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Digging into Human History

Benco Award-winner Paige Narciso pursues passion in Portugal

Paige L. Narciso, class of 2019, has been curious about early human beings, evolution and what life was like for Neanderthals for some time. This summer, she is enjoying an opportunity through Wittenberg and the Institute for Field Research (IFR), an organization created to bring archaeological field schools to students, to further her interest even more.

Narciso, from Worthington, Ohio, is pursuing a self-designed major in anthropology with a minor in archaeology. She will be able to pursue both areas through a study-abroad opportunity in Budens, Portugal, while working on the Portugal Vale Boi project. 

“I will be learning more about Neanderthals and their past interaction with Homo sapiens,” said Narciso, who is part of a dig taking place from July 1-28. “The program allows students to practice field archaeology at a dig for one month. I will be digging with a team for faunal and lithic remains from the Paleolithic site. I'll also be attending daily lectures, writing papers, learning how to catalog, and how to use laboratory analytical methods.” 

“Paige participated in Wittenberg’s semester abroad program in Germany last spring and contacted me about pursuing a program in archaeology and anthropology. It is rare to have students interested in hominids since our program is based more in historical archaeology, so I was delighted to learn that Paige would be our first student to attend a field school examining early human remains.” 

With help from the history and sociology departments, Narciso looked for programs to match her interests and is thrilled to be studying in Portugal. 

“I looked for programs that would allow me to follow this interest and found this one in Budens, Portugal. I don't know exactly what my future holds, but I would love to work in the field with a focus on human evolution and Neanderthals,” said Narciso, who runs cross country and track, was a member of Alpha xi Delta, and is currently secretary of the Latin Dance Club at Wittenberg.  

This study-abroad opportunity was possible for Narciso through the Nancy L. Benco Archaeological Research Fund award. She is one of three students to receive the award to help with her expenses. Danielle Hurley, class of 2019, and Abigail Fraker, class of 2018, were also recipients. 

The scholarship was created by Wittenberg alumna Dr. Nancy L. Benco, class of 1966 and a professional archaeologist, to help fund history majors and minors who wish to study archaeology and the human past. The purpose of the fund is to provide financial assistance to the Wittenberg history department and archaeology program to promote the study and appreciation of archaeology at the university through student research, fieldwork and learning experiences for undergraduates interested in the human past around the globe. Learn more about the fund here.

“I am so excited to have received the Benco Award to help fund my trip to Portugal,” Narciso said. “It is great that Wittenberg has scholarships like this to help students follow their passions. Wittenberg has helped me to further develop my interest in anthropology and archaeology. It's great to be able to receive personal guidance from professors who want to help you.”  

“Wittenberg continues to have 100 percent success in acceptance of our students into the IFR programs,” said Darlene Brooks Hedstrom, the Kenneth E. Wray Chair in the Humanities, professor and chair of history, and director of archaeology at Wittenberg. “Paige brings a compassion for the past and working with human remains that will make her an asset to the Portugal Vale Boi project. After studying several case studies in global archaeology in the Introduction to Archaeology course, I know she will be a careful excavator as she helps uncover new information about human evolution and the history Neanderthals in Portugal.” 

Cindy Holbrook
Cindy Holbrook
Senior Communications Assistant

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A nationally ranked university for the liberal arts and sciences affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Wittenberg University has repeatedly been ranked throughout the years by the Princeton Review for the quality of its teaching and faculty, including 11th in the nation for "Best Classroom Experience" and 15th in the category "Professors Get High Marks" in the 2011 edition of Princeton's annual Best Colleges guide. Most recently, Wittenberg earned the No. 4 spot in the category of "Most Accessible Professors." Wittenberg appeared in the Princeton Review's Guide to Green Colleges in 2013 and again in 2015. Additionally, Wittenberg currently has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any other four-year institution in the state, and has been recognized nationally for excellence in service and athletics.

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