Excavations on the north coast of Peru

Multidisciplinary Field School

20th Annual UNC-MOCHE Multidisciplinary Field School in South American Archaeology and Bioarchaeology

June 21 – July 25, 2018


This program is a 5-week field school in archaeology and bioarchaeology on the north coast of Peru.  Through excavation, analysis of human remains, and visits to archaeological sites, students learn how to conduct archaeological and bioarchaeological research as well as learn about ancient and contemporary Peru.  

The field school is directed by Brian Billman (UNC CH), Gabriel Prieto (Universidad Nacional de Trujillo), and Celeste Gagnon (Wagner College).  Collectively they have 60 field seasons of archaeology and bioarchaeology experience in Peru.  Brian Billman is an Associate Professor in Anthropology at UNC CH.  He has been doing research in Peru since 1985 and has been directing the UNC field school in Peru since 1999.  Gabriel Prieto has a PhD in archaeology from Yale and was born and raised in Huanchaco.  He is the director of a long-term archaeological project investigating the prehistory and history of Huanchaco and the surrounding area.  Celeste Gagnon is a bioarchaeologist and an Associate Professor in the Department Anthropology at Wagner College.  She has taught the bioarchaeology field school since 2011 and has been conducting bioarchaeological research on the north coast of Peru since 1999.


This field school is part of the ongoing Moche Origins Project (Dr. Brian Billman, UNC and Dr. Gabriel Prieto, Universidad Nacional de Trujillo). Jose Olaya has a long and complex history of occupation dating over 3,00 years, from the Initial Period, ~ 1500 B.C., to the Colonial era. Located on the coast of Peru, its early inhabitants were fishermen and archaeological evidence suggests that throughout history the site served as a village and as a cemetery. Material culture from many of the north coast cultural traditions, Salinar, Gallinazo, Moche, and Chimu have been identified at the site. Previous excavations revealed extremely well-preserved material culture including ceramics, textile, stone tools, and metal artifacts.


The field school is located in beautiful Huanchaco, a fishing village and beach resort on the north coast of Peru.  Huanchaco is just a few miles from Trujillo, Peru’s third largest city.


For credit, students may enroll in Anthropology (ANTH) 453, Field School in South American Archeology. This course carries 6 UNC credit hours and will be graded credit. ANTH 453 fulfills the following General Education requirements: (1) Historical Analysis, (2) The World Before 1750, and (3) Experiential Education.  

This course provides students with training and experience in archaeological excavation and the analysis of human remains and artifacts. In addition, students learn about the history and prehistory of Peru. The program begins with workshops on the culture history of the region, the research project, and research methods, after which students work in the field and lab.  Students will work at Jose Olaya, a fishing village dating to BC 200 to AD 200.  The site is located on the grounds of a high school in Huanchaco.  It has well-preserved households, tombs, and trash middens, containing pottery, basketry, textiles, metal objects, and stone, bone, and wood tools.  Organic remains, such as bone, shell, and plant remains, are abundant and well preserved because of the dry climate.

The program also includes educational tours of world-famous archaeological sites on Saturdays and ends with a 3-day tour of Cajamarca, high in the Andes Mountains of Peru.  

Through excavation, lab analysis, readings, and discussions, students learn how archaeologists and bioarchaeologists study social status, class, and economic relationships.

The Program has two options for students:

(1) Primary Focus on Excavation and Artifact Analysis: Students will learn how to excavate prehistoric households and burials and how to analyze artifacts from their excavations.  After the initial workshops, students work 5-days a week excavating human burials and households at the site of Jose Olaya and analyzing artifacts from the excavations.  This option includes a workshop on the analysis of human remains.  Enrollment is limited to 12 students.


(2) Primary Focus on Bioarchaeology:  Students will learn how to excavate and analyze human remains.  After the initial workshops, students will excavate several burials at the site of Jose Olaya.  Then students will work 5-days a week in the lab, studying human remains recovered from their excavations.  Enrollment is limited to 6 students.  This option includes a workshop on household archaeology.  

No prerequisites. Spanish not required. Non-majors accepted.  


Students stay in double or triple rooms with private baths at a hostel one blocks from the beach in Huanchaco. The hostel has free Wi-Fi and hot showers.  

The program provides 3 meals a day, 6-days a week for students and faculty.  Meals are prepared and serviced at the hostel by local women.  Vegetarian meals are available, but we can’t provide vegan meals.  The women prepare excellent traditional north coast Peruvian meals.  

GPA requirement: 2.5

Open to non-UNC Students – Yes

Eligibility – Sophomore

For additional information, please contact

Prof. Brian Billman at billman@savethemoche.org


Prof. Celeste Gagnon at celeste.gagnon@wagner.edu