John Hoopes could be described as Kansas University's version of Indiana Jones.
Hoopes, 33, assistant professor of anthropology, has traveled to Central America 10 times since 1978 and has explored caves, dug up archaeological sites, rubbed elbows with guerrillas and lived with natives there, much like the well-chronicled anthropology professor of the big screen, Indiana Jones.
During his latest excursion this spring, Hoopes and 17 students excavated two archaeological sites in Costa Rica, where members of the team encountered African killer bees and were invited to participate in a local re-enactment of Christ's crucifixion.
"It was a great program," Hoopes said. "There's nothing like getting out of this country and looking in it gives you a different perspective."
AS PART OF KU's Study Abroad program, Hoopes and the team excavated charcoal, bones and pottery at two sites near Golfito Bay in southern Costa Rica from Feb. 1 until the end of April.
The field trip was part of a $43,435 National Science Foundation grant Hoopes received to establish an archaeological field research and language study program.
The artifacts unearthed by the students in their digs will be used in a "human ecology" or environmental archaeology study to determine how people lived on a daily basis.
"Understanding how ancient populations used natural resources also can help us to develop models for the continuing use of these resources in the future," he said.
Artifacts collected will be analyzed and may be used to establish an archaeological museum in Costa Rica, he said.
DURING AN exploration of the area around one of the archaeological sites, Hoopes said that he and three students encountered a potentially dangerous situation.
"All of the sudden one of the students yelled, `Look out!' and I heard this buzzing sound," he said. "We all ran as fast as we could and when we got to the edge of this swamp we each had about 20 bees circling around our heads, and we had to jump into the swamp and hold our noses until the bees went away.
"Later I found out we had been attacked by the famous `killer bees.'"
In another incident, one of the students, Chris Raymond, Kearney, Neb., was invited to participate in a local re-enactment of the events leading to Christ's death. Raymond was asked to play Christ because of his long-haired, bearded appearance.
IN ADDITION to learning archaeology, Hoopes said, the students learned much about Latin American cultures. They received 12 hours of college credit for the course.
"This is what you'd call a total learning experience," he said. "I think every student at the university should go out of the country to study before they graduate."