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Samantha Martinez ’15, with the help of a Pacific Fund Grant for Undergraduate Research, was able to go on an archaeological dig in Bermuda last summer. The history major is returning to Bermuda in May to continue her research.

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History major excavates career path with help from Pacific Fund grant

Apr 22, 2015

Pacific history major Samantha Martinez ’15 loved the Jurassic Park and Lara Croft movies as a child and dreamed of digging up dinosaur bones.

Thanks to a Pacific Fund Grant for Undergraduate Research, Martinez was able to go on an archaeological dig in Bermuda in summer 2014, a trip which gave her training, skills and, most important, the confidence that archaeology is the career path for her. She returns in May, this time as site supervisor of other students on the dig as she continues research of her own toward her Pacific senior capstone project.

“This is the type of quality experience we want all our students to have during their time at Pacific,” said College of the Pacific Dean Rena Fraden. “It is wonderful to see students apply their liberal arts education at different sites in the world – Bermuda, Brazil or Stockton – and to know that students will be all the more prepared to find a path after graduation that they will be eager and able to follow.”

Martinez was one of nine students nationwide accepted into the field study program on Smith’s Island, sponsored by the University of Rochester (NY), and she applied for and received a $4,000 Pacific Fund grant to cover the cost.

“The only reason I was able to go on this trip was the Pacific Fund,” said Martinez.

She was determined to learn as much as she could from the experience.

“I’m not usually a morning person, but I was up by 5 a.m. almost every day because I could not wait to get to work,” said Martinez.

“Going to work” in Bermuda meant taking a boat from St. George’s Island, where the team stayed, to Smith’s Island, and then meticulously troweling through layers of dirt. Smith’s Island is historically significant as the site of the first English settlement in Bermuda. Martinez first helped excavate the site of a house shown on a circa 1616 map and then worked in what was dubbed “the cave site,” where she found pottery dating from about 1725, along with fish bones and other evidence of human use.

Samantha Martinez
Samantha Martinez '15 works to excavate historical
sites in Bermuda in summer 2014.
A Pacific Fund
grant allowed her to hone her
skills and decide on
archaeology as a career path.

“The cave is in the middle of the island, far enough from the beaches that animals wouldn’t have brought the fish there to eat,” explained Martinez. “The cave might have been a communal place for slaves to meet or perhaps a basic shelter for some of the original inhabitants of the island.”

On her days off in Bermuda, Martinez often did additional research in the country’s archives, but the digs were what she enjoyed most.

“You’re actually pulling history out of the ground, and these artifacts are telling the story of a place,” she said. “You just don’t get that experience in a classroom.”

Martinez continued her research once she returned to Pacific. She is doing an independent study with Assistant Professor Kris Alexanderson on Atlantic maritime history, studying shipping routes and maritime travel to the Americas, particularly the Caribbean.

Martinez is excited to be going back to Bermuda in May — in fact, she knows exactly how many days until she leaves again.

“I feel I have only experienced the tip of the iceberg in this area of study, and I look forward to expanding my intellectual and geographic horizons,” said Martinez. “I have developed a passion for Bermudian history, and I look forward to continuing my archaeological journey next year.”

Martinez was one of 20 undergraduate students in the College of the Pacific who received Pacific Fund grants in 2014. Other recipients included biology major Henry Le, who used the funds to organize Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month activities on campus, and international studies major Vanessa Fuentes, who traveled to Brazil. Pacific Fund grants are made possible by the generous annual support of alumni, parents, employees, students and friends. More information:  

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