Historical Archaeology Field Institute

Archaeology Institute

About the Institute

This two-week intensive field school offers hands-on experience in excavation and laboratory study of an archaeological site just across the Potomac River in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. The city has several historic districts and developed the first community archaeology program in America. It is the perfect place to investigate the Shuter’s Hill plantation site and to learn about artifact identification and analysis at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. This summer’s institute focuses on the excavation and study of an area of the site associated with enslaved African Americans. Working with the City of Alexandria’s Archaeologists, students will also discuss public heritage values and issues resulting in a public interpretive tour. 

Program Information

Total Credits: 3

May 18-22, 2015
May 26-30, 2015

Cost*: Tuition

*Each student will be billed according to their school's tuition rate. Per credit hour rates may vary for specific programs. See individual school and program rates on the Student Account’s Office Tuition Rates page.

A Student Association Fee of $2.25 per credit hour will be assessed. Some exceptions may apply for specific programs

Refund Policy:

For information about GW’s summer sessions withdrawals and refunds policy, please visit the Office of the Registrar’s website.


Registration is now open!

Visiting students should first apply for non-degree status here.

Other Resources

Supplies and Equipment

All excavation and laboratory supplies and equipment are provided at no charge. Books are available through the GW Bookstore.


For more information, please contact archaeology@alexandriava.gov.


ANTH/AMST 3835.80 (Undergraduate)
CRN: 31974 (AMST 3835.80) or CRN: 31958 (ANTH 3835.80) or

ANTH/AMST 6835.80 (Graduate)
CRN: 31976 (AMST 6835.80) or CRN: 31975 (ANTH 6835.80)

May 18-22 and May 26-30

3 Credits

The ten-day course in field and laboratory methods is designed to introduce students to the archaeological process from research questions through data collection, analysis, and interpretation. The field school is taught by a team of archaeologists as a case study/mini-practicum, so that students gain an understanding of the overall process, concepts, and goals of an archaeological investigation while having experience in contemporary methods. Students learn about the site, the 18th- and 19th-century Shuter’s Hill Plantation, and results to date of the investigations of the African American laundry/home portion of the site. The changing use and meaning of the hill are discussed in relationship to preservation and shifting community values. The excavation experience includes keeping a field log, recording data, and maintaining vertical and horizontal control. Students then work in the Alexandria Archaeology Museum to wash, sort, identify, and analyze the artifacts they excavated. Workshops are held throughout the course and include topics such as excavation methods, laboratory processing methods, curation/ collections management issues, conservation, ceramics, glass, and faunal remains. Students will participate in two capstone interpretive experiences: first a group discussion with the City’s archaeologists in which the data derived from the class activities are broadly interpreted; and second, a public tour of the site developed by the students.
The course has relevance to undergraduate and graduate students in American Studies, Anthropology, Archaeology, African American Studies, Africana Studies, History, Museum Studies & Education, Preservation, and Women’s Studies, and anyone who would enjoy a first-hand opportunity to participate in archaeological research.
Shuter's Hill Site and Alexandria Archaeology Museum are accessible through the King Street Metro Station.

Institute Staff

Director: Pamela Cressey retired as City Archaeologist with the City of Alexandria, in 2012, after directing the Alexandria Archaeology program for 36 years. The program has been acknowledged as a pioneer in community and urban archaeology. A long-time adjunct GWU faculty member in the Anthropology and American Studies, she earned her BA in History at UCLA and MA and PhD degrees in Anthropology from the University of Iowa.
Instructional Staff: Francine Bromberg, City Archaeologist (M.A. Catholic University), and Garrett Fesler, Archaeologist (Ph.D. University of Virginia), are field directors. Paul Nasca, Archaeologist (M.A. College of William and Mary), supervises the laboratory training and teaches workshops in the class. Ruth Reeder, Museum Education Specialist (BFA California College of Arts and Crafts), discusses public outreach methods and supervises the interpretive tour.

Course Dates

May 18-22, 2015
May 26-30, 2015


Registration is now open!