Like many natural sciences, field work is a critical component of archaeology. Excavation experience is necessary, and in many cases, college and university anthropology departments require field experience as part of their undergraduate curriculum. Field experience is not an option for most students for financial and logistical reasons. We meet the challenges of teaching archaeology in the classroom with the unique capabilities of virtual reality (VR).
Using commercially-available VR hardware, we have created an immersive, interactive, room scale virtual archaeological site where students can learn the skills practiced on site at an archaeological excavation. We use the HTC VivePro, which tracks a user’s head and hands while they have freedom of movement in a room-size space, and Unreal Engine 4, an open-source gaming engine, to create a (virtual) space to practice skills and problem solving. This exploratory project leverages the ongoing revolution in consumer electronics as a low-cost platform for social science education that can be broadly applicable across disciplines and subject areas.