NVC Archaeology Class Proving Students are Ready for a Field School

Just a few weeks since the launch of Northwest Vista College’s archaeology field school, students from universities are taking notice.

Typically, archaeology students have to wait until they are juniors or seniors before they can do  hands-on field work. On top of that, many students are expected to travel out of the United States to other countries to do archaeology field work.

In January, a group of community college students were given the opportunity to take part in an excavation project aimed at giving them hands-on experience at an archeological dig that could unearth artifacts dating back to some 13,000 years ago. Due to the uniqueness of this class and the interest in it, NVC will open another class in May. Students have already found a pewter-type ring with initials on it and a piece of carbon that can be tested for its date.

NVC instructor Whitney Lytle who is overseeing the class (ANTH 2302), said “One of the unique things about this field school is that we are one of the only community colleges in the nation to offer a field school opportunity. Most field schools cost a lot of money and take time away from family and work because they are abroad. This class is the same tuition as a normal class and it’s just one day a week.”

Students are expected to survey the land, dig test trenches, determine the best place to excavate, and then excavate. The land will also serve as an on-site laboratory where discovered artifacts will be evaluated. NVC has partnered with UTSA’s Center for Archaeological Research, and a group of archaeologists specializing in working with drones will instruct students in how to utilize drones for their work, and conduct a drone survey of the excavation site.

The project is made possible by a partnership between Northwest Vista College and the Alamo River RV Resort and Campground in Von Army. The agreement permits students to use a portion of the land, located in South San Antonio, to map out and conduct an archeological dig. Any artifacts found will remain the property of the resort owner’s, however, NVC retains the right to use, display and store artifacts with the resort owner’s permission.

NVC representatives have long been eyeing the area along the Medina River due to its rich colonial and historical context. Based on interviews with local residents and consultants, it’s expected students will find stone artifacts and material remains dating back to the Clovis Period (prehistoric) as well as early to mid 19th and 20th centuries.

Adam O. Aguirre, NVC’s Anthropology discipline coordinator, said the resort owners are very fond of pointing out an ancient oak tree that they refer to as “Santa Ana’s Oak,” which is a stone’s throw away from the NVC perspective field site. This tree is said to be at a location where Santa Ana and his troops camped on their way to the Alamo in 1836.

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