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Blinn anthropology students canvas World War II prisoner-of-war camp

Students put their classroom studies to use at Camp Hearne

May 8, 2014

More than 50 Blinn College anthropology students recently put their classroom studies to work in the field at a 500-acre World War II prisoner-of-war historical site.

Cultural anthropology and physical anthropology students conducted an archeological dig at Camp Hearne, where more than 4,800 German, Italian and Japanese prisoners of war put on plays, built sculptures and played sports to pass the time from 1942 until the camp closed in 1946.

“We want the students to have the taste of a dig,” said Dr. Michelle Raisor, Social Sciences professor, who facilitated the trip along with Social Sciences professor Dr. Dawn Marshall. “They get to see the context of how it’s done, the right and wrong ways to go about it. They’re not digging for gold or dinosaur bones, but it’s an exciting learning experience.”

Phillip Vivar, a second-year student from Flower Mound studying to become a forensics investigator, analyzed animal bones Raiser had found while setting up at the site. Though the remains weren’t part of the history of Camp Hearne, they told a story of Blinn’s anthropology courses.

“It turns out the bones belonged to a pit bull involved in dog fighting,” Vivar said. “We knew that because its canines had been cut so it could wound other dogs without killing them.”

Vivar’s father, an anthropologist, joined him on the dig.

“It was cool for my dad to see me in action; to take that TV-fiction perspective out of what I want to do,” Vivar said. “He was very impressed with what I’ve learned, all thanks to Dr. Raisor’s classes.”

At least one dig is scheduled each Fall and Spring semester, depending upon weather conditions. Anthropology students will have the chance to attend another dig in the Fall semester at Camp Hearne’s Living History event in October.

“There was a map that showed where the barracks and other buildings stood when the land was clear, said Forest King, a first-year student from College Station. “Now it’s covered in dense trees. Just to know that at some point it was something completely different, and to be able to study that is amazing.”

Blinn enrolled 18,413 students this Fall and has experienced 31.1 percent growth since 2006. Founded in 1883, the College’s tuition and fees average about one-third the cost of the same classes at most four-year public universities in the state. In addition to its campuses in Brenham, Bryan, Schulenburg and Sealy, the College teaches online courses, dual credit for high school and prepares students for quick employment through its career and technical certification programs.