2014 Pitt Field School in upstate New York

Fieldwork on the Parker Farm and Carman Sites, Two Pre-contact Cayuga Iroquois Villages in Central New York State

(Application Form)

June 9 to July 7, 2014

Brief description of the project:

The Department of Anthropology of the University of Pittsburgh is offering a four week archaeology field school during the summer of 2014 in the Finger Lakes region of Central New York State. Students will participate in an ongoing program of field research designed to investigate the settlement organization of the Cayuga Iroquois and the impact of European contact. Fieldwork this year will focus on the excavation of a domestic structure at one site and exploratory use of geophysical sensing techniques to identify additional structures and palisades. The program will include instruction in techniques of site survey, surface collection, excavation, mapping and preliminary artifact analysis, as well as lectures, demonstrations, and field trips.

 Research questions:

The two Iroquois sites (Parker Farm and Carman), that are the focus of this research, were occupied in the mid to late 1500s, and located in an area peripheral to the main region of Cayuga occupation. Our research questions focus on whether these sites represent densely occupied village sites of this group, or are shorter term, special purpose sites situated to take advantage of wild resources available in the region.


Previous fieldwork on these sites has provided information about site size, the pattern of distribution for cultural material across the sites, as well as evidence for several longhouse structures. Field work this summer is designed with several goals in mind. First, we will conduct geophysical testing at both sites in an attempt to locate evidence for palisade lines and longhouse structures. This will have implications for understanding whether these are more permanent village sites, or whether they were seasonally occupied campsites. One specific goal is to determine whether several ridges at Parker Farm are the remnants of palisade lines. We will also test at the Carman site, which is more densely occupied, and more likely to be surrounded by a palisade. Identifying additional longhouses will also indicate more intensive occupation at both sites. Limited test excavations to evaluate the patterns obtained through geophysical testing will be done. In addition, at Parker Farm, we will excavate an area where previous posts and features are suggestive of a structure. We hope to obtain comparative material so we can examine diversity between two structures at this site.

Background information:

Students will assist in research at two Cayuga Iroquois sites located in the Appalachian Highlands, which is somewhat marginal for maize horticulture compared with other areas closer to the Lake Ontario Plain. The occupants of these sites seem to have been heavily invested in hunting deer. The period of site occupation occurs during an interval of colder climate which may have ultimately led to the movement of Native groups out of this region by the early 1600s. Conflict also increases in the 1500s between Native American groups, preceding extensive European contact. To the east, dramatic changes were taking place among Native American groups in northeastern North America as a result of direct contact with Europeans. To the west, in central New York State, the effects of contact were less apparent. In this area the most dramatic changes (including a big increase in European trade goods and missionary activities) took place later in the early 1600s. However, we do see the beginnings of change associated with accommodation and resistance to Europeans, and some European trade goods have been found.


Anthropology 1535: Basic Archaeological Field Training (6 credits)

This course provides basic training in field methods and preliminary artifact analysis. We will discuss research design and how it structures our fieldwork, as well as the importance of field observations for subsequent interpretation. Students will learn how to acquire field data through excavation, surface collection, and survey. Emphasis is on the development of field skills associated with excavation including mapping, using a transit, drawing profiles and floor plans of excavated units, recovering material culture including stone, pottery, and animal bone, and the preliminary processing of these materials in our field lab. During summer 2014, students will also gain experience in conducting geophysical sensing techniques. This course will train you to recognize archaeological sites and cultural material and to collect data in a systematic and scientific manner.

Required books:

Iroquoia: The Making of a Native World by William Engelbrecht, 2003. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY. ISBN 0-8156-3060-3, pbk.

Book on field methods to be announced.


Dr. Kathleen M. S. Allen, University of Pittsburgh, is the field school director. She has conducted nine seasons of excavations in this part of New York State, and has extensive fieldwork experience in northeastern North America. Several student assistants will participate as part of the field school staff.


Field school students reside in housing in the City of Ithaca, New York near the Cornell University campus and within two blocks of a series of waterfalls along Cascadilla Creek. Ithaca has a college-town atmosphere and numerous state parks and waterfalls are located within a few miles of the houses. Most students are able to have their own rooms with desks and bookcases. Cooking is done on a cooperative basis with all students participating. Students generally enjoy the camaraderie of living and working with a group of their peers interested in being a part of an archaeological research project. The archaeological lab will be located in one of the houses, and we have periodic evening lab hours and guest lecturers.


The program cost of $4800 includes tuition for six credits ($4056), room and board, and transportation between Pittsburgh and Ithaca. Daily transportation between Ithaca and the archaeological sites, a distance of about ten miles, is also included. There is an additional university fee of $100 to cover administration and computer registration for the program. In addition, non-Pitt students must apply for admission as "guest students" and pay an additional $45 application fee.

Who Can Apply: All college students in good academic standing (2.5 QPA) and other adults who wish to earn college credit may apply. No prior field experience is assumed. Previous exposure to archaeology in the form of an introductory archaeology course is very helpful. Students must have health insurance coverage in order to participate in the program. Health insurance may be purchased from the University of Pittsburgh if needed.

For further information contact

Dr. Kathleen M. S. Allen, Director
Archaeological Field School, Department of Anthropology, 3123 WWPH 
University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260; kmallen@pitt.edu


Closing date for applications is March 31, 2014. Review of applications begins March 7th, 2014 and will continue until the field school is filled. Students are encouraged to apply early as enrollment is limited. The field school is subject to cancellation if there is insufficient enrollment. Please return all application material to the above address.

(Application Form)