This week, Spotted on Campus took a departure from its normal Q&A by having fencer Jared Katz ’12 fill GoLeopards.com fans in on his world travels.
What’s your major and what do you like about your major? I am double majoring in archaeology and history. My major is extremely interesting because it has allowed me to do amazing things. I have done things like excavating in tunnels that run into structures that date back to 300 B.C., working with human bones that we discovered and have gotten to explore jungle and the interiors of structures that have not been seen by humans for 2,000 years. My major has brought me to some of the most fascinating sites in the world.
What are your plans this summer? This summer I am helping out at the Corpus Project of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions at the Peabody Museum. I am also working at a fencing school as an instructor and as a day camp counselor.
You spent time in the jungle and traveled to Mesoamerica. Talk about your experiences and what you did there. I was in Mesoamerica for five months. I was a member of the Proyecto San Bartolo. The San Bartolo project is currently excavating at two sites, Xultun and San Bartolo. Both sites are located in northern Guatemala in the Peten. I spent the first month in the city of Antigua, Guatemala learning Spanish and working at the site lab. I spent the next three months living in the middle of the rainforest working as an onsite archaeologist. The site is located deep within the rainforest from which it takes about six hours by truck to reach the nearest village. I spent the last month doing independent research at various other sites. I received a research grant that funded all of my research during this period of time. My work brought me to Honduras, Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. My research was, and continues to be, focused on stone carvings in an attempt to discover more about the Maya’s scribes, who were responsible for the art.
What was the coolest thing you saw at the jungle? Mesoamerica? I saw so many amazing things it is hard to determine the coolest. The sites themselves were amazing. Xultun is gigantic; it stretches on for kilometers in every direction. The year before last was the first year that it had been excavated, so every time we put a hole in the ground we found something completely breathtaking.
The other site, San Bartolo, dates back to around 600 B.C. Its claim to fame is its murals. The San Bartolo murals were painted in 100 B.C and are the earliest known murals in the Maya world. One hundred years before the time of Christ men painted those murals that are still there today. They depict the story of creation and are absolutely stunning. I just sat there and imagined the scribes who had painted them over 2,000 years ago. It is truly breathtaking.
I also got to see a lot of amazing wildlife including toucans, pumas, tarantulas, bot flies and lots of other interesting creatures. There were lots of monkeys of course. We had interesting times with the monkeys. Our showers were made of black trash bags wrapped around four posts. We would shower with a bucket of river water. The monkeys liked to sit right over the showers and watch us. It is extremely disconcerting having a monkey watch you shower for some reason.
What can you take from your sport and incorporate into everyday life? Good sportsmanship, balance, agility and mental stamina.
What do you still wish to accomplish (fencing or otherwise)? In fencing, I would like to make it to the NCAA’s. In archaeology, I hope to present the findings of my research at some point to the Society for American Archaeology.
Sport you would participate in other than your own: I used to be a cross country runner as well, so probably that.
My role model or inspirational person: My father.
Best vacation I ever took was: I got to study in France for some time and live with a family. That was awesome.
Pool or beach? Beach; it’s easier to play Frisbee there.
Favorite food at a summer BBQ? Hamburgers and corn on the cob.
Song that’s currently playing on repeat on your iPod? Send Me on My Way by the Rusted Root
Lafayette: Second Home
Fencing: Best sport there is
Epee: Best weapon there is
Coaches: Coach Gaunter, need I say more.
To read more about Katz’s experiences, visit the blog he wrote for Lafayette.edu during his travels this spring.