Meet AFAR Staff Member and Archaeologist, Stan Guenther
Raking stones for a new driveway at his family home in the early 1980s, he uncovered pieces of pottery that led him down a path to explore his interest in ancient cultures. As a young boy, he lived in Belize and never imagined his professional career studying Mesoamerican cultures would bring him back to the country that kick-started his interest in Archaeology. Originally from a tiny town outside Manitoba, Canada, he’s moved 25 times since then with stops to gain his Master’s Degree and PhD in Archeology. With a busy summer schedule of fieldwork ahead, he currently calls Exeter, England home - where we had a chance to catch-up with Stan and learn more about the life of an archaeologist on the move.
Q: Tell us how you started your involvement with AFAR? I met Mat Saunders at a Hieroglyph conference in Belize in 2001. My specialty is reading hieroglyphs and I often present at conferences. In 2009 I saw Mat again and learned that he needed someone to fill in for Christophe, presenting work on Hieroglyphs. The rest, as they say, is history.
Q: Tell us when and where you’ve worked with AFAR? I’ve work on all four sites but focus mainly on Cahal Pech. I began regular field work about four years ago and have traveled to Portugal, Spain and Greece. And I also attend all the conferences.
Q: What other sites have you worked at? I’ve worked with three projects in Guatemala, at the sites of El Peru-Waka, La Corona, and a number in the Mirador Basin, as well as Lake Minnewanka, in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada, and at Phnom Kulen in Cambodia.
Q: What is your favorite memory from AFAR? Jamal and I were commissioned by Mat to organize a trip for the Board of AFAR to Guatemala. Barbara, one of the Board members, came with sister and her mom, Mary Lib Trent, who was 89 years old. She had traveled in Belize in the 1970s and wanted to make this journey. Although many of the sites seemed inaccessible for Mary Lib, Jamal and I managed to get her in and out the sites – either on horseback, motorcycle, cattle truck -- you name it. I’ll never forget it.
Q: What has been the most rewarding thing you taken from your experience? Seeing our students in the next phase of their lives – moving on to college and making career choices.
Q: What was the toughest thing about working on an AFAR project? Scheduling! There are lots of field project going on in the summer and making it all work in a challenge.
Q: Who is the hardest working student you’ve worked with on an AFAR Project? I’d have to say McCarthy Strahan. The last few years he’s been to every project each summer. A lot of college students studying in this field won’t even do archaelogy for that amount of time.
Q: As an archaeologist, how do you think working on a project like AFAR as a teen would have impacted your path? It would have been a kick-start for me. In high school I read a book that changed my life called
A Forest of Kings, by Linda Schele and David Freidel. I was 7 at the time. It wasn’t until I was 22 that I went on to do actual archeology. AFAR takes people at an impressionable age and allows you to figure out if this is your future path. It provides exposure to different cultures and they get to see how cultures have changed through time. AFAR makes better world citizens of these kids who get to travel and learn about societies before them.
Q: If you had to pick one non-essential item to pack for a project, what would it be? Definitely a handkerchief. I use them as protection from bugs… to swat flies… tie to pants if belt breaks.
Speed Round with Mat Saunders…
Do you have a hobby? Music
Favorite movie? Caribe, a movie about gun running filmed in Belize in 1987.
Favorite musician? The War on Drugs
Something Very Few People Know About You? That I used to live in Belize as a child.
What did you want to be when you were a kid? Until high school, I wanted to be the curator of local Agricultural Museum of Manitoba. My dad worked at the museum and used to bring me there. A few years ago, that job actually opened up.
What would you do now if you weren’t an Archaeologist? I’d be an Entomologist. Studying ants and bees with tiny brains and social communities would be fascinating work.
Three people that you would like to work with onsite? David Pendergast, Elizabeth Graham. Pendergast was THE archeologist in Belize. Liz Graham was commissioner at the time.
What site would like to work at that you haven’t? The Lamania site (where we take students on a weekend excursion).