Obrajes Regional Archaeological Project (ORAP)
The 2010 Field Season
The 2010 field school will focus on the first stage of Dr Beaule’s new research project, the construction of a regional chronology through excavations at three key sites in the Obrajes Valley. This field school is intended to introduce students to common methods and field practices employed in anthropological archaeology, with a focus on problem-based research. The course does this by involving you in the full array of hands-on, day-to-day activities of an ongoing program of archaeological research. Our primary objectives are to familiarize you with archaeological field methods, including site mapping, excavation gridding and unit selection, surface collections, and various excavation techniques to deal with natural and artificial stratigraphical approaches, as well as features. Some of the likely features we will encounter in the archaeological record include ancient house foundations, storage pits, hearths, middens, ceremonial offerings or caches, and possible human burials.
We will also focus heavily on a range of techniques used to analyze ceramic, lithic, and faunal assemblages, from washing and organizing to analyzing, recording, photographing, and curating artifacts. The course, moreover, will provide students with practical field experience including find documentation and processing, and data management strategies.
The excavation fieldwork will be conducted on-site in the Obrajes Valley in Bolivia’s highland province of Oruro. Fieldwork is conducted from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm, and again from 1:00 to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday. Some evenings, and most Saturday mornings will be devoted to artifact processing and analysis. Students will be free on Sundays. There are several field trips built into the schedule, as well as regular runs to the nearby city of Oruro on Saturday afternoons for access to email and phones, and the purchase of each week’s food and house supplies.
During rotations of small groups, students will receive training in a variety of practical aspects of artifact preparation, analysis, and conservation (i.e., archaeological practica) which address fundamental archaeological analyses. Among others these will include:
- Pottery and artifact cleaning
- Ceramic analysis: description, classification, and illustration
- Ceramic reading and typology of relevant forms
- Artifact description and classification
- Artifact photography
- Data entry: recording conventions, database design and management
- Artifact conservation and storage
- Record keeping and duplication
The importance of post-excavation analysis is underscored by participation of all staff and students in the process of finalizing the project’s records, which takes place during the last week of the excavation. During that week excavation ceases and both staff and students focus on the completion of work that will enable the continuation of analysis of archaeological remains after departing the field. For this week students will be assigned to various roles within the project for which they will put to use the lessons learned during their practica. Students excelling in one particular area may be given the opportunity to focus on a particular task.
Lectures and Learning Opportunities
Every week,lectures will be given on the archaeology, cultures and history of Bolivia and Andean Latin America. In addition to practical field training in excavation methodologies and laboratory analytical techniques, the experience of working and living in a Quechua Indian village in rural Bolivia is a rich one. This experience will be greatly enhanced by regular interactions with villagers both on the site (local villagers and Bolivian students from La Paz will both be working with us) and outside of work. You will participate in a ch’alla (offering to Pachamama to bless the project) at the start, learn the intricacies of status hierarchies as reflected in coca breaks, study land tenure and sociopolitical organization in modern communities, and bond with our Quechua and Aymara neighbors over soccer games at the school.