Student Life

International Research

The AFAR Program at Davidson Day

The American Foreign Academic Research (AFAR) Program at Davidson Day is pioneering full-scale archaeological field research and cultural site preservation for pre-collegiate students.

Since inception in 2006, AFAR demonstrates that scientific discovery can and should be advanced through the education and outreach of professionals and non-professionals alike.

The AFAR program goes beyond the boundaries of this important academic research, creating a bridge to international cultures and communities, and through Davidson Day educates and engages students from elementary through high school and beyond.

The AFAR Program at Davidson Day is a distinctive, one-of-a-kind enriching experience that pairs students with professionals and scholars from top universities and with government departments of archaeology and culture for an immersive, in-depth academic and research experience at real-world archaeological sites of great importance.

From the Field: Student Blog Posts

List of 4 news stories.

  • Timeless Ball Games in Belize

    Sullivan Young '22
    AFAR students and ancient Maya civilizations share a competitive spirit—displayed through playing ball games. Though the Maya ball game and soccer differ, the common goal is to WIN on the field.
    Read More
  • Excavating the Language Barrier

    Caleb Tate '20
    While having local workers help you on the site of Mieza, Greece, is extremely helpful, it is often difficult to interact with them. Each “tetragono” on site has one or two workers to help keep the excavation process moving.
    Read More
  • One Man's Trash

    Sydney Brown '21
    One interesting lesson that I learned through AFAR's 2019 Portugal Excavation changed my view of the world—that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and that treasure can have a larger impact on life than you think.
    Read More
  • My Archaeology Ground Zero

    Israella Freidline '20
    “One rock is a rock. Two rocks are a coincidence. Three rocks are a wall.” This is the first lesson I was taught on the site of my first archaeological expedition. My second? One can never bring too many socks. 
    Read More
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Beyond the Classroom. Around the World

List of 5 items.

  • Portugal

    Located on the central coast of Portugal, the site of Troia is only 50 km from Lisbon but a 15-minute boat trip from Setubal, a city dating to the Roman Period and Middle Ages. The Peninsula of Troia is a sandy area where a number of fish-processing factories were built to produce salted fish and fish sauces, including the famous garum.

    Once complete, the fish derivatives were put in amphorae and transported by boat to regions spanning the Mediterranean, including Rome. These factories, dating back to the first century, employed many people and expanded into a town with houses, baths, wells, cemeteries and at a late moment, an early Christian basilica with well-preserved wall paintings. Since 20018, our team has investigated a portion of the massive fish salting factory.

    In addition to excavations, our team enjoys many exciting cultural and natural excursions around Portugal. We visit the palace-filled city of Sintra, see the highlights of Lisbon on Tuk-Tuks, and also visit the neighboring city of Setubal a number of times.
  • Greece

    Home to paths once walked by Aristotle and Alexander the Great, the ancient Macedonian city of Mieza has been investigated by the AFAR team since 2017. The site itself is a small yet very impressive part of the ancient city and its cemeteries that have been excavated during the past fifty years.

    Students examine the location where Aristotle taught Alexander and the royal pages, a large ancient theater, impressive tombs with beautifully painted facades, and villas which housed prominent citizens during the Macedonian Kingdom and Roman times.

    We continue to expand upon several major discoveries made during the 2017 and 2018 research trips, including nine early Christian tombs, six mosaic floors, and a previously unknown section of the ancient walled city that was remarkably well-preserved.

    Students supplement their research with trips to Athens, Delphi, Mt. Olympus, Veroia, and Aigai.
  • Spain

    The Castillo de Zorita de los Canes is situated an hour and a half east of Madrid and casts its dominating shadow over the Tagus River.

    This ancient fortress contains the fingerprints of four of Spain’s major medieval cultures: Muslims used Visigothic stone from the nearby city of Recopolis to build the fortress which was later occupied by Christian Crusaders and Jewish Settlers.

    For the last six summers, the AFAR program at Davidson Day has sent teams of students to uncover the secrets within the walls of this magnificent castle.

    To supplement their experience, the research teams spend evenings and weekends visiting natural and culturally significant landmarks across the country.
  • Belize

    Since 2006, our research teams have conducted ongoing research at the ancient Maya site of Cahal Pech in western Belize.

    The site core of Cahal Pech is formed of a number of plazas made by structures such as palaces of Cahal Pech’s royal family, the administrative buildings of the realm, as well as large pyramids built to honor the city’s gods and to serve as memorials over the tombs of the nobility.

    Cahal Pech also includes two ballcourts, where Cahal Pech’s noblemen once played the famous Maya ballgame, a game that saw the first use of rubber balls in sports and where the losers sometimes lost not only the game but also their heads.
    Since 2015, our investigations at Cahal Pech have focused our efforts on the site’s western ball court which is associated with the royal palatial plaza.

    Participating students supplement their research with visits to the Maya sites of Xunantunich and Lamanai, as well as the cave site of Actun Tunichil Muknal, the Iguana Conservation Center, and the beachside town of Placencia.
  • International Conferences

    In addition to conducting field research, the AFAR Program at Davidson Day hosts two international conferences each year which have become among the most important and informative explorations of Maya Archaeology.

    These conferences include student research presentations and workshops for students to collaborate with and learn from professional archaeologists and scholars.

    Beyond the conferences hosted at Davidson Day by the AFAR Program, students regularly present at international conferences each year, including at the University of Calgary’s annual archaeology conference and the delivery of a collaborative keynote lecture and presentation at a conference hosted by the National Museum of Finland in Helsinki in early 2020.
Davidson Day School is an independent private school for students 2 years old through 12th grade in the Lake Norman region of Charlotte.

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