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History in the palm of your hands at Trent University Durham GTA

The celebrations surrounding Canada’s 150 have sparked many conversations about our nation’s history and remind us of how important it is to remember our past. Understanding where we come from and how the generations before us lived, helps us to grow and achieve success in our present-day lives.

As an anthropology professor, I have the best job in the world. I get to hold history in the palm of my hands and, through these artifacts, share in the lives of people that existed long before our time. I can share experiences and understanding about our past with students who will use this knowledge to help shape the future of our society and build our legacy.

Archaeology at Trent University has been an important part of the University for over 40 years. The program has built a strong experiential learning component into its curriculum providing students with the opportunity to attend field schools in Ontario, as well as more exotic locations, such as Belize, Central America. My project in Belize is the latest in a long line of Trent field schools in Belize.

I went to Belize in 1990 as an undergraduate student on a field school and fell in love with the country.  Twenty-eight years later, I am still returning to Belize year-after-year, only now I direct a field school for my own undergraduates at Ka’kabish an ancient Maya city with a long history dating from 800 BC to AD 1500.  My research is focused on understanding how cities can survive for 2,300 years. Unfortunately, it is often hard to balance preservation of the past with the needs of the future, and sites like Ka’kabish are in danger of being subsumed by development.  As part of my work, we are trying to raise money to buy the 50 acres on which Ka’kabish sits and create a new national park.  We have currently raised two thirds of the money that we need to create a National Archaeology Park in Belize, and are working to raise the remaining $17,000 via Indiegogo crowd-funding that will finalize the purchase and enable us to protect the site for future generations.

Not everyone has the opportunity to dig in the ruins and travel to Belize, but that doesn’t mean you cannot experience archaeology or the history it unearths. On Saturday, October 21, Trent University Durham GTA and the Oshawa Museum invite the community to participate in International Archaeology Day. This free event will be held on the Trent Durham campus from noon until 3:30 p.m. and will give community members of all ages an opportunity to learn more about archaeology and our history through interactive activities, displays and presentations.  I hope you will come and I look forward to sharing my love of the past with you.


This piece was contributed by Dr. Helen Haines, senior lecturer in the Anthropology department, as part of a reoccurring column with Metroland Media highlighting what's happening at Trent University Durham GTA.

Posted on October 19, 2017