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Have you ever wanted to participate in an archaeological excavation? This course will give you the opportunity to do just that while earning six hours of college credit! This year’s RLA field school, taught by Dr. Vin Steponaitis, will take place during Summer Session 1 (May 16-June 21) and will be based along the Mississippi River near the beautiful town of Natchez, Mississippi. Excavations will focus on the Feltus Mounds, an ancient civic-ceremonial center which dates ca. AD 700-1000.

The Feltus Site

The Feltus site is an early civic-ceremonial center dating to the Coles Creek period (AD 700—1100). Located in the bluffs approximately 12 miles north of the modern city of Natchez, Mississippi, the site originally had four platform mounds surrounding an open plaza. Previous UNC field school excavations in the plaza and under the mounds indicate that the site was a location of ritual feasting before the mounds were constructed. Moreover, excavations into the three extant mounds have helped us to determine when and how the mounds were built.

This summer’s field school will likely focus on the summit of Mound B. We expect to uncover a portion of a burned, mound-top building as well as associated pottery, stone and food remains. Understanding how the mound summits were used will allow us to make important interpretations about the sociopolitical structure of the group that gathered at Feltus as well as the type of rituals that may have taken place there.

Students will recover artifacts and reveal traces of the activities that took place before, during, and after the mounds were constructed at the site.


The Field School is open to undergraduate students and anyone with a college degree. Participants must enroll in Anthropology 451 for 6 credit hours. This course fulfills the Experiential Education, Historical Analysis, and World Before 1750 general education requirements and the Archaeology Major/Minor requirements for a field school. There are no formal prerequisites, but potential students must fill out an Application Form before March 30. Enrollment will be limited to about 12 students. Applicants will be informed as to whether they have been accepted into the course by April 1. The course will be taught by Dr. Vin Steponaitis, with additional instruction from graduate assistants.

Field school students will learn the basic techniques of archaeological excavation, as well as mapping, surveying, photography, and artifact identification. Although some classroom and laboratory instruction will be given, most of the students’ time will be spent actually excavating.

Students who successfully complete the course will be prepared for a variety of future research and employment opportunities, including paid positions on other archaeological projects.


Tuition for undergraduates is estimated (based on last year’s amounts) as follows: $1440.00 for North Carolina residents ($240 per credit hour), and $3810.00 for out-of-state residents ($635 per credit hour). These estimates may change by the time of registration. Arrangements for student housing in beautiful and historic downtown Natchez will be made by the instructors. A fee (approximately $550, subject to change) will be required to cover housing and food.

Schedule, Transportation, and Equipment

The Field School will run from May 16 to June 21, 2018 (Summer Session I). Daily transportation to the site, as well as all field equipment, will be provided by the University. Students will be required to get themselves to Mississippi. Field school staff will provide transportation from the closest airports (Jackson, MS or Baton Rouge, LA) for those who choose to fly.

Inquiries, Applications, and Deadlines

Interested in learning more? You can watch a video about the 2015 Field School here.

Inquiries about the Feltus Field School are welcomed, and should be made to Dr. Vincas Steponaitis (Email:; Tel: 919-843-5176).

Because enrollment is limited, students must apply in advance by filling out an Application Form and obtain permission to register. UNC applicants must arrange for a brief interview; non-UNC applicants should submit at least one letter of reference. In order to be guaranteed full consideration, potential students should apply no later than March 30, 2018.

Visiting students may obtain additional information from the Summer School (Tel: 919-966-4364).