Students to unearth history

Nine University of Calgary students will travel to Nicaragua this week to begin an excavation that will fill some gaps in Nicaragua’s historical fabric. The four undergraduates and five graduate students will be led by U of C archaeologist Dr. Geoff McCafferty in their quest to discover more about human migration patterns near Santa Isabel, located between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean.


“The importance of this project is in helping Nicaragua itself, to promote its tourism, economy and international relations between Canada and Nicaragua,” said McCafferty.


Archaeology and Anthropology student Tracy Hydeman, one of the four undergraduates going to Nicaragua, said the chance to do actual field work enhances her educational experience, and the excavation will provide valuable information for her honours thesis.


“I’m putting together my own project,” she said. “Rather than just developing a research proposal, I get to go through with it.”


The project will focus on the migration and occupation of Pacific Nicaragua by the Nahua people of Mexico in the centuries prior to European colonization, a period not currently well documented according to McCafferty.


For Larry Steinbrenner, a PhD student in archaeology, this return trip to the area where he conducted research for his Masters degree will hopefully provide historical insight into the area.


“The Spanish recorded that the people of Nicaragua spoke the same language as the Aztecs,” he said. “Examining the pyramids in Mexico, you don’t find the same kind of complexity in Nicaragua. “


The students and McCafferty have been preparing for the trip for some time, with seminars and other activities.


In addition to looking for skeletal remains of animals, stone tools, beads and other evidence of human activity, the U of C team will first assist archaeologists and researchers from the area unearth the remains of a mammoth which would have died several thousand years prior to the human activity which will be their primary focus.

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