Catharina Santasilia (UC Riverside, Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology) has been featured in Medium’s latest issue. Santasilia was a participant in the Rise of Civilization in Mesoamerica Conference back in February 2018.
Forget the hat and whip made famous by Indiana Jones. For a preteen Catharina E. Santasilia, her love of archaeology started with Daniel Day-Lewis.
It was the actor’s star-making performance in “The Last of the Mohicans” that inspired the Denmark-born Santasilia’s lifelong interest in indigenous peoples and the things they left behind.
“I’ve always been curious,” said 34-year-old Santasilia, who goes by “Cat,” and is an international doctoral student in UC Riverside’s Department of Anthropology. “But two things happened after I watched ‘The Last of the Mohicans.’ I, like many girls, fell in love with Daniel Day-Lewis, and I developed a fascination with the Americas, which is one of the reasons why I wanted so badly to come to the United States.”
Her fascination — cultivated over six summers in Belize studying ancient Maya sites — came to a head in 2015, in downtown Riverside, of all places. Tucked inside a storage room at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, Santasilia made a discovery that would alter the course of her nascent archaeology career: a collection of nondescript boxes, bequeathed to the museum in 2003 by the descendants of a local archaeologist, which contained never-before-displayed remnants of a 3,000-year-old Mesoamerican society.