Mortuary Archaeology Field School at Zamartze

Location: Uharte-Arakil, Navarra, Spain

Friday, June 6, 2014 to Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Session dates: 
June 6-30; July 6-30; August 6-30; September 6-30, 2014.

Application Deadline: 
Thursday, May 15, 2014

Flyer: zamartze_poster_2014.pdf

Program Type

Field school


Aditu Arkeologia Zerbitzuak

Project Director:

Emma Bonthorne and Francisco José Valle de Tarazaga Montero

Project Description

The Zamartze Mortuary Archaeology Field School is a research project investigating human burials at the medieval monastic complex of Zamartze in the municipality of Uharte-Arakil (Navarre, Spain). The main element in the site is a 12th century Romanesque church assumed to have been built on top of an earlier Roman mansio. Restoration works to the complex in 2005 revealed medieval graves, some of which are believed to be associated with a pilgrim hospital constructed throughout the early period of the Camino de Santiago; one of the most important Christian pilgrimmages of the Middle Ages.

The primary goal of the project is to gain knowledge of the population of this part of Navarre during the medieval period. Graves date to between the 9th and the 14th century, and over 100 individual burials have been uncovered in the last years. The project aims at using the individuals recovered from this cemetery to perform a thorough study of the diet, pathology and bioprofile (age, sex, stature) of this Medieval site's population that could be extrapolated to the region, as little is known in the area about its Medieval population. Additional details of funerary practices may also be gained from the position of the skeletons, burial orientation and grave goods, which typically include pottery, shroud pins and scallop shells.  The 2014 field season will focus on unearthing the earliest level of inhumations at the site, believed to be primarily earth-cut burials dating from between the 9 and 11th centuries A.D. 

The field school is aimed at students or graduates of archaeology and physical or forensic anthropology who wish to gain experience in the excavation of human remains, although individuals with unrelated backgrounds but a strong interest will be considered if spaces are available. The course involves lectures on osteology and skeletal anatomy, excavation methodology, paleopathology, Medieval and Roman archaeology, pottery and finds processing, taphonomy and Basque archaeology. The main component of the school is fielwork, with students spending an average of 6-8 hours per day on site.

Students will participate in all stages involved in the exhumation of human remains in archaeological contexts, including drawing and photography, filling in context sheets, use of dumpy level/total station, cleaning, processing and recording of finds.

Students will have Saturday afternoons and Sundays free to visit nearby places such as Pamplona, San Sebastian, Olite and the Roman city of Andelos.

English is the official language of the course, although Spanish and Basque are also spoken on site.

Period(s) of Occupation: Medieval

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: One full session

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 
Basic osteology knowledge is strongly recommended.

Room and Board Arrangements

Students will be housed in an apartment in the village of Uharte-Arakil, a short 10 minute walk from the site. The apartment is equipped with a kitchen, dining room, living room and bathrooms. Accommodation and all meals on full workdays are included in the programme price. Please see website for more details and photos.

€1750 per session

Academic Credit

Number of credits offered: none


Contact Information
Mandy Sansone