Jennifer Kielhofer's childhood hikes on her father's 40-acre cattle ranch in Truckee, Calif., part of the ancient home of the Native American Washoe tribe, were one reason the University of Nevada-Reno junior spent six weeks this past summer on a dig on Roatan Island, off the eastern coast of Honduras.
"Digging and uncovering a bygone past intrigued me" as a child, said Kielhofer. Indeed, on these regular outings with her dad, they occasionally found small artifacts that further reflected the 9,000 years of history that experts conclude the Washoe tribe has had in the region. Little did she know then that these amateur forays would become the foundation for her passion for archaeology.
Her summer expedition to Roatan Island, a trip partly financed by a Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad grant, was folded into a University of South Florida program to determine which ancient ethnic groups had occupied the land from 900 to 1500, a span of important eras in Honduran history. Researchers believe that Mayan, Pech, and Tolupan civilizations may have used the island as a ceremonial location.
"Archaeology is often the only way to uncover a people's past and cultural heritage. When sites are destroyed, the avenue to this unique heritage is lost forever," said Kielhofer, who majors in anthropology and minors in archeology and Spanish. The dig uncovered evidence that helped preserve the history of the ancient populations. A greater understanding of what led to their unique development will provide the people of Honduras with an important method to help advance their future, she said.
By excavating existing sites, surveying for new sites, and analyzing artifacts in the lab, Kielhofer received a crash course in archaeological fieldwork, she explained. At an ongoing excavation, she discovered the first remnants of architecture at the site--small, crude pieces of ceramic that are believed to have been part of a ceremonial structure--providing a new perspective on how ancient people lived on the island.
Surveying for new sites meant a week, a full 40 hours, of going on grueling hikes, chopping back thick brush and dodging thorns. In the lab, Kielhofer learned how to determine whether uncovered pieces of ceramic belonged to a jar or a bowl and how to classify those pieces.
"Overall, this experience confirmed my love for archaeology," concluded the 20-year-old. "Now I feel confident that I could set up an excavation grid anywhere and have success conducting my own grid."
Surely her dad would be thrilled; they still hike together, and those early days digging at the family ranch uncovered much more than they ever could have imagined.
Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Grants help undergraduates as they seek knowledge and experience in their academic fields by venturing afield. This year, more than 200 applicants competed for 50 $1,000 grants. Including 2009, 318 students have earned Study Abroad Grants totaling $318,000 since the program began in 2001.
Duquesne University Junior, physician assistant major Study abroad: Tanzania and Tunisia
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Sophomore, international studies major, focusing on business and environmental policy Study abroad: Currently at University of Munich Satisfying community service: Helping local immigrants assimilate
University of Georgia Senior, health promotion and behavior major Study abroad: Buenos Aires, Argentina Memorable class: Anthropology of eating
The Ohio State University Junior, chemistry and history of art double major Study abroad: Studio Art Centers International, Florence, Italy, early next year
United States Military Academy International history major Study abroad: Catholic University of Lyon, Lyon, France, fall semester
Indiana University of Pennsylvania Biochemistry and Asian studies double major Study abroad: Southwest University of Finance and Economics, Sichuan, Chengdu, China
University of Maine Junior, marine science major Study abroad: Currently at James Cook University, Townsville, Australia Satisfying community service: Dog walker at the Humane Society
Western Kentucky University Junior, chemistry and biology double major Study abroad: Southwest University of Finance and Economics, Sichuan, Chengdu, China Favorite book: Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card
University of Maine Junior, marine biology major Study abroad: SEA Semester cruise from Honolulu to San Francisco Satisfying community service: Helping the elderly with lawn and house projects
Brittany Leigh Carr
East Carolina University Junior, biology and Asian studies double major Study abroad: Historical, cultural and religious field study in India Influential person met: 17th Gyalwang Karmapa
University of Memphis Anthropology major Study abroad: Pune, India Teresa Cunningham North Carolina State University Senior, graphic design major Study abroad: Graphic design and literature in Prague, Czech Republic Role models: My mother and father
North Carolina State University Senior, graphic design major Study abroad: Graphic design and literature in Prague, Czech Republic Role models: My mother and father
Daniel Edward Ellis
North Carolina State University Junior, parks, recreation, and tourism management major Study abroad: Ghana, West Africa
University of Southern Mississippi Junior, biochemistry major with a pre-med emphasis Study abroad: King's College London, England Favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
University of Mississippi German and English double major Study abroad: Currently at the University of Trier, Germany
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Senior, secondary education major, emphasis on social studies and Spanish Study abroad: San Josecito, Costa Rica
Missouri StateUniversity Junior, anthropology major Study abroad: Fall semester in Findhorn Ecovillage, Forres, Scotland Favorite book: Chronicles of Narnia series by C. …