TAS Field School

TAS Annual Field School

Palo Duro Canyon State Park - June 8-15, 2019

Each summer, the Texas Archeological Society (TAS) sponsors a week-long archeological field school.  The program provides training in archeological techniques to Society members and  contributes important new data to the state's archeological and historical heritage. Activities and learning opportunities are offered for all ages, including excavation techniques, survey methods, and special training for newcomers and teachers.  

The TAS field school spans eight days and is led by professional archeologists and trained avocationals. Participants may register for a minimum of three days or for the full week and choose excavation, survey, or the laboratory.  Volunteers may also participate in the afternoon and evening workshops, educational programs, and social activities that are spread throughout the week.  Several Field School Scholarships are also available.


Keep reading for more details, including what to bring and recommended readings for the 2019 TAS Field School, which is headed to the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, outside Amarillo. 


 2019 TAS Field School 

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Image: Capitol Peak. Credit: Fredlyfish, Wikipedia CC.

The Texas Archeological Society and Texas Parks and Wildlife are partnering to host the 2019 TAS Field School in Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  Camping, Survey, Excavation and Lab work will all take place within the Second Largest Canyon in the Country!  


The primary goals for this year’s field school are to record new sites within the canyon and to collect additional information on sites that were recorded many decades ago.  Survey teams will work in easily accessible areas of the park near the main loop, as well as in the more rugged, seldom visited reaches of the sprawling canyon.  Areas of more intensive excavation will take place at a historic CCC-era site and several of the park’s prehistoric sites.   Dr. Kevin Hanselka will serve as our Principal Investigator.  Come experience the Canyon’s rugged beauty and colorful history.

Camp, Food, and other Logistics

You might have some questions about how things will go once you're out at the Field School. We've outlined some of the main points below, but click here to review more detailed Camp Information.

We will follow park rules regarding campfires.  Smoking will not be allowed inside enclosed buildings including bathrooms and portable toilets.

The Camp Boss or designee will remain in camp during the day to provide security.  Please comply with directions of the Camp Boss and Park Staff.

Rules and Security

We will follow park rules regarding campfires.  Smoking will not be allowed inside enclosed buildings including bathrooms and portable toilets.

The Camp Boss or designee will remain in camp during the day to provide security.  Please comply with directions of the Camp Boss and Park Staff and Camp Rules.

Off-Camp Lodging

As always, we encourage TAS members to camp at the arranged field school campground and join us for breakfast and evening meals. However, for those requiring alternatives, there are a number of hotels available in the Canyon area

Camp Food, Restaurants, Water, and Ice


The TAS campground will be dispersed within the state park. There are six camping areas in the park, most with shade structures. Amenities at these camp sites range from shade only with a picnic table and nearby potable water to spots that will accommodate 60-ft RVs with potable water and electricity. There are bathrooms and showers in each camp area.

RV campers that will be using generators will be required to camp separately from the tent camping areas. Potable water is available throughout the camp areas and electricity is also available at many locations. Trash containers are located throughout the park.

You may prepare your own meals, or our cooks will be serving breakfast and supper all week for paying customers. See the our online store to sign up for those meals.

We encourage participants to join us for breakfast and dinner (both to be held at the Mack Dick Pavilion).  However, the Trading Post, located within Palo Duro Canyon State Park serves lunch daily.  There are also many fine restaurants nearby in Canyon, TX. 


For additional information please consult local maps and web information or consult the Chamber of Commerce.

Potable water is available throughout the camp areas. Water and ice will be available at the Mack Dick Pavilion.

Survey, Excavation, and Lab Expectations

Camp will certainly be great and the food should be delicious but you're going to be out there to do some work! If you have any questions about the different aspects of the actual research we'll be doing, click here. This includes information about conducting and participating in field surveys, working at an excavation, and working in the laboratory as well as help in planning what you should pack. Hint: you shouldn't need your parka.

2019 Field School Activities

Field School activities include evening lectures, workshops, the Archeolympics competition, and, of course, the Wally margarita party with live music. Some highlights include:

Teaching CPE Credits

Teachers will receive CPE credit hours for most Field School activities including afternoon and evening programs.

Evening Lectures

This is always a highlight at the end of a day of fieldwork. Come and let one of many relevant topic experts do the work while you relax and learn.

Public Archeology Fair

Hosted by TAS, TPWD and many other partners on Thursday at the Mack Dick Pavilion.  Many fun and educational activities will be available as well as an artifact identification area and a public presentation for the local community. 


Brush up on your current skills or pick up a new one (or two...). The TAS is filling up a slate of guests and Field School participants who will lead several exciting workshops. 

All are invited to compete in the fourth annual field school Archeolympics. 


Archeolympics are a series of games and activities designed mostly to test knowledge of tasks, or skills, that prehistoric people relied on for daily survival, such as hunting skills and fire starting. This event is all about having fun and learning about ancient lifeways.


This year we will have three primitive skill events, Friction Fire Starting, Atlatl and Rabbit Stick throwing. We may also have a couple of other events, Cordage Making and 1-x-1 m Unit Layout. Sign-up sheets will be available during Field School and we look forward to having lots of folks give it a try. Winners will receive award certificates.


Sign up will be available at registration. Several instructors will be available to help you practice to win!

2019 Archeolympics

Friction Fire Starting

Participants must provide their own spindle, hearth board, and kindling. Both hand and bow drills are fine and the first person to produce a visible flame will be the winner.

Atlatl Throwing

To be divided into novice and skilled classes. We will probably have enough darts for all but if you have an atlatl and darts, please bring them. There will also be a team contest with 2-5 person teams. Targets will be set up on hay bales and again, accuracy will determine winners.  If you have your own atlatl or darts, consider bringing them.

Rabbit Stick Throwing

To be divided into youth (12 and under) and adult (13 and over) categories. Soccer balls will be used as targets simulating small game and scoring will be for accuracy. Rabbit Sticks will be provided but you may bring your own.

Other Possible Events: Cordage Making and 1 x 1 m Unit Layout

If you've watched your "Naked and Afraid" or "Survivorman" you know that making cordage is an essential skill. Let's see what you've got! Stringing 1 x 1s isn't quite a vital survival skill, nor one (we presume) that prehistoric peoples relied upon too often, but there's definitely an art to it. Who's going to be the test unit Picasso among you?

This year, the Texas Archeological Society (TAS) invites members to attend the annual summer Field School at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Randall County.  TAS is being welcomed with open arms by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Panhandle Plains Archaeological Society, and the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. The primary Field School goal will include an archeological survey of many park locations that have never seen systematic study.  Several areas will also be available for test excavation including historic and prehistoric excavation sites.   There are also opportunities to work with artifact collections in our field laboratory.  The dates for the 2019 Field School will be June 8-15.  We hope for a really big turnout this year!


We’re excited to work under the leadership of Dr. Kevin Hanselka, our Principal Investigator.  Kevin Hanselka is an archeologist at the Texas Department of Transportation, and a practicing archeobotanist. A native Texan, Kevin was born in Alpine and grew up in Corpus Christi. His archeological research interests include plant-related subsistence and technology, intensification, agricultural origins (particularly Mexico and the American Southwest), and mixed foraging-farming economies. He studied plant use on Late Archaic farming villages in Chihuahua (northwest Mexico) while pursuing a Master’s degree at the University of Texas at San Antonio (M.A., 2000), and he began his ongoing research into emergent agricultural economies in Tamaulipas (northeast Mexico) while at Washington University in Saint Louis (Ph.D., 2011). He is also currently involved in research projects in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands and Oaxaca, Mexico. Kevin recently relocated to Allen, Texas, with his wife Heather and young daughter Sabrina.


When you arrive Friday to set up your camp in the park or check into your hotel, come to the registration area in the park to sign in and receive your name tag, crew assignments, other information.  Field School shirts are also available to purchase in all sizes on our registration form. 


Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the nation.  It’s natural beauty and fascinating history combine to make it a major travel destination in our state.  Come learn all the canyon has to offer about some of Texas’ earliest occupants, clashes between cultures during the Battle of Palo Duro and the Red River War, the Ranching era and Charles Goodnight, the breathtaking work of the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the scenic beauty depicted by Georgia O’Keefe.  We will have a week of fun and educational events in one of the most beautiful places in our state.