Nearly every summer since 1998, Dr. Jon Spenard, an anthropological archaeologist and Assistant Professor in the Anthropology Department here at CSUSM, heads to Belize to investigate the ancient Maya and their ritual caves and ceremonial landmarks.
This summer, two recent alum and a current student accompanied him to investigate the Rio Frio region. For three weeks in June, under the guidance and coaching of Dr. Spenard, these three burgeoning archaeologists – Andres Berdeja, Jessica Garcia, and Ariana Yanez – got to experience hands-on excavation and learn-by-doing fieldwork in some of Belize’s unknown caves. Javier Mai, a local Maya guide, also taught them many lessons about his culture today and how that knowledge can help them understand more about what they were finding in their field studies.
They journalized their Belize exploration and shared some of their takeaways so that other students can see the benefits of pursuing fieldwork opportunities and collaborative research projects with their professors – and how these unique opportunities boost future employability by providing invaluable experience to a professional resume or CV.
Andres Berdeja is a 2019 CSUSM alumni with a BA in Indigenous Anthropology. At Palomar College, Andres earned a double AA in Archaeology and Anthropology; and an AS in GIS (Geographic Information System). He also holds proficiency certificates as an archaeological excavator and an archaeological surveyor/laboratory assistant. He has worked projects in Togo, West Africa as well as in San Diego’s Rancho De Los Peñasquitos area. Currently, Andres works for a cultural resource management company in San Diego.
Jessica Garcia is a fourth-year student studying Indigenous Anthropology at CSUSM. She holds an AA in Anthropology and two proficiency certificates as an archaeological excavator and archaeological surveyor/laboratory assistant from Palomar College. She currently works in cultural resource management in San Diego.
Ariana Yanez is a 2018 CSUSM alumna with a BA in Indigenous Anthropology and a minor in Spanish. Through MiraCosta College, she earned an AA in Arts with an emphasis in Social and Behavioral Sciences. Her primary research interest is in archaeological lithics (stone tools). She’s participated in archaeological excavation at the Los Rancho Peñasquitos Ranch House as well as the Corral Redondo Project in Iquipi, Peru. She currently works for Helix Environmental Planning, Inc. and for California State Parks, San Diego Coast District. This fall, she begins a graduate program in Applied Archaeology at Cal State San Bernardino.