Belize


I’m officially halfway through my field school experience and am currently sitting around waiting to see if the rain decides to let us work today. We’ve finally collected enough information to start forming some ideas about how this site was used in the past. The size of the structures in combination with the amount of lithics present as well as the varying sizes of lithics being found are leading us to believe that this could possibly have been a lithics production site. This would be really interesting for Mayan archaeology because there is only one other known lithics production site. Over the years people have said a lot about the Mayan elites and lower class, but not so much has been said about a middle class. If this is indeed another production site, the professors think this could be the perfect site to learn more about this proposed middle class. The only problem is we’re running out of time to collect more data. Working on a new site has been exciting for its sheer unpredictability, but at the same time frustrating because everyone is so hesitant to make definite statements about what went on there. Bottom line, I want to know more!

happy thoughts and fun times,

Sara Pitts

Super exciting news! A couple of days ago the 2 main guys in charge Samuel Connell and John Morris got lost while trying to find another route to Aguacate and ended up accidentally finding an entirely different/new site about 2 1/2 km away. As of yet all of us students have yet to see this new site because they are trying to negotiate with the Menonites who own all the land to convince them to let us excavate that site too. So cross your fingers for me because the professors said this site was just as big if not bigger than the one we’re currently digging at and I really want to see it!

At my excavation unit we’re still finding mostly flakes and sherds but today we also found several hammerstones and have uncovered a surprisingly intact stair-step. We also have collected enough sherds to tentativly date the latest occupation of the site to the late classic period.

More info to come as soon as I have it and the internet decides to work! 🙂

Today was the first actual day of excavation and the group I was in made a 4×4 grid at the bottom of a mound approximately 30x20m and about 18m tall. We have found 1 or 2 looting pits around the site but we’re the first archaeologists to actually dig at the site so we don’t really know what we’re gonna find. We don’t even know when the site was built! Hopefully by the end of the 5 weeks we’ll actually be able to answer some questions about it. And hopefully none of the giant spiders kill me before then! 😉 Actual digging starts tomorrow and I’m crossing my fingers we’ll know more soon.

-Sara Pitts

On Wednesday I took a guided tour through the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave (more easily known as the ATM cave). It took about 30 minutes to hike to the mouth of the cave and we spent about 3 1/2 hours inside the cave. It was more interesting due to the fact that a river runs through the cave meaning we did pretty much everything: squeeze through tight spots, climb up dry rocks, wade through knee-deep water, swim, and any intermediate option you can think of. The cave was gorgeous! It had stalactites, stalagmites, full columns, other neat rock formations I don’t know the names of, lots of fish near the mouth of the cave, adorable little bats, a couple of crickets, and one of the biggest spiders I’ve ever seen in person. And the icing on the cake was that about half a mile into the cave it suddenly turns into an archaeological site with hundreds of pottery shards, some of which were nearly complete, and about half a dozen skulls and skeletons. Although the site was amazing and I’m glad I was able to see it, I was astonished by the fact that so many amazing artifacts were just lying around in the open of what has essentially become a tourist trap. The most barriers I ever saw were a few bright pieces of tape on the ground surrounding the more complete ceramics and all of the skeletons, but this in no way stops any of the artifacts from being damaged and the majority or artifacts had no barriers surrounding them at all. The particular tour guide I ended up with had been doing this for about 8 years and he pointed out numerous items throughout the tour that tourists had damaged over the years. There was even a quarter sized hole in one of the skulls from a tourist accidentally dropping something on it. While I understand the difficulties of excavating inside a cave, I find it surprising that so much information and history are being allowed to get destroyed like they are. I’ve read about issues involving tourism at ancient sites before and the damage it causes vs. the money the country receives from the tourism but seeing it up close and in person for the first time definitely adds a whole new perspective. I think it’s totally senseless to let such damage occur, but I understand why it happens and I also think the public deserves to see such amazing pieces of history. I only wish I had a quick fix for such a complicated dilemma. Any ideas? I guess for now all I can do is enjoy what I was able to see and make sure that I don’t contribute to any of that tourist damage when I see Xunantunich tomorrow.

Have a good weekend everyone!

-Sara Pitts

So there are less than 24 hours until I leave for Belize to finally start my summer program and I’m still desperately trying to get everything packed on time. Reading hunter blatherer over the summer has been pretty insightful and always interesting but I still feel pretty clueless about what to expect in Belize. Thankfully though, by this time tomorrow night I should have a much better idea. 🙂

OK, back to packing…

-Sara Pitts