University of Oregon archaeologist Patrick O'Grady specializes in Paleoamerican studies in the Western United States. Read more about the six-week field experience at Rimrock Draw Rockshelter, a site where researchers are finding stone tools in association with Ice Age animal remains.
Learn survey, excavation, and mapping techniques and explore the region's natural and cultural history through lively on-site lectures and discussions.

Rimrock Draw Rockshelter Field School operated from 2012 to 2023. If you are interested 



UO archaeologist Patrick O'Grady specializes in Paleoamerican studies in the Western United States. Join him for this six-week field experience at Rimrock Draw Rockshelter, a site that recently produced what may be the oldest stone tool west of the Rocky Mountains. 

The 2022 field school program is divided into four sections: 1) establishing regional context, 2) lithic identification, 3) beginning excavation techniques, and 4) advanced excavation techniques.  The first week will include lectures and field trips to Sagehen Gap Clovis site, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, French Round Barn, and other locations of archaeological and historic interest; a tour of the Harney Basin and surroundings to establish geographical context; and walking tours of the area surrounding Rimrock Draw Rockshelter to provide environmental and cultural context for the site and setting. Week two will consist of a five-day lithic workshop conducted by lithic analyst Dan Stueber. Each day of instruction will be followed by field trips to nearby Paleoindian sites of interest where you can practice newly developed skills and delve deeper into the archaeological context of Rimrock Draw.

You'll get hands-on training in three phases of archaeological investigation, including pedestrian survey techniques, test excavation, and data recovery. During week three, we'll begin our excavations in 1x2m units across the stream channel from the rockshelter and in 50x50cm units near the shelter. Weeks four through six mark the transition from introductory to advanced excavation, with work in rockshelter interiorthe oldest and most archaeologically challenging portion of the site. 

Read the Synopsis of past excavations for additional background on the site.

8 credits

Read through the 2023 syllabus and 2022 schedule.


Rimrock Draw Rockshelter Archaeology Field School_2.jpg




The University of Oregon summer archaeological field school was established in 1937 by Luther S. Cressman, who is known as the father of Oregon archaeology. In 1938 the field school, excavating at Fort Rock Cave in Central Oregon's Northern Great Basin, recovered many sagebrush bark sandals from below a layer of volcanic ash. The ash was laid down nearly 7600 years ago by the climatic eruption of Mount Mazama that created Crater Lake in the southern Cascades. The Fort Rock type sagebrush sandals have since proved through radiocarbon dating to be more than 10,000 years old.

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. Since Cressman's time, the UO has maintained an active program of research and training in archaeology.

For the past 27 years, the University of Oregon field school has returned annually to the Northern Great Basin to resume Cressman's earlier research. The ongoing work of the Northern Great Basin Prehistory Project Archaeology Field School emphasizes reconstruction of past lifeways, paleoclimatic investigations, and human responses to changing environmental conditions.

Recent Fieldwork

Read a synopsis of the field excavations at Rimrock Draw Rockshelter to date, written by Patrick O'Grady. 

Read about the results of the 2021 field season, written by Patrick O'Grady.

Camelops incisor from Unit 30 at Rimrock Draw, shown in association with a bison incisor (center) and elk incisor (right) from OGradys comparative collection.jpg

Camelops incisor from Unit 30 at Rimrock Draw, shown in association with a bison incisor (center) and elk incisor (right) from O'Gradys comparative collection.

Western Stemmed projectile point recovered from Trench 2018-1, near Units 37-39. .jpeg

Western Stemmed projectile point recovered from Trench 2018-1, near Units 37-39.


Faculty and Staff

O'Grady is a third-degree Duck, having earned his BS (1996), MS (1999), and PhD (2006) from the University of Oregon. He has served on eighteen University of Oregon field schools since 1994, first as a student, then as an assistant, supervisor, and instructor. His primary research interests include hunter- gatherer subsistence practices, late Pleistocene/early Holocene cultural trends in the Great Basin of western North America, zooarchaeology, patterns of mobility, and remote sensing applications in archaeological contexts.

His master's research "Human Occupation Patterns in the Uplands: An Analysis of Sourced Obsidian Projectile Points from Playa Villages in the Fort Rock Uplands, Lake County, Oregon" was an exploration of highland village settlement and mobility patterns in the uplands between the Fort Rock and Summer Lake basins in south-central Oregon. His PhD research "Before Winter Comes: Archaeological Investigations of Settlement and Subsistence in Harney Valley, Harney County, Oregon" is an examination of mid to late Holocene multi-elevation land use patterns encompassing wetland to upland settings within a large, well-watered valley in the Great Basin. Master's and doctoral researches were conducted under the direction of professor C. Melvin Aikens.

O'Grady is a staff archaeologist at the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History. He was an archaeologist for the Oregon Department of Transportation from 2002-2005, and has also worked for the Burns District Bureau of Land Management, which was instrumental in funding his dissertation research during the 2000-2002 field seasons. Recent publications include "Zooarchaeological Analysis of Cultural Features from Four Early to Middle Holocene Sites in the Fort Rock Basin" in Early and Middle Holocene Archaeology in the Northern Great Basin, edited by Dennis L. Jenkins, Thomas J. Connolly, and C. Melvin Aikens (University of Oregon Anthropological Papers 62) and "Housepits in the Chewaucan Marsh: Investigations at the Gravelly Ford Bridge Site" by Brian L. O'Neill, Dennis L. Jenkins, Charles M. Hodges, Patrick O'Grady, and Thomas J. Connolly in Beads, Points, and Pit Houses: A Northern Great Basin Miscellany, edited by Brian L. O'Neill (University of Oregon Anthropological Papers 66). He taught the 2007 through 2015 field schools at the Sage Hen Gap, Sheep Mountain Clovis, and Rimrock Draw Rockshelter sites and looks forward to continuing challenges at Rimrock Draw Rockshelter in the future.


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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. 

2023 Course Fees: 
ANTM 408/508: Archaeology Field Methods at Rimrock Draw Rockshelter: $4000.

Archaeology Field School students will enroll for 8 credits in ANTM 408/508. A course fee of $4000, for both in-state and out-of-state students, covers tuition, field transportation, and food. Each student will receive a $250 scholarship through the museum's Aikens Field School Endowment.  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 $60.

Questions? Email Pat O'Grady at

Health and accident insurance is required for all students. 


Each student will receive a $250 scholarship through the museum's Aikens Field School Endowment. To learn more, email



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 2023 Field School are now closed. See you in the field!

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 Line Level (metal)


Stanley Powerlock Tape (5 m x ¾") 


Paintbrush (2-3")






Hand Lens or Loupe (10x) - optional




Sharpies (2 @ $1.25)


Mechanical Pencil and Lead (0.7 mm)


Plastic Tool Box - optional


Work Gloves - optional




without optionals:


Setting and Living Arrangements

Participants will live in tents at a field camp. Located at about 4500 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.


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2023 field school plans and safety protocols are subject to change based on guidance from the University of Oregon and the Oregon Health Authority. Please stay tuned for developing information. Questions? Contact the Rimrock Draw field school director, Pat O'Grady, at   


More photos

Questions? Contact Pat O'Grady at or 541-346-0671.

Click here to apply.


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