EHS students take part in Belize archaeological dig

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By Kelly Cantrall

Summer trips often consist of the Florida coast, but for a few local students, their travels revolved around research in Central America.


Three Elizabethtown High School students recently returned from Belize, where they took part in an archaeological excavation project. The program, Davidson Day School A.F.A.R., takes groups of students to participate in a real research project.

The three students, juniors Michael Thompson and Gabrielle Collins and senior Jacob Couch, were part of a group of 43 students from across the United States and Cairo, Egypt.

The students worked through the week in the excavation of Cahal Pech, a group of Mayan ruins in San Ignacio. On the weekends, they took trips to surrounding areas, including neighboring Guatemala.

Thompson took part in the program last year.

“The experience in general was really nice. I wanted to be reintroduced to it,” he said.

Before the students leave, they are assigned readings on the Mayan culture and must complete a test on the subject matter.

This year, the excavation site was chosen to be featured on the online version of Archaeology magazine. The students took part in creating content for the site, www.archaeology.


Collins said the attention from the magazine made her want to discover something at the site even more.

“It made me want to work harder,” she said.

The students found studying for the test or dealing with the wildlife the most difficult part of their journey. Couch joked the creatures they encountered, such as tarantulas and snakes, helped make them a cohesive group.

“It allowed us to form a much closer bond through fear,” he said, laughing.

Christy Pritchard, an archaeologist with Brockington and Associates in Elizabethtown who works with the project, said the program is physically demanding, as it involves shoveling and transporting dirt and rock.

“It’s extremely labor-intensive,” Pritchard said.

The students enjoyed that aspect.

“It just felt like a really good workout with people you really enjoyed, so it was worth it,” Collins said.

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or kcantrall@thenewsenterprise.com.