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Peru provides unique learning opportunity.

As a young girl growing up in rural North Dakota, Linda Olson paid attention to the terrain. Rocks and prairie grass were part of the everyday landscape, but it wasn't until many years later at university when Linda Olson found out that rock art existed in North Dakota. Since then, the Minot State University humanities chair has traveled the United States pursuing her passion for ancient rock art in canyons, caves, deserts - wherever petroglyphs are found. This May, she found herself in Perú, a land of bold colors and ancient architecture, and took advantage of the opportunity to investigate one of Perú's most famous rock art sites, the Nazca Lines.

Olson's love of rock art became her primary research focus after taking a course at the University of North Dakota. She learned about the field of rock art research, and later she was invited to participate in a research pilot project testing recording procedures and their impact on the very record they sought to preserve. Olson has spent the last 20 years providing a definitive, artistic record of petroglyphs created by people on rock surfaces and investigating sites, primarily in Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado.

"I share my passion for this aspect of archaeology with students who wish to participate in the fieldwork and the lab work that follows. I hope to share the learning and opportunities for growth that I have experienced," said Olson.

Olson's primary research is in the United States, and for several years her focus has been in central Wyoming. She has visited rock art sites in other countries, and shared her work with professionals in other areas but has never actively sought work abroad.

"As an artist working among archaeologists, I found a niche for the skills I had developed through my training as an art generalist at Minot State University," said Olson. "Working with conservators, archaeologists and experts has honed my skills in my chosen research field. As a practicing artist, I can make a unique contribution."

In addition to improving her Spanish language skills and getting to know the Peruvian culture, participation in a MSU study abroad tour allowed her to extend her work internationally. She viewed remnants of several central South American pre-historic cultures and photographed the infamous Nazca lines. Olson also gave a lecture on North American rock art in the Department of Humanities at Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Perú in Lima.

"Studying Spanish and learning more about Perú was such an opportunity," Olson said. "I met people with similar interests, made new friends, viewed the practices within a Peruvian university and saw firsthand many exciting places, from Caral, the oldest civilization in the Americas; to Machu Picchu, one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World."

Along with Olson, several MSU students and faculty traveled on a five-week Spanish immersion adventure to Perú. MSU Spanish instructor Kemerly Moorhouse led the group on a journey that began May 25 with meeting host families in Lima, Perú. The following three weeks, students attended Spanish language classes in the morning, while afternoons and evenings were reserved for cultural activities. On weekends, they traveled to famous places such as Caral, Ica, Cusco and the Nazca Lines. The last two weeks were spent touring the Cusco region including an unforgettable visit to Machu Picchu.

"With increased facility in another language, new doors open and one is more comfortable taking advantage of the opportunity to study in another country," said Olson.

Olson and the students from the study abroad tour will give a public presentation about Peru and its customs on January 23, 2012.