By Prof. MK Aliyu

There are some misconceptions about these three concepts by some students to assume that they all mean the same. Fieldtrip is the actual setting out to the field through whatever means to engage in some practical aspect of some disciplines. On the other hand, fieldwork is the actual engagement in the practical application of filed methods in the field in a particular site or location. Meanwhile, field school is the arrangement to create the school environment in the field through camping while at the same time engaging in practical fieldwork and some form of classwork in the field. What the three concepts mean in common is that the intention in all is to expose the students to some field practical experiences to complement the theories explained in the comfort of the school classrooms. It also means field work can be arranged only without field school.


Archaeology Fieldschool In Ahmadu Bello University Zaria

Archaeology is the science and art that seeks to reconstruct the past lifeways of man from the earliest time to the present through the cultural material remains left behind by man. The process of the recovery from the field of the material remains of man in Archaeology is a science; while the writing of history through the interpretation of the result is an art. The main way archaeological data is collected is through fieldtrip, fieldwork and field school. For several years since the inception of Archaeology program in Ahmadu Bello University in 1975, fieldwork has been arranged for students to be exposed to Archaeological Field Methods. At the beginning and up to 2006, Archaeology program has been under History Department as a Unit. The field exercises arranged then were a mixture of field works and field schools. Students were taken in some years to some sites close to the University to do some field works without camping; while when the situation allows, they were taken to camp in a form of field school. This situation continued up and until 1997 when the University purposely, under the Sole Administrator, late retired General Mamman Kontagora, instituted the field school camping for Archaeology program. This has been sustained by all the succeeding University Administrations up to 2020. The field school program in Ahmadu Bello University Zaria has developed to a stage that it is now one of the best field school programs in Nigeria and can compete favorably with its kind anywhere in the world in terms of content and practice.

Under field school conditions, the students are transported to a carefully selected real archaeological site and accommodated either in tents or in primary or secondary schools. Feeding arrangements are made; security arrangements are made; medical First Aid arrangements are made; and local arrangements are made to expose the students to the principle and practice of data collection through oral interview, ethnographic surveys, field archaeological reconnaissance and surveys, excavation, field data handling and packaging and lifting technics and field classification in field laboratory. This is Archaeological Field School in Ahmadu Bello University Zaria.

From a Unit under history Department up to 2006, a Department of Archaeology was created under the Prof. Shehu Usman Abdullahi Administration. From the creation of Archaeology Unit under History Department in 1975, through when the Department of Archaeology was created in 2006, more than 45 field schools have been organised for students yearly for between 12 to 14 days as stipulated by the NUC minimum benchmark for a student of Archaeology to graduate. It was organized for part 2 and part 3 students only during the session system up to late 80s, but from around 1991 to date, it is organised for 200, 300, and 400 level student. The post graduate students are also fully involved as a requirement for their graduation too. With that, the field school program progressed more with additional students and more funding. The field school program over the years have been staged in different States of Northern Nigeria. Field works have been arranged in several other sites in Northern Nigeria such as Kargi, Tsauni, Samaru West and Kufena (all in Kaduna State), Zungeru (in Niger State), Bokos (in Plateau State), Gozaki, Dayi, Karofi, Wurma, Birchi, Tandama, Faskari, Rimaye, Karfi, Mahuta, Yaribori, Dabai and Radda (all in Katsina State), Kwatarkwashi and ‘Yandoto ( in Zamfara State), Surame (in Sokoto State),  Shikam, Mkar and Ushongo (in Benue State), etc. This has made the Zaria Field School Program the best in the country.  Reports from these field schools are available in the Departmental Library. In line with international best practice, there are plans and agitations to take the Ahmadu Bello University field exercise to famous archaeological sites abroad like that in Nile Valley in Egypt, Sudan or Ethiopia and even beyond. These plans can only materialize with increase funding. But in the meantime, the Department is doing all things possible to maintain the standards already set against all odds.

The Archaeology Unit at initial stage and up to late 90s had few students between 25 to 30 students as both parts 2 and 3 students attending the field schools yearly. But from early 2000 the admission intake began to improve alongside number of academic and technical staff. The staffing situation rose from 5 lecturers up to 1999 to about 22 lecturers presently. The Department now have up to 700 students that attend field school yearly in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.


Prof MK Aliyu, (mni) one of the leading Archeologists in Nigeria, is a lecturer and the first Professor of Archeology in the Department of Archeology and Heritage Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria – Nigeria.
Professor Aliyu, a widely travelled Scholar, has taught Archeology for the past 30 years in different Universities in Nigeria. These includes his main University, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Federal University Gusau (FUGUS), Federal University Dutsinma, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University Lapai (IBBUL), and Nasarawa State University Keffi (NSUK).
Professor Aliyu is also the Pioneer Editor of the Pioneer Newspaper birthed in Nigeria’s protracted history of Print Journalism to cover and report activities of the Education Sector – EDUCATION MONITOR.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *