Anthropology major Jessica Pantel ’13 spent six weeks this past summer participating in anthropological research in the Ancash region of the Andes Mountains in Peru.
She applied for and was accepted into the Archaeological Field School at Hualcayan, Peru, offered by a professor at Vanderbilt University. Some of her expenses were covered by a Richter Independent Study Fellowship, awarded by North Central so she could also conduct her own research on the Wari culture.
She tried foods like cow heart, pig ankle and alpaca, slept on the floor of a concrete community center, adjusted to high altitude and took cold showers. But it was all worth it, she says.
“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. In addition to carrying out the excavations, she received training in station mapping, systematic survey and artifact, human skeletal and botanical analysis.
As a result of the experience, Pantel 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 and attend graduate school.