In collaboration with the Department of Anthropology

Field Experience in Bioarchaeology

Pickaway County, Ohio

For any questions concerning enrollment in ANTH 5685, please contact Sarah Palazzo: For questions regarding obtaining credits through non-OSU institutions, please contact Dr. Giuseppe Vercellotti:


SESSION 1 - May 6-31, 2024 - in collaboration with OSU Anthropology, open to both OSU and non-OSU students.

SESSION 2 - June 3-28, 2024 - open to students and professionals regardless of academic status and affiliation.


OSU Students:
For information on tuition and fees, please visit this page.

Non-OSU Students:
$1,250/session; $2,250 for both sessions; returning students: $1,000

This exclusively field-based program, now in its third year, aims at familiarizing participants with the professional excavation of human remains from archaeological contexts. Participants will work side by side with professional archaeologists and bioarchaeologists in the excavations of a historic cemetery in central Ohio (HTCC).
The cemetery, located just 20 minutes away from downtown Columbus, was originally established as early as 1804 to serve as a burial ground for the local community. Due to its proximity to the Ohio-Erie canal, the site was subsequently used as a resting place for victims of the infectious disease cholera – an infection of the small intestine that killed tens of millions of people worldwide through various pandemics since 1815. The cemetery remained in use until 1859.
Preliminary investigations at the site have revealed the presence of several single burials with predominant east-west orientation, which appear largely undisturbed and lined up in the western two thirds of the cemetery. Several tombstones or simple markers are scattered throughout the field, but evidence of vandalism and consequent removal and restoration attempts by the township administration suggest that their current location does not mark any specific graves and does likely not correspond to the original layout of the cemetery.

The excavation of the HTCC site is a multifaceted project with potentially important implications for reconstructing relatively unknown events in the history of the county, for shedding new light on the lives of individuals too poor to be visible in official histories, and for gaining insights on a disease that reaped millions of lives during the 19th century and that persists in the developing world today. Specifically, the primary goals of the research projects are:

  • Locating individual and mass graves, which, following years of neglect and several episodes of vandalism, are no longer marked. If gravestones can be found, they will be erected to mark actual grave locations, thus restoring the cemetery’s original appearance.
  • Reconstructing the life conditions of the individuals buried at the site (for both cholera victims and non‐epidemic burials);
  • Providing accounts of the life and social identity of canal and farm workers, who are often stereotyped and almost invisible in historical accounts due to their low socioeconomic status;
  • Investigating the presence of Vibrio cholerae at the site by conducting soil analyses aimed at amplifying and identifying ancient DNA, ultimately with the goal of studying human/pathogen interactions;
  • Comparing skeletal and genetic characteristics of cholera victims and non‐victims to determine whether certain factors predisposed individuals to perishing from the disease and possibly improving modern approaches to treating the disease.

Sessions & Dates

SESSION 1 - May 6-31, 2024

In collaboration with OSU Anthropology, open to both OSU and non-OSU students.

OSU students must enroll in ANTH 5685; non-OSU students may enroll in ANTH 5685 or seek credits through their own institution.

SESSION 2 - June 3-28, 2024

Open to students and professionals regardless of academic status and affiliation. Participants may seek credits through their own institution, if desired.

Apply Now!


Program Structure & Schedule

The field experience is designed to provide participants with first-hand experience of the archaeological and bioarchaeological field methods applied in a professional excavation. Typically, participants will work alongside researchers in a variety of activities, including survey, excavation of human remains, and documentation of findings. Given the research focus of the project, no formal lectures will be held and the didactic components of the field experience will be limited to hands-on excavation and work under the supervision of senior personnel. Excavation will take place daily, Monday through Friday, between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, with a short lunch break.

All participants will be required to attend a general orientation at the beginning of the program, and daily briefings in the morning prior to starting fieldwork. IRLAB does not provide meals, lodging or transportation as part of this program, and participants are expected to make their own arrangements.

While this is a field-based program, lectures may be offered in times of inclement weather or to supplement learning objectives.


Executive Director/PI
Giuseppe Vercellotti, PhD

Francesco Coschino, PhD

Field Director
Alessandro Cariboni

OSU Academic Instructor
W. Scott McGraw, PhD

The cost listed for each session covers Field School activities (excavation practice, lectures, laboratory activities and instruments).

Students will be required to pay fees in full within 15 business days of receipt of the invoice in case of admission. In case of student withdrawal, all fees minus a non-refundable deposit of $500 will be refunded.

Academic Credits

At the end of the program every participant will be provided with:

  • Certificate of attendance from IRLAB

This program welcomes professional archaeologists, students from any US and international institution, and interested community members. We have a decade of experience working with students, their advisors, and administrative staff to develop customized independent study plans.

If you are interested in obtaining academic credits, please indicate your preference in your application. If you would like to obtain academic credits for the program through your own institution, please consult with your advisors regarding the option to enroll in independent studies or an equivalent course at your university and having your advisor assign a grade based on our evaluation of your performance (as well as any additional requirements they may deem appropriate). If your advisor agrees to this arrangement, at the end of the program, IRLAB will send them a written evaluation and grade recommendation.

Both undegraduate (23268) and graduate (23267) sections of the course have been approved for a total of 3 credit hours.

Upon completion of the program, the OSU Academic Instructor will assign a grade (U/S) based on field staff evaluations and recommendations.

Admission Procedure

All participants are required to fulfill all proram requirements prior to the start of the session in which they are enrolled. Such requirements include submitting a Participation Agreement and Medical Information forms, as well as becoming members in IRLAB. The cost of $25 is paid directly to IRLAB and payment must be made by May 5, 2024

Application form

Dear Applicants,
Please note that places in the program are assigned to successful students on a first come, first served basis; hence, it is advisable that you apply as soon as possible to increase your chances of being admitted.

If you have any questions regarding the program, contact prior to submitting an application form.
Thank you for your interest in our program and good luck!

    Which session(s) are you applying for?

    Current Institution

    Current Academic Status

    Major, Minor, Institution and GPA

    Statement of Interest

    Academic References

    Acknowledgement of Understanding

    Acceptance will be communicated by e-mail. Upon acceptance, students will receive detailed instructions on how to submit required documentation and payments.
    Students will be required to pay fees by the invoice sent by mail in case of admission. In case of student withdrawal, all fees minus a non-refundable deposit will be refunded until the deadline of the program. After the deadline of the program fees will not be refunded. In the unlikely event of course cancellation, fees will be refunded in full (any applicable processing fees may not be refunded).