Applications for the 2022 Connley Caves field school are now closed. 
Every summer, students and faculty in the museum's Connley Caves archaeology field school continue pioneering investigations of early human migration.
The Connley Caves site is composed of 8 caves and rockshelters located in the Fort Rock Basin. Here, students conduct original scientific research and help uncover stories about Oregon's earliest human inhabitants.



Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2022 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 Connley Caves field school director, Dennis Jenkins, at  




June 20 through July 29, 2022

Archaeologist Dennis Jenkins helped put Oregon on the Paleoamerican map with his research at the Paisley Caves, one of the earliest human occupation sites in North America. This summer, he and archaeologist Katelyn McDonough will teach a six-week archaeology field school at the Connley Caves, another unique site that is changing our understanding of human experience during the last 13,000 years. Students will gain hands on experience in excavation while diving deep into the area’s archaeology, ethnography, and ecology through lectures and discussions. Students will round-out their skills by conducting pedestrian surface survey and learning about lithic technology with Geoffrey Smith and field director Richie Rosencrance of the Great Basin Paleoindian Research Unit.

8 credits

Registration for the 2022 Connley Caves Field School is now closed. Thank you for your interest.

Fort Rock Caves Archaeology Field School




The museum's summer archaeological field school was established by Luther S. Cressman, who is known as the father of Oregon archaeology. In 1938 Cressman, excavating at Fort Rock Cave in Oregon's Northern Great Basin, recovered a cache of sagebrush bark sandals from below a layer of volcanic ash. The ash was laid down nearly 7600 years ago by the eruption of Mount Mazama, which created Crater Lake in the southern Cascades. The Fort Rock sagebrush sandals have since proved through radiocarbon dating to range from 9,200 to 10,200 years old and remain the world's oldest known footwear.

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. 

For the past 30 years, museum field schools have returned annually to the Northern Great Basin to resume Cressman's earlier research. The ongoing work of the field school emphasizes reconstruction of past lifeways, paleoclimatic investigations, and human responses to changing environmental conditions.

  Introduction to Connley Caves Research

Stephen Bedwell and a crew of University of Oregon graduate students excavated at the Connley Caves (35LK50) in the Fort Rock Basin during the summers of 1967 and 1968. This work was conducted under the general direction of Professor Luther S. Cressman, and formed the basis for Bedwell's University of Oregon doctoral dissertation (Bedwell 1970). While Bedwell drew on data collected from many sites, none have remained as pivotal to our understanding of human response to changing paleoclimate and ecology in the Northern Great Basin as the archaeology at the Connley Caves.

For the last four decades researchers have cited Bedwell's doctoral dissertation (1970) and post-mortem publication (1973), even though they suspected there were serious problems with the data (cf. Grayson 1979, 1993 for examples). The main reasons for citing his work were the large numbers of radiocarbon dates and diagnostic materials recovered by Bedwell from the four meters of stratified cultural deposits at this site. Few other sites in the Northern Great Basin, other than the Paisley Caves, have produced such an impressive and widely-cited archaeological record. However, Bedwell's interpretations of the Connley Caves data has sparked vigorous debate about the importance of wetlands resources to Early Holocene occupants of the Great Basin. Most importantly, the validity of his radiocarbon dates, paleoecological-climatic reconstructions, and species identifications have been questioned and often proven spurious (cf. Grayson 1979). Consequently, it was imperative to reinvestigate the Connley Caves.

Our research goals for the reinvestigation of the Connley Caves are to provide more carefully controlled excavations and more reliable analysis of the archaeological and natural samples available at the site. In 2000 and 2001 we began reevaluation of the archaeological and paleo-ecological data from the site and used it to address refined questions important to the region, particularly those of the Pleistocene/Early Holocene transitional period. Since 2014 we have continued this research, applying stronger integrative theory and investigative techniques developed since the time of Bedwell's research.

  UO Field School Excavations at the Connley Caves

Bedwell's research, in both the field excavations and laboratory analysis, suffered from a lack of close attention to detail. We have documented his disdain for personal involvement in the excavations, he preferred to leave the excavations and documentation to his crew while he mapped the sites and looked for new sites. For their part, the crew also preferred to have him out of the picture (Bussey and Rohrbaugh, personal communications). We believe that this lack of personal 'hands-on' field experience at the site meant that Bedwell never fully appreciated the complexity of site formation processes operating there. In the laboratory, Bedwell also chose to uncritically accept species identifications, radiocarbon dates, and artifact associations (cf. Grayson 1979 for a more complete discussion). In any new investigation then we must begin by determining what we should accept and what we should reject in Bedwell's data and interpretations. This requires an accurate understanding of the natural and cultural site formation processes affecting the deposits of the caves and is absolutely the single most vital issue of an adequate reassessment of the site. Consequently, we approach the re-excavation and analysis of the Connley Caves with extreme caution, careful planning and closely supervising all phases of investigations.

  2000 Field Investigations

The 2000 investigations at the site began with the excavation of backhoe stratigraphy control trenches in front of Caves 5 and 6 in areas Bedwell had previously placed backhoe 'test holes'. In each case, an effort was made to cut through part of his trenches nearest the caves to minimize damage to the remaining deposits while exposing undisturbed colluvium.

The majority of manual excavations at the Connley Caves were conducted in arbitrary five centimeter levels, and followed natural stratigraphy as much as possible. Excavated soil was passed through eighth-inch wire mesh and all cultural materials were recovered. Column samples of sediments 10x10x10 cm (1-2 liters) were taken from unit walls which appeared representative of the deposits in each cave. Additional soil samples were taken as new strata and cultural features were encountered. Ecofacts, including rounded beach gravels, botanical samples, and modern faunal remains from the surface of Cave 5, were collected for later study.

Manual excavations in front of Cave 5 began with three conjoined 1x2 meter excavation units forming a trench six meters long. The head of this trench was located one meter east of the backhoe trench and roughly two meters south of the cliff face. A 1x5 meter bulk was left between the bachoe and manually excavated trenches to provide stratigraphic control and to protect field school students from possible wall collapse in the area of Bedwell's 'test hole' at the north end of the backhoe trench. The thick, loose Mazama ash in this hole provided poor support for the heavy rock-laden deposits overlying them and the danger of wall collapse increased as the wind eroded the loose tephra from the sides of this trench. A barbed wire fence was erected around the backhoe trench and the walls of the manually excavated trench were shored up.

The manually excavated trench cut through six natural and cultural strata, reached a maximum depth of 310 cm, and removed 14.85 m³ of deposits. Small and large corner notched points were recovered to a depth of about one meter in these excavations. Foliate points were recovered below the Mazama tephra at about two meters. Very few tools and no projectile points were recovered from the circa one meter of colluvium and Mazama tephra deposits above the paleosol.

Investigations in Cave 6 during the summer of 2000 involved the manual excavation of three 2x2 meter units, a 1x2 m and a 1x1 meter unit. These excavations covered an area of 15 m², removed 16.9 m³ of deposits, and reached a maximum depth of 235 cm. Extreme disturbance of deposits to >120 cm was indicated in units 4 and 5 at the east side of the cave mouth. In Unit 6, located at the dripline on the west side of the cave, evidence of previous disturbances included laminations of water sorted sands and gravels in Quad B in the extreme northeast quarter of the 2x2 meter unit to a depth of about 75 to 90 cm. These modern deposits suggest that Unit 6 overlapped the eroded and collapsed west end of the 1x4 meter trench excavated by Charles Rohrbaugh and Stanley Bussey in 1967.

  2001 Field Investigations

The bottoms of excavation units in both caves were lined with plastic at the end of the 2000 field season and then backfilled by a backhoe. The 2001 field season began with the manual removal of backfill from units 1, 2, and 3 and the 2000 backhoe trench in front of Cave 5. Excavation of the one meter wide bulk between the manual and backhoe trenches in Cave 5 involved one 1x1 m (#9) and two 1x2 meter (#s 10 and 11) units. This resulted in the excavation of a roughly three meter by five meter block, the western third of which was an access ramp maintained through the south end of the reopened 2000 backhoe trench.

A 2x2 m excavation unit (#15) was attached to the north end of this block to remove extremely loose deposits between the cliff face and the northern end of the 2000 excavations. These deposits had continuously sloughed off throughout the 2000 field season, forming a large cavity behind the plywood shoring of the north and east walls of Quad A in Unit 1. The inclusion of woodrat feces, botanical, and faunal remains in the debris falling from behind the shoring suggested that this loose deposit was badly disturbed, possibly an old pothunters' hole or other historic intrusion. Shoring up this cavity for the 2001 field season required the squaring up of the walls so that the plywood would lay flat against the loose sediments, holding them in place. However, sagebrush cordage was encountered in these loose deposits during the process of shovel shaving the re-exposed walls. Consequently, Unit 15 was set up to provide provenience control for the removal of these troublesome deposits.

Excavation of Unit 15 proceeded in 10 cm levels through the extremely dusty and acrid smelling sediments of what appears to have been a large rat midden and garbage dump containing thick bundles of grass, juniper bark, sagebrush, bulrush stalks, basket fragments, bulrush matting and bag fragments, cordage, twine, and human feces. Associated Elko and Rose Spring type projectile points suggest that these materials date from the Late to possibly Middle Holocene period, i.e. historic to ca. 5000 BP? Excavations were terminated near the bottom of the Mazama tephra at 160 cm in this unit. All perishable materials were recovered in the loose, dry, coarse grained deposits above 140 cm. Below 140 cm were mixed tephra and silty-sandy sediments too moist to preserve perishable artifacts. Excavations were terminated in Unit 15 when the east wall of the unit was collapsed by after hours visitors to the site.

The 2001 controlled excavations in front of Cave 5 covered an area of 9.5 m2;. In addition, Unit 3, Quad A was reopened and controlled excavations continued to a maximum depth of 390 cm. Probing continued along the east wall of the unit through culturally sterile beach deposits to bedrock at a depth of about 440 cm. A total of 21.5 m3; of deposits were removed during the 2001 field season. The combined total area and volume of controlled excavations conducted in front of Cave 5 during the 2000 and 2001 field seasons was 15.5 m2; and 36.35 m3;, respectively.

At the west side of Cave 6, Units 6 and 7, initially opened during the 2000 field season, were shoveled out at the beginning of the 2001 field season. Unit 7, originally excavated as a 1x1 m unit adjoining Quad A of Unit 6, was expanded one meter south to form a 1x2 m unit conjoined with Unit 6 to form a 2x3 m block excavation. Unit 7, Quad B had been terminated at 95 cm during the 2000 field season. The 2001 excavations were continued in this quad to a final depth of 160 cm, while Quad D was terminated at a depth of 115 cm where a large boulder was encountered.  Unit 6 2000 excavations were terminated at 90 cm in Quad A, 120 cm in Quad B, 155 cm in Quad C, and 235 in Quad D. All four quads of Unit 6 were excavated to 270 cm during the 2001 field season. The 2001 excavations of units 6 and 7 removed a total of 6.6 m3; of sediments. The combined 2000 and 2001 excavations in Cave 6 covered a total area of 16 m2; and removed 23.5 m3; of deposits.

  2014-17 Field Investigations

1)  Excavations focused on caves 4 and 5 with those in Cave 4 taking precedence. Excavation in Cave 4 during 2014 and 2015 involved excavation of an eight square meter block (2 meters x 4 meters) south of and adjacent to Bedwell’s Unit 4A at the mouth of the cave. Excavations reached depths of three meters, penetrating three strata, and were terminated in the culturally sterile Pleistocene lakeshore cobbles and gravels. Inside the dripline, Bedwell’s Units 4A and 4B were relocated during the 2016 field season. Bedwell left these units open at the end of his 1968 investigations, resulting in alluvial and aeolian redeposition filling the units over time with nearly sterile deposits. These were removed via skim-shoveling in 20 centimeter levels within 1x1 m units until the basal deposits of units 4A and 4B were revealed. Excavations in 2017 completed the investigation of Cave 4 removing all cultural materials to bedrock at the back of the cave and to the Pleistocene shoreline at the mouth of the cave.

  2017-18 Field Investigations

Excavations in the rockshelter between caves 4 and 5, identified with Cave 5, cover an area of roughly 17 square meters. A backhoe was employed to open up an area around the hand excavations so that walls could be shored up with sandbags and sandbag covered walkways developed all around the excavation area. Excavations have reached a maximum depth of 305 centimeters in one small unit but most excavations are now at about 240 to 250 centimeters depth. Three stratigraphic units begin with the basal deposit (LU1) of sands and rounded to sub-rounded cobbles and pebbles of mixed lithology with no apparent bedding structure, interpreted as the Pleistocene beach of Lake Fort Rock (more than 13,000 years). Conformably overlying the cobbles (LU2) is a ~25 cm deposit of greyish brown (10YR 5/2) to dark yellowish brown (10YR 3/4) matrix-supported, poorly sorted sand with sub-rounded to rounded cobbles and pebbles throughout. This deposit exhibits redoximorphic features including iron-staining (i.e., rubification), probably evidencing the presence of ephemeral water and subsequent subaerial weathering via fluctuating water table. To date, only debitage has been recovered from the upper ~5cm of this deposit. Unconformably overlying this deposit is the main artifact-bearing deposit (LU3), which consists of ~80 cm of brown (10YR 4/3) moderately sorted gravelly silt with an abrupt wavy lower boundary. This boundary represents a shift in depositional processes and may evidence a period of stability. Future analyses seek to test this hypothesis via application of thin-section micromorphology. Bioturbation is present throughout LU3 and appears as circular and amorphous pockets filled with white Mount Mazama tephra. LU3 has yielded a stone tool assemblage including WST Haskett and Black Rock Desert style projectile points, scrapers, edge modified flakes, eyed-bone needles and debitage. Bison, elk, deer, mountain sheep, pronghorn, rabbit, and waterfowl compose the majority of the faunal assemblage. Fish are present and composite fish hooks and nets suggest that they were an important part of the diet as well.

Radiocarbon dating of single piece charcoal fragments identified to the genus level (Artemisia, Salix, Pinus) have resulted in determinations ranging in age from 10,578 ± 45 14C BP (D-AMS030302) to 8142 ± 38 14C BP (D-AMS23354) in the Western Stemmed Tradition components of Cave 5. These include three hearths that are dated at ~10,000 to 10,300 14C BP and surrounded by WST projectile points, bone needles, bone composite fish hooks, scrapers, bifaces, and large game animal bone. This area represents the focus of excavations during the summer field season of 2019.

To summarize, current research in Connley Caves 4 and 5 demonstrates that the oldest cultural deposits of the cave preserve intact deposits that contain rich WST assemblages dating to the late Pleistocene/early Holocene. Ongoing geoarchaeological analyses seek to shed light on the natural and cultural formation processes occurring at the site. Specifically, we aim to examine the LU2/LU3 contact, evaluate the stratigraphic integrity of LU3, and investigate the geospatial relationship between artifacts and associated radiocarbon assays. Artifacts yielded from the site will shed light on Western Stemmed Tradition technological activities, intra-/inter-assemblage variability and geochronology, and Paleoarchaic subsistence strategies occurring within the Northern Great Basin.

Faculty and Staff

Jenkins is a senior staff archaeologist at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History. He received his BA (1977) and MA (1981) from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where he worked with Claude N. Warren and Margaret M. Lyneis. His early research focused on the Virgin Branch of the Anasazi and Lake Mohave-Pinto sites in the Mojave Desert. He received his PhD (1991) from the University of Oregon where C. Melvin Aikens served as his Committee Chair. He has worked for the Museum at the UO, where he serves as a research archaeologist assigned to Oregon Department of Transportation archaeological projects in the Northern Great Basin, Columbia Plateau, and Klamath Basin, since 1987. He has been teaching, supervising, and directing the Northern Great Basin archaeological field school since 1989. In that capacity he has overseen the education of more than 600 field school students in the methods and theory of archaeological field investigations.

His stint as a project field director at Fort Irwin, California provided him a unique set of interpersonal and interagency experiences that developed in him an exceptional ability to find common ground with diverse groups and individuals alike. This talent, based on honesty and proven trustworthiness, has served him well through nearly 30 years of program construction, personnel handling, and interagency consultations involving working closely and successfully in sensitive negotiations with Native American tribes in Oregon.

Jenkins’ primary research interests are the Paleoamerican colonization of the Americas, ancient human DNA, Great Basin hunting and gathering societies, obsidian sourcing and hydration analysis, and settlement-subsistence patterns in arid lands of the American West. He has conducted archaeological research at >100 sites in Nevada, California, Arizona, and Oregon. His research spans the late Pleistocene (12,400 radiocarbon years ago) through the entire Holocene period including excavations in a Chinese shanty town at Jackson, Oregon, mapping of the town site of Jefferson in Nevada, and excavation of a historic wickiup (ca. 1854) at Boulder Village in the Fort Rock Basin.

Jenkins has authored and co-authored 11 books; 49 chapters, journal articles, reviews, and published papers; and 36 professional reports. He has presented 73 professional papers and symposia at conferences. His doctoral thesis, Site Structure and Chronology of 37 Lake Mojave and Pinto Assemblages from Two Large Multicomponent Sites in the Central Mojave Desert, Southern California, was the culmination of four years of research focus on the late Pleistocene and early Holocene archaeology of the Mojave Desert as the Field Director of the Fort Irwin Archaeological Project near Barstow, California. Through the UO field school he has conducted new excavations at the famous Connley Caves and Paisley 5 Mile Point Caves sites, recovering the oldest directly dated human remains—12,400 RCYBP mitochondrial DNA in human coprolites—in the Americas from the Paisley Caves (Gilbert et al. 2008; Jenkins 2007; Jenkins et al. 2012, 2013).

Jenkins has filmed multiple short documentaries for public education. The first, Paisley Cave Dig, was an Oregon Field Guide segment produced for Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) of Portland, Oregon. This 10 minute program showed UO field school investigations at the Paisley Caves in the Summer Lake Basin of central Oregon, ending with a brief synopsis of preliminary findings as of the 2003 summer field session. Tracking Obsidian, filmed by OPB in 2004, was a segment explaining the search for the location of an as yet unlocated obsidian source near Silver Lake in the Fort Rock Basin just north of the Summer Lake Basin. The on-site interview, Finding Pre-Clovis Humans in the Oregon High Desert: An interview with Dennis Jenkins, is a 40 minute segment filmed at the Paisley Caves by The Archaeology Channel during the summer of 2007. It covers the topic of recovering human DNA from coprolites in the caves. It was released with the publication of an article in Science Magazine. Finally, Jenkins filmed the lead segment (about 7 minutes) for a two hour documentary entitled All About Dung produced by Icon Films (Bristol, United Kingdom) for the History Channel. This very entertaining investigation into the fascinating and funny topic of pooh was aired in June 2008. Finally, he filmed another 7 minute segment for "Ice Age Geology", shown on the History Channel in March, 2010. He currently has made appearances in a documentary by OPB about Luther S. Cressman and the in one about Eske Willerslev and the Paisley Caves made by Danish TV.


McDonough is a Postdoctoral Scholar with the Great Basin Paleoindian Research Unit at the University of Nevada, Reno. She received her PhD from Texas A&M University and her BS from the University of Oregon. She has a decade of experience conducting archaeology in the Great Basin and has taught field schools at the Connley Caves since 2014. Her research investigates the relationships between people, foodways and environment in western North America, with a focus on plant use and landscape change during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. She uses micro and macro-botanical techniques and approaches from evolutionary ecology to explore these issues.

McDonough enjoys collaboration, interdisciplinary approaches, and designing research that uses knowledge of the past to inform issues in the present. She has published in a variety of journals such as American Antiquity, Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, PaleoAmerica, Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, and Nevada Archaeologist, coauthored several book chapters, and is lead editor of a volume on stone tool technologies in North America that is currently under review. Her doctoral dissertation Human Paleoecology in the High Desert: 12,600 Years of Human-Plant Dynamics in the Northern Great Basin, Oregon, USA used dietary and paleoenvironmental reconstructions to expand our knowledge of food economies, especially plant use, as well as vegetation histories throughout the terminal Pleistocene and Holocene.

In addition to human paleoecological research, McDonough has worked in cultural research management throughout the pacific northwest, and she is actively involved with fieldwork and collections-based research across the Great Basin. As a postdoc with the Great Basin Paleoindian Research Unit, she is using paleoethnobotanical, palynological and parasitological data to develop a better understanding of human nutrition, health, and seasonal mobility during the Paleoindian period. Her research also investigates past ecosystem dynamics with the goal of providing better context for understanding cultural change and human adaptations.



Rosencrance received his BA (2015) in Anthropology at West Virginia University, his masters in Anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), and is currently pursuing his PhD at UNR. His primary research goals concern early technologies of the Great Basin and Columbia Plateau, chronology building in archaeology, lithic technology, and collections-based research. Currently, he is examining Indigenous adaptative responses to cold stress during the Younger Dryas (12,900-11,700 cal BP) in the northern Intermountain West using lithic tools, eyed bone needles, cordage, and leather from the Connley, Cougar Mountain, and Paisley caves. Richie has worked in the northern Great Basin teaching field school students for six years and has cultural resource management experience from across the United States.



Smith is a Regents’ Professor and Executive Director of the Great Basin Paleoindian Research Unit in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. He received his PhD from the University of Wyoming. His research interests include the peopling of the American West, late Pleistocene and early Holocene lithic technology, mobility, and subsistence, and hunter-gatherer adaption in the Great Basin. He has worked in the American West for more than two decades and authored more than 50 journal articles and book chapters dealing with these and other topics. He is the recipient of the UNR Dean’s Award for Teaching, UNR Alan Bible Teaching Excellence Award, UNR F. Donald Tibbitts Excellence in Teaching Award, and Nevada System of Higher Education's Regents’ Teaching Award.


Michael Young, Connley Caves 2021, Recent Graduate
Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon
My experience at the Connley Caves field school has been foundational in my own pursuit
towards a professional archaeology career. From weekly presentations on a breadth of exciting
and informative topics to finally experiencing what it is to be an archaeologist with a trowel in
the dirt, those 6 weeks have been invaluable. We all must begin somewhere and learning how to dig from one of the most highly respected archaeologists in the Great Basin is a fantastic start. Not to mention Dr. McDonough and Richard Rosencrance’s uncanny ability to make something already exciting just that much more so. In short, Connley Caves has gifted me knowledge, friendships, and memories that will last a lifetime. Whether you have a particular focus in archaeology or have always dreamt of
participating in an archaeological excavation, there is no better place to begin than right here.

Brian Thixton, Connley Caves 2021, Undergraduate
Department of Anthropology, California State University

The Connley Caves field school in the summer of 2021 was one of the best experiences of my life. Not only was I able to set out to the field to gain experience in archaeological fieldwork, but I was also able to learn about Northern Great Basin archaeology from some of the best and brightest minds in the field. After completion of the field school, I feel that I have a much better understanding of archaeological method and theory. The greatest part of the entire field school was digging down through the dirt and rocks, backwards in time, to find artifacts that another human utilized thousands of years ago. I could not help but feel the weight of history in my hands. Thank you to all of those who make the University of Oregon’s Connley Caves field school happen. For those of you considering applying for future field school opportunities at the Connley Caves, I highly and joyfully recommend applying. You will be setting yourself up for success and you will be able to move forward on your path to becoming an archaeologist one day.

Sam Anderson, Connley Caves 2021, Graduate Student
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Indiana University

What I enjoyed most about my summer at Connley Caves is the breadth of interdisciplinary knowledge that I gained. In addition to the wealth of knowledge and experience that our supervisors brought to the dig, my fellow students came from a variety of academic backgrounds and areas of interest – to the degree that I felt that I learned something new with every conversation. This is particularly impactful because I am geologist who has taken a few anthropology courses, while my compatriots were anthropologists with limited experience in earth sciences. This knowledge gap wasn’t a problem, but an opportunity to share knowledge and help each other grow as researchers.

I came to the Connley Caves field site to ‘try’ archaeology – despite my interest in the field, it had not been my main academic focus. To my joy, I found that the excitement of getting my hands dirty and working with others to find and record artifacts, and the anticipation of never knowing what the next level will reveal outweighed the early mornings and the discomfort of squatting in a hole in a cave for hours. Six weeks later, I knew that prehistoric archaeology was something that I had to continue to pursue, both because of the fulfillment that I during my summer at Connley Caves, but also because the program showed me how I could apply my skill set to furthering research in the field. Because of my experience with this program, I am incorporating geoarchaeology and cultural heritage management into the thesis of my MS in Earth Sciences.

Megan Donham, Connley Caves 2018, Graduate Student
Department of Anthropology, California State University, Los Angeles

The Connley Caves Field School has continued to impact my life long after the day I packed my tent and bid farewell to the site. I don’t think I fully realized how much I had learned because I did so while living out one of the most fun and impactful summers I’ve had to date. From the valuable connections I made came opportunities that propelled my education to the next level and gave me a leg up when applying to graduate programs. The Connley Caves Field School helped me determine the direction in which I wanted to take my career and gave me the skills to begin it.

Taylor Norman, Connley Caves 2017, Undergraduate
Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon

“I had no idea what to expect out of field school at Connley Caves since I had never had any field experience. The amount I learned during the 6 week dig was in my opinion greater than all the archaeology courses I had taken in the classroom. Finally getting your hands into some dirt and seeing what archaeology is all about is exciting and tons of fun. You wake up early to get the most out of your day, spending a couple days setting up camp. Once camp is set up you begin digging and that’s where the real fun begins. Evenings are spent around camp where you can hang out, have a campfire and do basically whatever you want and is fun to spend time with the group. Besides the amazing experience and learning, you spend 6 weeks getting to know the group of people you are with. I met some awesome people who I will always remember and try to keep in touch with.”

Makaela O’Rourke, Connley Caves 2015, Graduate student
Department of Anthropology, Utah State University

“When I signed up to do my field school at Connley Caves, I had no idea what I was getting into. Not only was the site amazing, I learned all about working in previously excavated sites. The connections I made with the staff and students are still serving me well, and prepared me for my graduate studies. Half of my first term was reading the work of the people I worked with during and after my field school, and having dug at such an important site as Connley Caves has solidified for me the archaeology of the Great Basin.

The people I met in this field school helped me find independent research projects, which have become my master's thesis. I am still being supported by the people from this field school, and by the researchers and staff of the Museum of Natural and Cultural History.”

Brookelin McKay, Connley Caves 2016, Undergraduate
Department of Anthropology, State University of New York, Potsdam

“Field school allowed me to learn in a way that was more physical than my classes. Being there with a group of 10 to 15 people allowed me one-on-one time with the teaching staff, and in the end, I got a better education out of it. I love that this field school requires you to camp and get outdoors because for me, it made the group closer and created more of a community among the students. The site itself is a challenging dig, but I feel that it made me a better archaeology student and will prepare me for future digs that may be difficult. I also really appreciated that UO holds a field school at a real and significant site. I didn’t feel patronized or that the data from the site would not be used for further research. Learning about the history of the area, as well as the stratigraphic and geologic details really do make a difference in understanding how the site was formed and why the artifacts are where they are. I am very much looking forward to coming back out to the site and volunteering my time with the field school.”

Mackenzie Hughes, Connley Caves 2017, Recent graduate
Department of Anthropology, Western Washington University

“Dear Future/Possible Participants of Connley Caves Field School,
As an archaeology major at Western Washington University, attending field school was always somewhere on my to-do list. During my four years in college, I will admit that I considered field school to be somewhere in the far, unplanned future…until it came time to graduate. I began regretting all the things that I chose to do instead of field school and thought participating post-graduation was slightly embarrassing. However, when I ultimately made the decision to click ‘submit’ on my application to participate in the U of O Connley Caves field school, I would not know for another few months what a spectacular decision I had finally made. After I had been accepted, the excitement took precedent over all of my feelings of nervousness, unpreparedness, etc. etc. etc. As the time came closer to make the six-hour drive to Fort Rock, OR, all of those other feelings began to surface. When I first arrived to camp, and had the opportunity to meet all of my fellow classmates, volunteers, and teachers, I knew that this was going to be an amazing experience… and man, was I right. Over the next six weeks, I learned more about geoarchaeology, archaeology, friendship—and how to cook meals for many in the howling wind—than I ever could have even imagined. Connley Caves field school is truly one of the best experiences I have ever had. The environment was one of eagerness to learn and eagerness to teach. Though it was hard work and some days seemed to be longer than others, I would not trade the experience for the world.”

Haden Kingrey, Connley Caves 2017, Undergraduate
Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon

“I found this field school extremely beneficial towards understanding the field of archaeology as a whole. The experience and the encounters I made solidified my commitment to the pursuit of archaeology. The field school was well organized and very enjoyable between working with helpful, intelligent instructors and hanging out with fellow students. I hope to start working on a research paper this year on Connley Caves and the Great Basin, and that spark would have not come if not for this amazing experience."

Sam Hruban, Connley Caves 2017, Undergraduate 
Department of Anthropology, Western Washington University

"I graduated with a degree in cultural anthropology. Having only taken two archaeology classes in college I was worried about the background knowledge needed to succeed in the Northern Great Basin Field School. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. Although I was lacking in specific archaeological theories and the names of those who pioneered the field I was still able to learn an incredible amount about archaeology, excavation, and the Northern Great Basin. The UO field school was an enriching outdoor classroom experience where the students work hard in exchange for daily hands-on learning and the opportunity to see how history was formed first hand.

In addition to the field school I also took the Intro to Archaeological Lab Methods class. I highly recommend this as a nice wrap up to the six weeks of excavation. In this class I learned about the second part of excavation, the lab work. I got to do everything from cataloguing and labeling artifacts to data entry on the site—plus, I got the chance to attend many fun field trips to local anthropology labs. I highly recommend this field school. My advice is to be prepared, to work hard, get dirty, and have an amazing summer in the field!"

Andy Mark, Connley Caves 2017, Undergraduate
Department of Archaeology, Boston University

“The Northern Great Basin Prehistory Project Field School is an amazing experience. At this field school, you’ll learn more than proper excavation technique; you’ll learn different theoretical approaches and how they can be applied to the archaeological record. These skills can be used when applying for graduate school or cultural resource management jobs. The director of the site, Dennis Jenkins, is an incredible person. He has years of experience and knows how to teach it very well. Despite this, he treats you as an equal and trusts everyone to get the job done properly. Otherwise he wouldn’t let you work on some of the oldest sites in the Americas. Working at this field school was an amazing opportunity, and one of the best classes out there.”

Scott Powers, Connley Caves 2015, Undergraduate
Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon

“One term of working with Dennis, Chantal, and Katelyn in the layers of history was enough to crystalize my decision to pursue field archaeology. Wish I could have made it more than just one year.”

Connley Caves Archaeology Field School



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. 

2022 Course Fees: $3750

Archaeology Field School students will enroll for 8 credits in ANTM 408/508. A course fee of $3750, for both in-state and out-of-state students, covers tuition, field transportation, and food. Each student will also 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.

Please send questions to Dennis Jenkins at

Health and accidental 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 2022 Connley Caves Field School are now closed. Thank you for your interest.

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.

More photos

Questions? Contact Dennis Jenkins at or 541-346-3026.


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