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CLC Costa Rican archaeology research to be presented this April

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Mar 15, 2022

Back in 2016 and 2017, College of Lake County (CLC) Archaeology Instructor Scott Palumbo took three recent graduates from Zion-Benton Township High School on an archaeological research trip to the Middle Térraba region of Costa Rica. The results of their research will be presented at an archaeological symposium in Chicago this April, titled “From the earth to the plate: environment, resource procurement and foodways in the Isthmo-Colombian Area.”

Photo of the students working in Costa RicaThe expedition’s focus looked at the distribution of ancient settlements to determine if there was an association between the settlements and good farmland. Specifically, it sought to determine if emergent social hierarchies were related to the production of agricultural surplus or control over craft production industries.

Photo: Volunteers prepare to sketch the wall profile a recently excavated unit at the Bolas site, Costa Rica.

Students from five different countries were involved, including Spain, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia and the United States. The trip was funded by a research grant from the National Science Foundation Senior Archaeology Award, the only grant of its kind awarded to a community college principal investigator in the foundation’s history.

After the research was completed, Palumbo and his team worked on a 500-page research report for the Costa Rican government. The students on the trip were given the chance to be co-authors on the report.

Opportunities like this help students become more employable when they finish school.

“I got my first break as a senior in high school,” Palumbo said. “In archaeology, employers want to see that you have some experience doing fieldwork. It is almost impossible for young people to get jobs without it.”

To be eligible for the trip, the students needed to receive an A in Palumbo’s Intro to Anthropology dual credit class and run a 5k in under 25 minutes at 6 a.m. due to the amount of early morning hiking the trip required.

The students are now mostly employed or in graduate school because of their training.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the CLC archaeology department had trips abroad every year or two with CLC students. Palumbo goes to Costa Rica about every year himself.

“This was the first time I had ever gone with high schoolers,” he said. “The students had never been out of the country and were amazed. So much of schooling is learning information others have produced, so they enjoyed being the ones contributing to the knowledge.”

Palumbo describes how Costa Rica has not been researched archaeologically to the extent many other countries have, which gave the group an even greater opportunity to advance knowledge. During this trip, they found several sites intact, having not been touched or looted.

Along with getting students fieldwork experience, there is also a stronger partnership between CLC and the University of Costa Rica. The research team also helped develop educational workshops for grade school students in the local community.

About College of Lake County

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.