The following story was featured in the Fall 2022 Providence Magazine. CLICK HERE to read the full magazine.
Student spotlight: Rebecca Brach (‘23)
Since childhood, Rebecca Brach (’23) has had a passion for learning about lost civilizations.
While most kids dream of being an astronaut or a veterinarian, Brach would spend her early days reading about the pyramids of Egypt, or studying the Mayan ruins of El Salvador, hoping that one day she would explore these ancient cultures for herself, and discover the mysteries that surround their disappearance and decay.
“I like puzzles,” says Brach. “I like asking questions and finding answers. I think that’s what drew me to anthropology and archeology when I was young— I love discovering the truth.” It was this love for the truth that attracted Brach to attend Providence Christian College. In August 2020, Brach enrolled in Providence’s Philosophy, Politics, and History (PPH) concentration, which provided humanities courses that further deepened her understanding of mankind and her love for learning.
“Providence has taught me how to think critically and ask deeper, more meaningful questions about the world,” says Brach. “The professors have encouraged me to seek as complete an understanding about God and humanity as possible.”
As her love for anthropology has grown, Brach was given a rare chance to further her passion for solving history’s great mysteries.
In June 2022, during the summer hiatus from her studies at Providence, Brach, along with 15 other students from across the nation, were selected from nearly one hundred candidates to embark on a six-week archeological excavation located in the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The purpose of the dig, facilitated by New Mexico State University (NMSU) through a Spanish land grant, was to uncover the remnants of an historic plaza, which was the home of 17 Spaniard families who abandoned their settlement after an attack from an indigenous tribe in 1770.
What did these Spanish families take with them when they abandoned their homes? Did the settlers leave any significant artifacts after they departed? Did they keep their dwellings intact? Or, did they destroy them so that the attackers wouldn’t be able to reside in their homes after they left?
These were just some of the questions that Brach and her team attempted to answer during their excavation.
The demands of such a project proved to be monumental for Brach. While on the site, she would awake at 4:30 AM, clear the site of natural debris, lay out units for measuring, dig for artifacts, sort and wash antiquities, and journal her findings, which would later be included in a formal report of the excavation.
Despite the demanding work, the field course fulfilled a childhood dream for Brach, offering her an unprecedented opportunity to traverse the remnants of a pivotal moment in New Mexican history. As part of her findings, Brach uncovered pieces of animal bones, leftover food from the colonists, and portions of the settlers’ dwellings— all crucial elements to piecing together a lost moment in time.
“I loved the excitement of the entire process and the feeling of discovery.” says Brach. “While we didn’t get answers to all of our questions, we learned so much about the individuals of this settlement, their habits, and their personalities. It was an incredible learning experience.”
For Brach, the learning will continue. Upon graduating from Providence in May 2023, She hopes to embark on a new anthropological excavation in the Pacific Islands of Hawaii. Following the completion of this dig, Brach plans to participate in other field school opportunities, gaining the excavating and surveying experience necessary to pursue archeology professionally.
As Brach reflects upon her time at Providence Christian College, she acknowledges how a Reformed Christian Liberal Arts education equipped her not only for anthropological exploration, but also prepared her for a life of seeking God for the answers.
“Providence has prepared me to ask the hard questions about mankind. The more I dig, the more I learn about our sovereign Creator. Everything in this world is broken by sin, but we can still see the beauty of God’s creation, and in the people from the past, who were made in His image.”