the course students will be ready to pursue employment as professional archaeologists.

12 credits


August 5 through August 16, 2024

This two-week accelerated course provides students with experience and knowledge in cataloging, cultural heritage care, and several lab procedures through workshops, field trips, and lectures. The primary focus of this course will be to ensure that the archaeological materials excavated during the 2024 field season, and all associated documentation, has been accounted for and properly prepared for accessioning into the state repository. Students will actively participate in this process while learning about the legal and ethical frameworks of excavation and curation. Throughout this course students will have the opportunity to observe and interact with an array of macro- and microscopic archaeological materials, including lithic, faunal, macrobotanical, and palynological remains. Students will gain hands on experience in several laboratory skills, including artifact labeling, mass debitage analysis, and botanical flotation, as well as professional development and construction of academic resumes.

4 credits

Registration for Introduction to Museum Collections and Laboratory Methods is included in the Field School Application.


Fort Rock Caves Archaeology Field School




The museum's summer archaeological field school was established by Luther S. Cressman, who is known as the father of Oregon archaeology. In 1938 Cressman, excavating at Fort Rock Cave in Oregon's Northern Great Basin, recovered a cache of sagebrush bark sandals from below a layer of volcanic ash. The ash was laid down nearly 7600 years ago by the eruption of Mount Mazama, which created Crater Lake in the southern Cascades. The Fort Rock sagebrush sandals have since proved through radiocarbon dating to range from 9,200 to 10,200 years old and remain the world's oldest known footwear.

This evidence, and other data gathered in pioneering applications of multidisciplinary research in archaeology, allowed Cressman to demonstrate that humans have been living in the Great Basin much longer than previously thought. 

For the past 30 years, museum field schools have returned annually to the Northern Great Basin to resume Cressman's earlier research. The ongoing work of the field school emphasizes reconstruction of past lifeways, paleoclimatic investigations, and human responses to changing environmental conditions.


Since 2014, our renewed excavations have focused on Caves 4, 5, and 6, in that order. All these excavations have been conducted as archaeological field schools. Between 2014 and 2017 we excavated in Cave 4, where Bedwell obtained his oldest radiocarbon date but also conducted his most extensive excavations. As a result, we currently have limited information about the post-Mazama deposits (<7630 cal BP [calendar years before present]) of Connley Cave 4 because the early excavations dug a 2x2 m unit in 1967 and then removed all post-Mazama deposits with a backhoe in1968. We thus have turned to collections-based research, using materials collected in the late 1960s, to examine the last 7600 years of the Cave 4 record. We have recently obtained a series of radiocarbon dates from hearth features sampled by Bedwell that span this period, with the youngest less than 600 years old. At this stage, it is clear that people repeatedly visited Cave 4 throughout the Holocene, but the there is much to be done with the legacy collection to get a more detailed picture.

The earliest occupations of Cave 4 are better understood. We have been able to assess the stratigraphy and compare it to that recorded by Bedwell (Jenkins et al. 2017). Additionally, our collections-based research (e.g., Rosencrance et al. 2022) shows that Bedwell’s oldest date is indeed out of sequence but there are deposits in excess of 13,000 cal BP in the cave. An occupation dating to this time, however, is neither confirmed nor rejected with current evidence. From redating of more features encountered by Bedwell and a preliminary lithic analysis, the earliest and clearest occupations of Cave 4 seem to have begun sometime around 12,700 cal BP and were intensive over the next 900 years (until ~11,800 cal BP). There was a hiatus in occupations and brief visits around 10,300 cal BP. Pre-11,800 cal BP occupations resulted in hundreds of scrapers and modified flake tools, over 75 Haskett projectile point fragments, rare items like eyed bone needles, pumice abraders, and ocher (Jenkins et al. 2017; Rosencrance et al. 2022). People heavily used the local fine-grained volcanic (FGV) toolstone found 300 meters from the caves. Our work with materials from Cave 4 is ongoing, with several publications in preparation, and future possibilities for student research.

Our excavations in Cave 5 were not directly adjacent to the 1967 excavations and uncovered a diachronic record of occupations beginning sometime around 12,700 cal BP up until at least 3000 cal BP. Younger occupations were likely present, but again, we have focused less on these and they have been the most impacted by illegal digging at the site. In the middle and late Holocene deposits we uncovered what we interpret as a latrine area, where over 70 coprolites (desiccated feces) were found in an area ~2x3 m in size. McDonough (2019) analyzed a portion of those coprolites that dated between ~5900 and 3200 cal BP. Her study provides high-resolution glimpses into people’s diets, health, and seasonality of site visits. Visits probably occurred during the late summer and early fall, where people consumed a wide variety of plant foods including small seeds (e.g., blazing star [Mentzelia sp.], saltbush [Atriplex sp.], wildrye [Elymus spp.], and more), juniper berries (Juniperus sp.), cattail (Typha sp.), fish bones, and others. There is also evidence for parasitic infection and potentially medicinal plants used to fight those infections. This study was the first coprolite analysis for this time period in the northern Great Basin, and contributed unique datasets that clarify the regional understanding of people’s settlement-subsistence strategies and food economy.

Moving down in the profile, excavations have uncovered numerous corner-notched points around a heath feature that dates to ~8500 cal BP, making these some of the oldest notched points in the Great Basin. Below this is a relatively robust set of occupations containing Cascade projectile points, groundstone tools, and more dating to ~9000 cal BP. The late Pleistocene deposits of Cave 5 contained some of the most unique data in all of the Americas for that time period, principally a stratified series of fire hearth features between ~12,500 and 11,500 cal BP (McDonough et al. 2022). In these features were a wide variety of plant remains similar to those found in the middle and late Holocene coprolites. The types of plants consumed and inadvertently mixed into the hearths show that people foraged mostly in dryland habitats, but sometimes wetland habitats (Paulina Marsh), in the late summer and early fall. They used WST points and eyed bone needles during this period, as multiple examples of each were surrounding the features. Fish bones were abundant in some features, indicating they were important part of people’s diets, and that Paulina Marsh was productive during the late Pleistocene.

These results, particularly the strong evidence for a wide variety of plant use in Cave 5, challenge prevailing models of Pleistocene lifeways derived from the Plains, which suggest early peoples of the Americas rarely spent much effort procuring calorically low plant materials in lieu of the pursuit for big game. Instead, it shows that Indigenous communities living in central Oregon during the Pleistocene were well-attuned to their surroundings and consumed many of the same resources then as they did over the next 12,000 years. We have much still to report from this Cave 5 excavation, particularly with a component below the earliest dated feature, the overall lithic assemblage, and faunal remains. Already the work in Cave 5 has provided very important insights into the changing paleoecology of the Fort Rock Basin over millennia and future analyses with further broaden the overall picture and provide detailed insights into various particularities of flora and fauna.

Excavations and research of the earliest deposits of Cave 4 and Cave 5 have produced complementary views of people’s lives in the late Pleistocene. We anticipate excavations in Cave 6 (2021-present) to provide other unique views. This marks the final stage of our field work at the Connley Caves. Our primary goals are to produce and extremely fine-grained record of paleoecology over the past 13,000 years and to understand how people used the space in Cave 6 similarly or differently from the other shelters at the site. We have positioned our excavations outside and overlapping with the 1967 excavation, which did not reach the bottom of the deposits. Cave 6 was the most heavily looted and disturbed even prior to 1967, but we have already garnished very important and unique information not found elsewhere at the site. This includes an extensive shell, bone, and stone bead assemblage dating to the middle and late Holocene, a series of hearth features spanning at least the last 5000 years, and more. We also recovered numerous bison and other large mammal bones in the disturbed deposits left by 1967 excavations and looting, including a bison bone we directly dated to over 12,300 years old. Our 2023-2024 excavations will be investigating the pre-Mazama deposits of Cave 6, and we anticipate them to find an even more diverse record of Indigenous history at the site.

Faculty and Staff

Dr. McDonough is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Director of the Archaeology Field School at the University of Oregon. She received her PhD from Texas A&M University and her BS from the University of Oregon. Dr. McDonough has over a decade of experience conducting archaeology in the Great Basin and has taught field schools at the Connley Caves since 2014. Her research uses approaches from archaeobotany, palynology, and parasitology to investigate long-term relationships between people, foodways, and landscapes during the last 13,000 years.

Dr. McDonough enjoys collaboration, interdisciplinary approaches, and designing research that uses knowledge of the past to inform issues in the present. Much of her ongoing research focuses on people’s interactions with plants and changing environments during and since the late Pleistocene in North America. In addition to human paleoecological research, McDonough has worked in cultural research management throughout the pacific northwest, and she is actively involved with fieldwork and collections-based research in the Great Basin and Columbia Plateau. Her research also investigates past ecosystem dynamics with the goal of providing better context for understanding cultural change and human adaptations.



Dr. Smith is a Regents’ Professor and Executive Director of the Artemesia Archaeological Research Fund in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. He received his PhD from the University of Wyoming. His research interests include the peopling of the American West, late Pleistocene and early Holocene lithic technology, mobility, and subsistence, and hunter-gatherer adaption in the Great Basin. He has worked in the American West for more than two decades and authored more than 50 journal articles and book chapters dealing with these and other topics. He is the recipient of the UNR Dean’s Award for Teaching, UNR Alan Bible Teaching Excellence Award, UNR F. Donald Tibbitts Excellence in Teaching Award, the Paul and Judy Bible Teaching Excellence Award, and Nevada System of Higher Education's Regents’ Teaching Award.



Rosencrance received his BA (2015) in Anthropology at West Virginia University, his masters in Anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR; 2019), and is currently pursuing his PhD at UNR. His primary research interests include chronology building in archaeology, lithic technology, collections-based research, and the role that complex technologies played in human dispersals and culture change. Currently, he is examining Indigenous people’s adjustments to cold stress during the Younger Dryas (12,900-11,700 cal BP) in the northern Intermountain West using lithic tools, eyed bone needles, cordage, and leather from the Connley, Cougar Mountain, Paisley caves in Oregon and the Lind Coulee site in Washington. Richie has worked in the northern Great Basin teaching field school students for seven years and has cultural resource management experience from across the United States.



Dr. Jenkins retired in 2022 from his position as a senior staff archaeologist at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History and the Northern Great Basin Archaeological Field School Director. He received his BA (1977) and MA (1981) from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where he worked with Dr. Claude N. Warren and Dr. Margaret M. Lyneis. His Masters research focused on the Virgin Branch of the Anasazi and his doctoral research on Lake Mohave-Pinto sites in the Mojave Desert. He received his PhD (1991) from the University of Oregon where Dr. C. Melvin Aikens served as his Committee Chair. Jenkins worked for the Museum at the UO, where he served as a research archaeologist assigned to Oregon Department of Transportation archaeological projects in the Northern Great Basin, Columbia Plateau, and Klamath Basin, from 1987 until 2022 (35 years). He taught, supervised, and directed the Northern Great Basin archaeological field school from 1989 to 2022. In that capacity he has overseen the education of more than ~700 field school students in the methods and theory of archaeological field investigations.

His stint as field director at Fort Irwin, California provided him a unique set of interpersonal and interagency experiences that developed in him an exceptional ability to find common ground with diverse groups and individuals alike. This talent, based on honesty and proven trustworthiness, has served him well through 35 years of program construction, personnel handling, and interagency consultations involving working closely and successfully in sensitive negotiations with Native American tribes in Oregon.

His primary research interests are the Paleoamerican colonization of the Americas, ancient human coprolites, Great Basin hunting and gathering societies, obsidian sourcing and hydration analysis, shell beads, and settlement-subsistence patterns in arid lands of the American West. He has conducted archaeological research at >100 sites in Nevada, California, Arizona, and Oregon. His research spans the late Pleistocene from ~14,500 years ago through the entire Holocene period; and includes excavations in a Chinese shanty town at Jackson, Oregon, mapping of the ghost town site of Jefferson in Nevada, and excavation of a historic wickiup (ca. 1854) at the Boulder Village site in the Fort Rock Basin.

Jenkins has authored and co-authored 11 books; ~55 chapters, journal articles, reviews, and published papers; and 40 professional reports. He has presented ~75 professional papers and symposia at conferences. His doctoral thesis, Site Structure and Chronology of 37 Lake Mojave and Pinto Assemblages from Two Large Multicomponent Sites in the Central Mojave Desert, Southern California, was the culmination of four years of research focus on the late Pleistocene and early Holocene archaeology of the Mojave Desert as the Field Director of the Fort Irwin Archaeological Project near Barstow, California. Through the UO field school he has conducted new excavations at the famous Connley Caves and Paisley 5 Mile Point Caves sites, recovering the oldest directly dated human remains—14,300 year old mitochondrial DNA in human coprolites—in the Americas from the Paisley Caves (Gilbert et al. 2008; Jenkins 2007; Jenkins et al. 2012, 2013; book manuscript in preparation).

Jenkins has filmed multiple short documentaries for public education. The first, Paisley Cave Dig, was an Oregon Field Guide segment produced for Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) of Portland, Oregon. This 10 minute program showed UO field school investigations at the Paisley Caves in the Summer Lake Basin of central Oregon, ending with a brief synopsis of preliminary findings as of the 2003 summer field session. Tracking Obsidian, filmed by OPB in 2004, was a segment explaining the search for the location of an as yet unlocated obsidian source near Silver Lake in the Fort Rock Basin just north of the Summer Lake Basin. The on-site interview, Finding Pre-Clovis Humans in the Oregon High Desert: An interview with Dennis Jenkins, is a 40 minute segment filmed at the Paisley Caves by The Archaeology Channel during the summer of 2007. It covers the topic of recovering human DNA from coprolites in the caves. It was released with the publication of an article in Science Magazine. Finally, Jenkins filmed the lead segment (about 7 minutes) for a two hour documentary entitled All About Dung produced by Icon Films (Bristol, United Kingdom) for the History Channel. This very entertaining investigation into the fascinating and funny topic of pooh was aired in June 2008. Finally, he filmed another 7 minute segment for "Ice Age Geology", shown on the History Channel in March, 2010. He currently has made appearances in a documentary by OPB about Luther S. Cressman and another about Eske Willerslev and the Paisley Caves made by Danish TV.

Connley Caves Articles

Frost Action during the Younger Dryas Inferred from Soil Micromorphology at Connley Cave 5, Oregon 

Dating and Analysis of Western Stemmed Toolkits from the Legacy Collection of Connley Cave 4, Oregon 

Expanding Paleoindian Diet Breadth: Paleoethnobotany of Connley Cave 5, Oregon, USA 
American Antiquity

Middle Holocene Menus: Dietary Reconstruction from Coprolites at the Connley Caves, Oregon, USA 
Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

Current Research at the Connley Caves (35LK50): Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene Western Stemmed Tradition Occupations in the Fort Rock Basin, Oregon 


Selected Articles by Our Research Team

Pre-Clovis occupation of the Americas identified by human fecal biomarkers in coprolites from Paisley Caves, Oregon 
Science Advances

The Western Stemmed Tradition: Problems and Prospects in Paleoindian Archaeology in the Intermountain West 

Reinvestigating Cougar Mountain Cave: New Perspectives on Stratigraphy, Chronology, and a Younger Dryas Occupation in the Northern Great Basin 
American Antiquity

The Terminal Pleistocene/Early Holocene Record in the Northwestern Great Basin: What We Know, What We Don’t Know, and How We May Be Wrong 

Clovis age Western Stemmed projectile points and human coprolites at the Paisley Caves 

DNA from pre-Clovis human coprolites in Oregon, North America 

Oregon Archaeology 
Book by Thomas Connolly, Dennis L. Jenkins, and C. Melvin Aikens


Aiden Hlebechuk, Connley Caves 2022, Recent Graduate 
SWCA Environmental Consultants 

Attending the Connley Caves Field School was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The six-week course in the Oregon desert provided me with all the skills necessary to succeeding outside of college, from excavation methodology to describing sediments to navigation skills. The course instructors, Dr. Katelyn McDonough, Dr. Geoffrey Smith, Dr. Dennis Jenkins, and Richie Rosencrance are not only some of the smartest archaeologists working in the Great Basin today, but they are also wonderful teachers that make their students feel included. The students themselves came from a variety of backgrounds and brought their individual skills that made the whole school experience that much more enriching. Weekly lectures on a range of topics supplemented our learning and gave us the chance to talk about things outside of what we were doing at the site, like cultural resource management and regional ethnographies. I wholeheartedly recommend attending the Connley Caves Field School. If you are even slightly interested in a career in archaeology, this is the place for you! The opportunity to work on such a unique site coupled with the lasting friendships I made have changed my life in a positive way that I never could have imagined. 

Carly Watters,Connley Caves 2023, Recent Graduate 
University of Oregon, Department of Anthropology 

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I went to field school- not to mention the fact that I had little to no outdoors/camping experience. What I didn't expect was to have my entire life changed! Not only did I love the work we did daily at the Connley Caves, but I also grew to appreciate the camping, the beautiful warm weather, and the beautiful views. I learned so much from the incredibly experienced archaeologists that led us, and even more from my fellow field school students. Field school not only teaches you about archaeology, but also about managing yourself and your body, working with others in a large group setting, and how to cook a meal for at least 20 people. It was one of the best things I've ever spent my time (and money) on- if I could, I'd do it all over again! 

Larry Squimphen III, Connley Caves 2022
Warms Springs GeoVisions 

Hi, I'm Larry Squimphen III, I am an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs tribal member. I've been working for 21 years for GeoVisions doing cultural resource management. The field school was an awesome experience. I should have experienced it a lot sooner when Dennis Jenkins offered to me when I first started my cultural resource job with the Confederate tribes of Warms Springs. The experience you gain here is great, the instructors Katelyn McDonough and Richie Rosencrance are awesome, the supervisors are great friends and teachers, and you get to experience working with the great Dennis Jenkins and other rock stars of archeology. Being able to pass on knowledge to each other is a great experience that you get working together in the excavation pit. 

Stefania Wilks, Connley Cave 2022, Graduate Student 
Department of Anthropology, University of Utah 

If you are looking for a mentoring experience in the science of archaeological excavation with the potential to join a collaborative community of dynamic North American researchers, Look no further! Katelyn McDonough, Geoff Smith, Richie Rosencrance, and Dennis Jenkins all under one excavation tent is an opportunity not to be missed. This team asks research questions of the past that are relevant to discussions about human subsistence in western North America today. At the Connley Caves Field School, in addition to building relationships with the past, you’ll be developing relationships with your future. Thanks to their collaboration, the ground stone excavated during my field school year (2022) is now an important part of my Ph.D. dissertation. Apply now! 

Chloe Hataway, Connley Caves 2023, Recent Graduate 
Department of Anthropology, University of Nevada, Reno 

The Connley Caves Field School gave me a unique opportunity to expand my understanding of archaeological research and methods. I gained confidence through firsthand experience with excavation, weekly lectures, and survey experience. This was all thanks to the guidance from the passionate and well-versed minds of Dr. Katelyn McDonough, Dr. Geoffrey Smith, Dr. Dennis Jenkins, and Richie Rosencrance. This course provided me with foundations that I utilized in applying for archaeological positions later on. Along with this, I made connections to the environment I worked in, my instructors, and my field mates. I can say that I left the Connley Caves Field School with the souvenirs of experience, confidence, and newfound friendships that have benefited me after the completion of the course.

Michael Young, Connley Caves 2021, Recent Graduate 
Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon 
My experience at the Connley Caves field school has been foundational in my own pursuit towards a professional archaeology career. From weekly presentations on a breadth of exciting and informative topics to finally experiencing what it is to be an archaeologist with a trowel in the dirt, those 6 weeks have been invaluable. We all must begin somewhere and learning how to dig from one of the most highly respected archaeologists in the Great Basin is a fantastic start. Not to mention Dr. McDonough and Richard Rosencrance’s uncanny ability to make something already exciting just that much more so. In short, Connley Caves has gifted me knowledge, friendships, and memories that will last a lifetime. Whether you have a particular focus in archaeology or have always dreamt of participating in an archaeological excavation, there is no better place to begin than right here.

Brian Thixton, Connley Caves 2021, Undergraduate 
Department of Anthropology, California State University

The Connley Caves field school in the summer of 2021 was one of the best experiences of my life. Not only was I able to set out to the field to gain experience in archaeological fieldwork, but I was also able to learn about Northern Great Basin archaeology from some of the best and brightest minds in the field. After completion of the field school, I feel that I have a much better understanding of archaeological method and theory. The greatest part of the entire field school was digging down through the dirt and rocks, backwards in time, to find artifacts that another human utilized thousands of years ago. I could not help but feel the weight of history in my hands. Thank you to all of those who make the University of Oregon’s Connley Caves field school happen. For those of you considering applying for future field school opportunities at the Connley Caves, I highly and joyfully recommend applying. You will be setting yourself up for success and you will be able to move forward on your path to becoming an archaeologist one day.

Sam Anderson, Connley Caves 2021, Graduate Student 
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Indiana University

What I enjoyed most about my summer at Connley Caves is the breadth of interdisciplinary knowledge that I gained. In addition to the wealth of knowledge and experience that our supervisors brought to the dig, my fellow students came from a variety of academic backgrounds and areas of interest – to the degree that I felt that I learned something new with every conversation. This is particularly impactful because I am geologist who has taken a few anthropology courses, while my compatriots were anthropologists with limited experience in earth sciences. This knowledge gap wasn’t a problem, but an opportunity to share knowledge and help each other grow as researchers.

I came to the Connley Caves field site to ‘try’ archaeology – despite my interest in the field, it had not been my main academic focus. To my joy, I found that the excitement of getting my hands dirty and working with others to find and record artifacts, and the anticipation of never knowing what the next level will reveal outweighed the early mornings and the discomfort of squatting in a hole in a cave for hours. Six weeks later, I knew that prehistoric archaeology was something that I had to continue to pursue, both because of the fulfillment that I during my summer at Connley Caves, but also because the program showed me how I could apply my skill set to furthering research in the field. Because of my experience with this program, I am incorporating geoarchaeology and cultural heritage management into the thesis of my MS in Earth Sciences.

Megan Donham, Connley Caves 2018, Graduate Student 
Department of Anthropology, California State University, Los Angeles

The Connley Caves Field School has continued to impact my life long after the day I packed my tent and bid farewell to the site. I don’t think I fully realized how much I had learned because I did so while living out one of the most fun and impactful summers I’ve had to date. From the valuable connections I made came opportunities that propelled my education to the next level and gave me a leg up when applying to graduate programs. The Connley Caves Field School helped me determine the direction in which I wanted to take my career and gave me the skills to begin it.

Taylor Norman, Connley Caves 2017, Undergraduate 
Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon

I had no idea what to expect out of field school at Connley Caves since I had never had any field experience. The amount I learned during the 6 week dig was in my opinion greater than all the archaeology courses I had taken in the classroom. Finally getting your hands into some dirt and seeing what archaeology is all about is exciting and tons of fun. You wake up early to get the most out of your day, spending a couple days setting up camp. Once camp is set up you begin digging and that’s where the real fun begins. Evenings are spent around camp where you can hang out, have a campfire and do basically whatever you want and is fun to spend time with the group. Besides the amazing experience and learning, you spend 6 weeks getting to know the group of people you are with. I met some awesome people who I will always remember and try to keep in touch with.

Makaela O’Rourke, Connley Caves 2015, Graduate student 
Department of Anthropology, Utah State University

When I signed up to do my field school at Connley Caves, I had no idea what I was getting into. Not only was the site amazing, I learned all about working in previously excavated sites. The connections I made with the staff and students are still serving me well, and prepared me for my graduate studies. Half of my first term was reading the work of the people I worked with during and after my field school, and having dug at such an important site as Connley Caves has solidified for me the archaeology of the Great Basin.

The people I met in this field school helped me find independent research projects, which have become my master's thesis. I am still being supported by the people from this field school, and by the researchers and staff of the Museum of Natural and Cultural History.

Brookelin McKay, Connley Caves 2016, Undergraduate 
Department of Anthropology, State University of New York, Potsdam

Field school allowed me to learn in a way that was more physical than my classes. Being there with a group of 10 to 15 people allowed me one-on-one time with the teaching staff, and in the end, I got a better education out of it. I love that this field school requires you to camp and get outdoors because for me, it made the group closer and created more of a community among the students. The site itself is a challenging dig, but I feel that it made me a better archaeology student and will prepare me for future digs that may be difficult. I also really appreciated that UO holds a field school at a real and significant site. I didn’t feel patronized or that the data from the site would not be used for further research. Learning about the history of the area, as well as the stratigraphic and geologic details really do make a difference in understanding how the site was formed and why the artifacts are where they are. I am very much looking forward to coming back out to the site and volunteering my time with the field school.

Mackenzie Hughes, Connley Caves 2017, Recent graduate 
Department of Anthropology, Western Washington University

Dear Future/Possible Participants of Connley Caves Field School, 
As an archaeology major at Western Washington University, attending field school was always somewhere on my to-do list. During my four years in college, I will admit that I considered field school to be somewhere in the far, unplanned future…until it came time to graduate. I began regretting all the things that I chose to do instead of field school and thought participating post-graduation was slightly embarrassing. However, when I ultimately made the decision to click ‘submit’ on my application to participate in the U of O Connley Caves field school, I would not know for another few months what a spectacular decision I had finally made. After I had been accepted, the excitement took precedent over all of my feelings of nervousness, unpreparedness, etc. etc. etc. As the time came closer to make the six-hour drive to Fort Rock, OR, all of those other feelings began to surface. When I first arrived to camp, and had the opportunity to meet all of my fellow classmates, volunteers, and teachers, I knew that this was going to be an amazing experience… and man, was I right. Over the next six weeks, I learned more about geoarchaeology, archaeology, friendship—and how to cook meals for many in the howling wind—than I ever could have even imagined. Connley Caves field school is truly one of the best experiences I have ever had. The environment was one of eagerness to learn and eagerness to teach. Though it was hard work and some days seemed to be longer than others, I would not trade the experience for the world.

Haden Kingrey, Connley Caves 2017, Undergraduate 
Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon

I found this field school extremely beneficial towards understanding the field of archaeology as a whole. The experience and the encounters I made solidified my commitment to the pursuit of archaeology. The field school was well organized and very enjoyable between working with helpful, intelligent instructors and hanging out with fellow students. I hope to start working on a research paper this year on Connley Caves and the Great Basin, and that spark would have not come if not for this amazing experience.

Sam Hruban, Connley Caves 2017, Undergraduate  
Department of Anthropology, Western Washington University

I graduated with a degree in cultural anthropology. Having only taken two archaeology classes in college I was worried about the background knowledge needed to succeed in the Northern Great Basin Field School. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. Although I was lacking in specific archaeological theories and the names of those who pioneered the field I was still able to learn an incredible amount about archaeology, excavation, and the Northern Great Basin. The UO field school was an enriching outdoor classroom experience where the students work hard in exchange for daily hands-on learning and the opportunity to see how history was formed first hand.

In addition to the field school I also took the Intro to Archaeological Lab Methods class. I highly recommend this as a nice wrap up to the six weeks of excavation. In this class I learned about the second part of excavation, the lab work. I got to do everything from cataloguing and labeling artifacts to data entry on the site—plus, I got the chance to attend many fun field trips to local anthropology labs. I highly recommend this field school. My advice is to be prepared, to work hard, get dirty, and have an amazing summer in the field!

Andy Mark, Connley Caves 2017, Undergraduate 
Department of Archaeology, Boston University

The Northern Great Basin Prehistory Project Field School is an amazing experience. At this field school, you’ll learn more than proper excavation technique; you’ll learn different theoretical approaches and how they can be applied to the archaeological record. These skills can be used when applying for graduate school or cultural resource management jobs. The director of the site, Dennis Jenkins, is an incredible person. He has years of experience and knows how to teach it very well. Despite this, he treats you as an equal and trusts everyone to get the job done properly. Otherwise he wouldn’t let you work on some of the oldest sites in the Americas. Working at this field school was an amazing opportunity, and one of the best classes out there.

Scott Powers, Connley Caves 2015, Undergraduate 
Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon

One term of working with Dennis, Chantal, and Katelyn in the layers of history was enough to crystalize my decision to pursue field archaeology. Wish I could have made it more than just one year.

Connley Caves Archaeology Field School



Enrollment and Fees

Field sessions are open to graduate and undergraduate students. Post-baccalaureate students may register for graduate credit even if they are not yet enrolled in a graduate program. 

2024 Course Fees: $4250

Archaeology Field School students will enroll for 12 credits in ANTM 408/508. A course fee of $4250, for both in-state and out-of-state students, covers tuition, field transportation, and food. Students that have completed their bachelor's degree may take this course for graduate credit, with the expectation that graduate level effort will be required. Most tools and other materials are provided for the course. Students are required to bring expendable equipment (including a towel, measuring tape, and level) costing approximately $77.50.

Please send questions to Katelyn McDonough at

Health and accidental insurance is required for all students. 



The Museum of Natural and Cultural History is delighted to offer the C. Melvin Aikens Scholarship for the 2024 field school to contribute to students' tuition to attend. Selection of this award will be on a needs-based evaluation. If you would like to be considered for this award, please provide a statement of need that explains how receiving the C. Melvin Aikens Scholarship will affect your ability to attend. Apply via the field school application.


Applicants must be able to meet the strenuous demands of hiking and excavating in the rugged conditions and heat of the Oregon high desert. With students and instructors working and living closely together under rigorous conditions, the ability to get along with others is essential.

Archaeology students are accepted from a broad range of backgrounds. The only prerequisites are a serious interest in archaeology and some level of personal preparation involving classes, basic reading in archaeological field methods, or previous participation in an organized archaeological project supervised by a professional archaeologist such as a Passport in Time (PIT) project. All applicants should provide a one-page statement of their interest and experience in archaeology.

The field school is a University of Oregon activity and students are expected to understand and follow the University's Student Conduct Code.

Enrollment is limited. Places not confirmed in a timely fashion are offered to applicants on the waiting list according to level of qualifications and priority of application.


Applications for the 2024 field school are now closed. 

Questions? Email



The project area can be hot and dry and full of plants that grab at skin and clothing. At other times, it can be windy and cold or stormy. Clothes and bedding suitable to a wide range of conditions are recommended. Here is a list of suggested items:

  • Sturdy Tent - 3-5 person capacity recommended
  • Bedding - sleeping bag, pillow and extra blanket(s) (in addition to a sleeping bag and extra blanket(s) many students choose to have a sleep mat or cot)
  • Sunshower - 3-5 gallon capacity
  • Towels/washcloths/soap
  • Personal toiletries
  • Backpack - for day use (or functional equivalent)
  • Wide-brimmed hat
  • Sunscreen - at least SPF 25
  • Bug spray
  • Sunglasses
  • Pocket knife
  • Clothing for 2 weeks - Laundromats are available in a small town 50 miles from camp. Note: clothing for a variety of weather conditions is recommended. Since night temperatures are often cold, warm clothing to sleep in is essential.
  • Canteens - you will need to carry at least 3 quarts
  • Field notebook and pencils
  • Personal entertainment - books, cards, Frisbees, music, sketchpad, camera, spending money, personal ice chest, folding chair, games

Field school students leave directly from a predetermined location on the meeting date, so everything must be brought at that time. Students pack a lunch and snacks on the first day to eat on the way to field school camp. Private vehicles should be filled with gas and ready to travel.


Upon acceptance, students are responsible for purchasing these items before field school.


Approx. Cost

Marshalltown Masonry Trowel (6" x 2¾")


Stanley Powerlock Tape (5 m x ¾") 


Paintbrush (2-3")






Sharpies (2 @ $1.50)


Mechanical Pencil and Lead (0.7 mm)(pack of 24)


Work Gloves


Plastic Tool Box - optional




without optionals:


Setting and Living Arrangements

Participants will live in tents at a field camp. Located at about 4,500 feet, typical summer temperatures range from 90 degrees Fahrenheit (and higher) in the day to 45 to 60 degrees at night. The camp will have rustic kitchen, dining, laboratory, and bathroom facilities. Students prepare the meals and work to maintain the campsite and support facilities with the instructors.

Students must provide their own sleeping bags or bedding and personal tents (for a full list of required gear, see the equipment list). Transportation is furnished between Eugene and the field camp, but students are encouraged to bring personal cars if possible, as trips into the nearby town in university vehicles will be infrequent. Mountain bikes are welcome, and there are extensive biking and hiking opportunities in the vicinity. On weekends students may go to town, explore other parts of the Northern Great Basin, or just relax in camp. No dogs are allowed at the field school.

More photos



Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2024 field school plans and safety protocols are subject to change based on guidance from the University of Oregon and the Oregon Health Authority. Questions? Contact the Connley Caves field school director, Katelyn McDonough, at


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