North Central College - Naperville, IL

Studying the past sheds light on Jessica’s future

Anthropology major Jessica Pantel spent six weeks this summer trying foods like cow heart, pig ankle and alpaca, sleeping on the floor of a concrete community center, adjusting to high altitude and taking cold showers. But it was all worth it, she says, to participate in anthropological research in the Ancash region of the Andes Mountains in Peru. She applied for and was accepted into a program offered in Peru by a professor at Vanderbilt University. Some of her expenses were covered by a Richter Independent Study Fellowship, which was awarded by North Central so Jessica could also conduct her own research on the Wari culture.

“We were researching ritual mounds of the Recuay civilization and burial sites,” she explains. “The theory is that the Recuay would go to the machay (a cave) and remove the mummified bodies for the ceremonial feasts so family members could be together.”

Among the lessons she learned were how to carefully organize and log all the items found at the sites. Finding a shard of pottery important to her research on the Wari was also a highlight of the summer.

As a result of the experience, Jessica has become interested in the field of bioarcheology, which involves the physical study of bones to determine trauma, disease and other indications of ancient cultures. She plans to minor in biology at North Central and then attend graduate school.