SCRAP 2018 Public Outreach & Engagement

Once again this season, SCRAP has engaged in a series of public outreach and engagement activities. Our 2018 activities have included local teachers and cultural representatives visiting the site; local student volunteers coming to learn to excavate; community get-togethers to discuss ongoing archaeological investigations and to view and handle artifacts discovered this year and in previous seasons; and presentations at village meetings to formally inform community members of our activities, results, and future plans with regard to our research.

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A new activity this year focused on our field school student involvement in this outreach. As a final examination challenge, students were asked to create a series of pamphlets to distribute to community members. Two pamphlets were created by each team of students: one introducing the site of Alabama and the other introducing archaeology. We are happy to say the results were a success. Our entire team–including foreign and local members–then voted on their favourite in each category. Last Saturday, we distributed two pamphlets–slightly adjusted here and there–at the village clean-up meeting.

Click on the links below to download the final pamphlet versions:

Alabama_Pamphlet-FINAL

Archaeology_Pamphlet-FINAL

Click on the links below to download the original designs submitted by each group:

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PlumbBobbettes_Group-Alabama

Ixtuculil_Group-Archaeology

Ixtuculil_Group-Alabama

Chulche_Group-Archaeology

Chulche_Group-Alabama

Our final public outreach event this season will be to present our recent research next week at the annual Belize Archaeology Symposium in San Ignacio, Cayo District. This conference is not only attended by other researchers, but also be Belizean students, teachers, tour guides, etc. See the schedule of talks below:

SCRAP 2018 Week 5: Final Field School Week

Here is our final blog entry from our field school students–but don’t worry, the rest of the team will keep you posted about the coming week.

Monday, June 11th, 2018

We got back to the field after a lovely weekend away. It’s the students’ last week in the field and we are excited to wrap up our excavations. It felt like an early morning again after our glorious sleep-in on Sunday.

In the settlement, we finished digging down inside the structure. It was all fill, with some ceramic sherds (as always!). Johana and Kristine drew a profile while Gill dug a 50cm x 50cm hole down as far as she could in 50 minutes, since it was the end of the day. We were hoping to get to sterile soil – meaning there are no artifacts in it, and we would finish excavating. We didn’t quite get there, as there were still a couple ceramic pieces found in screening.

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From the left: Mr. Paquiul, Gill, Kristine and Dr. Shawn Morton finishing up – taken by Johana Delos Reyes

In the monumental core, Structure 10 was as eventful as ever! Doug began excavating the hole he found and recovered carbon for radiocarbon dating. They dug below the cobble fall in lot 5B-4 and encountered a packed clay surface, which they believe is the plaza floor. They excavated through the surface, which was only 2cm thick, and found a ballast of gravel and small cobbles. They also removed all of the cobbles in lot 5A-5 and dark dirt, exposing a red clay interval.

In structures 1/2 6A, they continued exposing several possible packed floor surfaces, and were trying to expose the facade of structure 2. Lower down, the group removed 9 granite stones from the rock fall (tough work!) and exposed what appears to be two parallel rows of stones – a possible wall.

Once we got back from site, we had Lab and some of the students catalogued general artifacts while others practiced cataloguing small finds. Seems like it should maybe be simple, but it’s not so obvious! Then we had Miss Elta and Miss Yolie’s tasty cooking for dinner.

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

As we tried to get in the Vomit Comet (the van) and pull away, we realized we had a flat tire! So we had a slow start to the morning. We got to the site about an hour late.

Shawn, Johana and Kristine went to the settlement for just a couple hours in the morning, to dig the 50cm x 50cm hole down a bit deeper and find sterile soil. They dug down about 60cm altogether. And finished up with the unit. Sad to say goodbye!

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The settlement unit with the hole in the middle – photo by Gillian Taylor

At structure 10, they began extending the 1m wide plaza trench into the building in 5B to continue looking for architecture, didn’t find any. In 5A they removed a red clay layer to find it was approximately 25cm thick. Doug accompanied Dr. Joanne Potter (our geologist) and discovered a lot of different types of granites and learned about the milpas on the hillsides surrounding Alabama.

At lunch, it was Miss Juana’s birthday, so we sang her Happy Birthday. And then they gave us ice cream! They’re too nice to us.

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Ms. Juana and Mr. Catarino. Photo by Gillian Taylor

At structures 1/2, the upper unit was continuing work to expose the surface. They dug down and hit the fill of the building. Woohoo! The lower unit mapped the top plan and profiles all day. It was a trying, but rewarding experience.

We got back to base and had our showers, and after dinner, Dr. Linda Howie gave a talk about petrography and how it can be used to better understand the who/what/when of the people at Alabama. Very interesting!

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Doug accompanied the geologist Joanne to the quarry, and discovered what they think is hydrothermal dolomite – for us non-geologists, that’s dolomite (a type of carbonite) that’s had carbon deposited in it by hot water below. In 5B, they finished leveling a 50cm trench into the building and found nothing new. In 5A excavated they second 1m x 1m unit, finding nothing for 60cm except a piece of granite, which may be a cornerstone from one staircase (maybe), and nothing else. All lots were closed out. It seems like this structure was maybe previously excavated in the 80’s. Too bad!

On Structure 1/2 in the upper unit, they excavated a possible posthole and then finished taking measurements and drawing the plan view. Down below, they pulled three rocks, and exposed what appears to be the granite (always granite!!!) covered surface of the building. They completed the profile, and pulled two more rocks, further exposing the face (?!?!). They also dug a 1m x 50cm hole, where in the last 10 minutes, they came down on half of a round granite slab–to be investigated next week. An exciting day for the students to finish on, leaving lots of work for the future!

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Mr. H. Chiac  Jr., Mr. L. Salam, and Mr. J. Chiac removing one of the rocks under the supervision of Dr. Reese-Taylor.  Photo by: Niki Phillips

The students from the settlement just tried to make themselves useful where they could.

After our day at site, we went back and voted on which pamphlet we liked best to give to the people of Maya Mopan. We had dinner, showered, and off to bed. We mention the shower because of how incredibly important it is. After a day digging in the heat of Belize – we stink!

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Our last full day in Belize! We had breakfast at the same time as usual, and then had a slow morning, packing up and getting ready to leave. We left the base at 9:00 to head to Maya Mopan for our outreach presentation!

Once most people showed up, Meaghan gave an awesome presentation about what has been done at Alabama, both before this year, and specifically what happened this season. Everyone had a chance to talk about their unit.

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Dr. Meaghan Peuramaki-Brown giving the presentation

Then the field assistants from Maya Mopan, as well as their families and friends, looked at some of the artifacts that we found both this year, and in the 2014 and 2016 excavations. It was so much fun to see the kids getting all excited and learning about all the artifacts.

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Everyone taking a look at some of the interesting artifacts – photo by Gillian Taylor

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We all had a delicious meal of rice and beans. We can’t believe how much amazing food Miss Juana made for us all!!

After lunch, we took some group photos, and the students said goodbye to some of the workers. Then, everyone that wanted to come hopped in the truck and the van to go to the waterfall. All the students, Shawn, Meaghan, Megan, Jill, Dr. Howie and her son Tristan, and Dr. Joanne, Sylvestro, Mr. Paquiul, Hinio Jr. and Mr. Alfonso came along. It was maybe a half hour walk, and then we played around in the beautiful waterfall.

 

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Photo taken by Gillian Taylor

We said goodbye to the last four guys before heading back to Maya Centre for a party! It was Miss Aurora’s birthday party/a goodbye party for us. Mr. Ernesto’s brother has a marimba band and they came and played us music, there were marimba dancers, and all the kitchen staff made amazing food (as always), but also partied and danced with us. It was such a lovely night, and we couldn’t have asked for a better send off.

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Miss Aurora in her beautiful dress – photo by Gillian Taylor

It was a great way to end our time there and we went to bed tired but happy.

Friday, June 15th, 2018

The day the student leave Belize!

We all woke up again at the normal time and had one last Belizean breakfast, Shawn and Meaghan loaded up all our suitcases, and we said goodbye to Miss Aurora and Mr. Ernesto, and all the kitchen staff – Rick, Miss Elta, Miss Yolie, and Kitty Soft Paws.

We hopped in the Vomit Comet one last time and drove the 2.5 hours to the airport, stopping at the Artbox (a tourist gift shop) on the way. All the students (and Megan) except for Nikki were headed home. She is staying for another week, scuba diving in the Cayes. Lucky! Kathryn also is leaving the site, but heading to Xunantunich to work there for a week before heading home.

We got to the airport nice and early, and found out our flight was an hour delayed. No biggie, we hung out, chatted and had snacks in the terminal. We flew from Belize to Houston, and were a bit worried about our shortened connection, but it ended up being just fine, and we got to Calgary at about 9:15pm. We were sad to leave, but happy to be home.

Thanks (botik) for reading – You’ll still be hearing lots more from Meaghan, Shawn and the crew in Belize.

Bye for now, Niki and Gill.

Some final group photos:

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SCRAP 2018 Week 4: Touring Belize and digging some more

Week 4 has been another week full of ups and downs–but mostly ups here in Stann Creek District and beyond.

Sunday (June 3)

Sunday was a very lazy day, where most of us slept for the most part, because we were still sick from the glorious Placencia. Some of us drank tap-water from the wrong place, some people ate meat that could have been bad, but most of us had heat exhaustion from not drinking enough water and sunbathing in the bright and hot sunshine.

The more fortunate of us, who were feeling good enough to eat lunch did an artifact-drawing workshop with Shawn.

In the evening, almost everybody ate (and held in) dinner. Yay!

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Monday (June 4)

On Monday, we did not excavate in our sites because the downpour from the previous day caused the units to flood. Instead, we spent the morning bailing the water out. The settlement area looked like it was affected but the water seemed to have drained out before we arrived. Unfortunately, the units in the monumental core flooded so we had to help bail the water out.

After, we visited the sites of Nim Li Punit and Lubaantun. We were supposed to visit these sites on Sunday but since most of us were sick, we decided to go today instead. It was rainy when we arrived at Nim Li Punit but that didn’t stop us from having a blast! Despite its small size, Nim Li Punit is famous for its many carved stelae. Interestingly, the site’s name came from a stela that depicts a figure wearing a large headdress! In the K’ekchi language, Nim Li Punit means “big hat.”

We visited the site of Lubaantun after we left Nim Li Punit. Lubaantun is known as the largest Maya site in Southern Belize and it is also famous for being the central location about the legend of the Crystal Skull. The Crystal Skull was allegedly discovered by Anna Mitchell-Hedges at the site of Lubaantun. Despite the wonders surrounding the Crystal Skull, the legend is proven to be false by modern science and is largely believed to be a forgery by the public as well.

Tuesday (June 5)

On structure 10 (Operation 5) we have closed Lot #3 which was at what we assume is the plaza area. We have continued to dig horizontally inside the structure, hoping to find the fill of the building and some more defined architecture.

In the settlement area (site ALA – 045A), we finished the top plan drawing for sub-operations 3F and 3C in order to map out the rocks that make up the platform. We also finished the cross-section drawing to map the rocks in the southern portion of the sub-operations.

Large part of the day was also spent on trying to save the site from flooding (again). However, this time the water just started soaking through the soil and because the whole operation is on a slope, there was nothing we could do about it. As the rain got stronger after lunch, we had to leave one hour early after the local field assistants helped us fix the tarps. We can only hope that we don’t have to build SCRAP’s Ark tomorrow.

After work, Dr. Kathryn Reese-Taylor who arrived yesterday, checked up on all of us who are working on independent research paper, to find out if we need any help. She is very approachable and helpful so we are sure everything will go smoothly. Meaghan then gave a lecture about household and settlement archaeology.

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Wednesday (June 6)

Finally a sunny day! It significantly lifted up everybody’s mood, which made the day go by much faster. Therefore, lots of work was done on both structure 10 and in the settlement.

After bailing water from the northwest corner of sub operation 5B we had to map the whole structure 10 (operation 5), both from top and profile view, as there were many changes in Lots going on. The mapping was slightly more complicated than it probably had to be, as we have caused ourselves some problems with miscommunicating the data. Next time we will make sure that only the person drawing the map is recording all the data necessary, as it should help avoid any uncertainties that cause us our precious time.

Digging in the building we have reached a cobbled surface and Mira has found our operation’s first piece of obsidian, about 2×1 cm big.

In the settlement area (Site ALA – 045A) we began to excavate the middle portion of our sub-operation (3F), and a part of the previously excavated sub-operation 3C from 2016, inside the platform feature in hopes to uncover something. We designated it as Lot 15 and we had to dig very carefully in case something important is found. I wonder what we’ll find inside!

During lab Shawn taught the rest of us how to draw artifacts and we love it!  Many of us will probably consider volunteering in the ARKY labs at U of C and maybe making some extra cash with this cool new skill.

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Thursday (June 7)

On Thursday we discovered a red clay in a vein like shape in sub operation 5A. In 5B, going inside the building we noticed changes in matrix and identified three different ones, so we made artificial stairs to divide the matrixes and be able to make a top plan map if them.

Out in the settlement area, one of our local field staff (Mr. Juan Paquiul), found a very large portion of a ceramic vessel in the northwest corner of the unit. Apparently, this find is the most complete vessel found in the site of Alabama thus far (how sad)!

In the evening, Kathryn gave a lecture about her own research at the site of Yaxnohcah. The site is located in the state of Campeche in Southern Mexico and has been occupied since the Preclassic Period. Yaxnohcah is considered one of the largest Preclassic sites in the Maya Lowlands in terms of the structures in the site and its area.

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Friday (June 8)

Today went by very slowly, as most of the day at structure 10 was spent mapping the area with red clay as well as Lot #4 (dig through building). Very little soil has been screened so we didn’t find anything significant except a few pieces of daub.

In the settlement area, we finished digging Lot #17 in the middle portion of the platform and began excavating Lot #18. We found some lithics, pottery sherds, an obsidian, and an  interesting piece that could be amber!

In the evening we watched a documentary about the Maya ‘collapse,’ with a particular focus on archaeological investigations of caves in the Cayo District of Belize.

Saturday (June 9)

Early in the morning we set out on the road to Cayo. We finally got to see the beautiful Hummingbird highway, through which we all slept the first day arriving from the airport. Our first stop was the sight of Xunantunich. There we met Dr. Jason Yaeger whose archaeological group is still excavating the site and it’s hinterlands to this day. He gave us a great tour around, explaining all the building’s purposes and the meanings of symbols on the main palace. We climbed on top of El Castillo and had the most amazing view of the whole site and the jungle and cities surrounding.

After, we went to have lunch at Benny’s and checked in at the gorgeous Martha’s Inn. It’s luxurious rooms were a welcomed (and needed) change for all of us.

As soon as we were done exploring San Ignacio and having some foo-foo drinks, we were invited for a BBQ party at Meaghan and Shawn’s friend’s house. Miss Kay taught us how to make tortillas and fry jacks. Later in the evening Adela was happily surprised by a birthday cake for her upcoming birthday. It was delicious! The evening was very pleasant and relaxing for everybody, as well as the night spent on the comfy beds.

 

Sunday (June 10)

We left the inn early in the morning to get breakfast and Erva’s Restaurant (thank you to Karim and the entire staff) and then headed out to the site of Cahal Pech. We got an exclusive tour from Dr. Claire Ebert who conducted research at Cahal Pech. Cahal Pech dates to the Early Middle Preclassic making it one of the oldest Maya sites in Western Belize. Claire guided us around the site and then we were given free time to explore the site ourselves. About halfway through our tour however, rain started and continued for the rest of time at Cahal Pech. Despite the sudden downpour, we had a lot of fun exploring the site and its passages in the structures!

After Cahal Pech, we drove to the Blue Hole to swim into. We decided to swim in the Hole despite the slightly colder weather and the freezing water and had a blast! We also went into the cave in the Blue Hole just to see what it looked like and found darkness and bats!

Then we finally went home to Maya center after a fantastic weekend in the Cayo district before dinner. We also met the new members of the SCRAP Project: Jill Jordan, Linda Howie, and Joanne Potter, who all arrived over the weekend.

We are looking forward for the last week of the field school and we hope you enjoyed this blog!

Adela & Johana

SCRAP 2018 Week 3: Five Days on Site in Lovely Belize

After a full week of excavating we have some interesting things to update everyone on! In the rainy morning of Sunday, May 27th we took a tour of the cacao fields and got to see how cacao beans are harvested and dried. We then went to the chocolate factory and made our own chocolate using traditional Maya methods. Picture1

Later in the afternoon some of us went to the Serpon sugar mill, where we saw several ornate pieces of mill equipment from the 1800’s that were left behind. The most impressive was a one-cylinder steam engine, a large iron fly wheel, several very large gears and two large boilers, used to drive a powerful rolling mill to crush the cane. I wonder if there were any accidents?IMG_5210

On Monday, the 28th, at the excavation down in the settlement, rain overnight poured over our sandbag barrier and collapsed part of the north wall, fortunately there was not much damage and we could continue with excavations. We are now on our 5th lot and into the formal residential building. We are able to determine this by the decrease in artifacts, and the matrix being filled with more gravel.

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On building #10 we completed the first Lot on the south half of our operation (sub-operation 5A) after digging an average of 10cm through the clay loam to a shallow level of gravel. We then started to excavate the plaza area in Lot #2 on the north side (sub-operation 5B). A fellow student (Miranda George) found a very interesting pottery handle and won the “Find for the Day” prize (a sweet cowboy hat with the Belize flag on it). In the afternoon for our lab we split into two groups, one doing a photography workshop with our supervisor Dave Blaine, learning about the basics of artifact photography. The other group was with our program director Dr. Meaghan Peuramaki-Brown, where they learned how to properly catalogue the artifacts found in our excavations.

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Tuesday the 29th at the settlement (sub-operation 3F) we took 3 charcoal samples for dating. After our 6th lot was completed we extended our pit in two directions, 50cm to the north and 30cm to the south in hopes of uncovering more of the stones from the wall structure. (insert picture of settlement from Tuesday). In operation 6B we uncovered many slabs of granite, one of the local Maya field assistants found two pieces of obsidian blades. That evening we learned about the chronology of the ancient Maya in Belize, and talked about several representative sites including Cahal Pech and Lubaantun, both of which we will be visiting.

Wednesday the 30th at structure #10, it has been 2 full days of all-hands-on-deck digging in the plaza area of sub-operation 5B (north side), getting through most of the clay loam and uncovering a large granite rock lying flat on a possible plaza floor. A fellow student (Adela Melena) recovered a lovely quartz crystal with 4 intact facets. At the settlement one of the local Maya field assistants, Sylvestro, found an interesting piece of unit stamped pottery. At the site of 6B, Niki Phillips and another local field assistant both found obsidian flakes, while the rest of us found dirt!  After we did another lab when we got back from the field where the groups switched so the group that did photography learned to catalogue.

Thursday the 31st at structure #10, after digging an average of 35cm from the ground surface, we closed Lot #2 in sub-operation 5B and spent most of the morning mapping the surface which included 20 granite boulders and 1 limestone boulder. In the afternoon, we set up Lot #3 focusing on the plaza and dug down another 8cm to the base of the granite rock. It is sitting on a semi-consolidated gravel and cobble surface. It looks quite continuous over the plaza area with a strange circular area with no pebbles near the base of the structure slope and appears to have been a hole. We took a carbon sample for dating within this feature. A similar gravel surface has been exposed further up on the slope of the structure in both sub-operation 5A and 5B earlier in the week. In the settlement after finishing our 13th lot we spent the day mapping out the features of our excavation from a top down view, mapping over 34 rocks. Once again in sub-operation 6B we found a whole lot of dirt, so much that we had to use a large geology pick to dig it all out. However, later in the day our supervisor Dave Blaine found a larger, more in-tact obsidian blade, which was very exciting after a full day of shoveling soil. IMG_5237

The only other thing we found that day was a large mama tarantula hiding in the cracks of the rocks. That evening we attended a lecture by Dr. Shawn Morton, who talked to us about monumental architecture in Belize, as well as the rest of the world. Picture3

Friday June 1st was a very rainy day. Upon arriving on site, we discovered that all the excavations had been partially flooded with water overnight, in the lowest areas. In 6B we were able to avoid the mucky areas and map most the granite slabs in the southern half, with the help of the students from the settlement excavation. On building #10 we managed to complete our profile measurements on the entire operation in a N/S direction. Since we have not seen any distinct architecture to date, we also opened Lot #4 which will focus on excavating into middle of the slope to uncover existing intact architectural facings or construction core. After lunch it was too wet on site so we had lunch and then worked in the lab back at home base.

And finally, on June 2nd we visited the beach town of Placencia, where we all split up and explored, ate food, and shopped. Some of us went for award-winning gelato, while others went for a swim in the ocean. However, the one thing we all did together was get a stomach bug and puked our guts out all night! Yay Placencia!Picture5

Thanks for checking in and don’t forget to read next week’s blog!

By: Jada Dowler, Kristine Hubenig, and Doug Smith.

 

 

 

SCRAP 2018 Week 2: An Electrifying Beginning

Hey everyone! Our apologies if this post is late coming up; a lightening storm last week Wednesday knocked out our area’s internet until this week, but we have exciting progress to share with you! On Sunday (May 20) we heard a bit about the village and nearby wildlife sanctuary from our hosts, and more about the research project goals from Dr. Peuramaki-Brown. Then we had some free time to explore the village. Last Monday (May 21), we did two workshops at camp. The first one was on mapping, GIS, and GPS, where we each had to make a map of the camp and learned how to set up survey equipment. The second workshop got us to practice setting up a suboperation (unit), where we had to measure and stake out a perfect one-meter square on a slope. We got to use some of our tools for the first time to do this, and once we had our unit set up we got to practice drawing top-plan and profile images of the “artefacts” in our units.Image1

Tuesday (May 22), things got a little more interesting.  Going to a Maya site meant that we got to take part in a Maya ceremony to bless our project and give us good luck. Mr. Ernesto and Ms. Aurora, the owners of where we are staying, ran the ceremony for us. They burned cohune and sacred incense (copal) on a special alter and prayed to the spirits and four cardinal directions, and we each offered a flower and a slip of paper containing our intentions for the project to the spirits. After this, we headed out to the Alabama site for the first time and were given a grand tour of the monumental core (epicenter) and some of the settlement area. We got acquainted with each of the sites we will be working at this season, two in the epicenter and one in the settlement area, and we were broken into three groups each assigned to an operation. After the tour, we went back into town to have lunch at Ms. Juana’s Kitchen and met members of the local community. In the afternoon, we went to our respective sites and started working! We only had two hours, but we started removing the humus layers and screening for artefacts—unfortunately, there was not much luck in finding anything just yet.

On Wednesday (May 23), we headed back to Alabama and had a full day of excavation. Two local students from the University of Belize, Alson and Dorian, worked with us, which was exciting because we got to know more Belizeans along with the many people from the local community who work with us each day. When we came back to camp, we had our first lab session where we washed a lot of rocks. We didn’t have too many actual artefacts, but we did have some interesting things to show for our first few days of work, like ceramic pieces and daub. Daub was of particular interest today, because it confirmed that perishable structures once existed on top of the stone foundations we’re working on.

Thursday (May 24) was another day full of excavation, but instead of a lab session we had a lecture in the evening where we learned about Belize’s history. At Operation 6, we found obsidian—a very exciting find, as this is artifact that would have originally come all the way from highland Guatemala! We hope to find much more of this as we go deeper into excavations there. At Operation 5, we have been finding limestone present among our granite slabs, which is interesting because limestone is not readily available in the Alabama area—their purpose is not exactly clear yet, but they do imply interesting things about the people who had occupied the site and where they came from, where they were sourcing their building material, and/or what types of materials they potentially thought were more valuable than others.Image4

 

More excavation on Friday (May 25), as our last day in the field of the week. We closed Lot 1 at Suboperation 5B and are preparing for deeper excavation there starting next week, and Suboperation 6A and 6B are very close to closing Lot 1 as well. We came back to camp to another lab session and washed more artefacts. At Operation 3 in the settlement area, we found a piece of a metate, which is a wide stone used for grinding, and probably the most exciting find so far. We finished Friday off with a movie night with a very sad yet touching Maya movie (Ixcanul) to kickstart our weekend.

Saturday (May 26) was our first weekend excursion. We went to Dangriga first to visit the Gulisi Garifuna Museum and learned about the history of the Garifuna people and their culture. They taught us about the processing of cassava bread and performed traditional dances and music for us. We all got in a circle for the last dance and danced together, which was very fun (and maybe a little embarrassing). After that we visited the Mayflower site to check out the monumental structures and past archaeological work done there. We took Miss Audrey, our guide from the Gulisi Garifuna Museum, with us, and afterwards drove her home to Hopkins, where we got to spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the beach and swimming in the ocean. We had dinner at Ella’s Cool Spot there, practically right on the beach, with our feet in the sand.

We hope you have enjoyed this little update and that you’ll continue to check in with us every week for more progress. Stay tuned! Mira and Stephany

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SCRAP 2018 Week 1: Small Beginnings

This past week (May 14-18) was our first full week at site. We arrived early Monday morning and met with our Foreman and some of the local crew members who would be working with us (the remaining to join us next week).

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Chopping trails into the site

We got to work on identifying our excavation areas for the season—in the monumental core and in the settlement—clearing structures of low brush, exterminating the accumulated population of mosquitoes, and setting up excavation units.

We also had to dig out some of our previous excavations, where we are adding an extension excavation to expose an enigmatic feature encountered at the end of the 2016 season.

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Digging out old excavations, exposing tarp-covered feature at the bottom.

We occasionally took breaks under palms to enjoy a Happy Cow Happy Hour.

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Happy Cow Happy Hour!

During the week we also caught up with friends in the village, met with the principal of the local school to discuss future collaborations—he even brought the teachers out to visit the site later in the week—and met the new Alcalde (village leader) to talk about the project, future directions, and future community engagement initiatives. It was a really great start to the season.

On Friday, while field assistants finished setting up shelters over the excavations, we headed to Dangriga where we met with the head of the Stann Creek House of Culture to discuss our other new collaborations and future directions; then to the property manager’s office to drop off a copy of our 2018 excavation permit; stopped in Belmopan for some delicious Jamaican food (goat curry and oxtail); and finally back to San Ignacio to pick up the van for the students, and to spend an evening with friends.

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Delicious Jamaican food

Saturday morning we caught a bit of the Royal Wedding on TV, then headed to the airport and collected all of the students and some staff (see website section on Project Members)—all arrived safe and sound (some with more baggage than others… Megan). Other staff and researchers will be joining us in two and three-weeks’ time. We headed back to Stann Creek, settled and fed the students, then it was an early night to bed.

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Students housed and fed

Sunday was spent touring our field camp; hearing lectures about the community and nearby wildlife sanctuary from the Maya couple who host us; learning more about the Alabama project and plans for this season and the future; presenting the Final Examination Challenge to the students (and public outreach initiative); setting up our new lab; and some team building activities.

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Our new amazing lab–built special for us!

With respect to this latter, we would like to formally introduce the world to our excavation teams: “Chulche”, “Ixtuculil”, and the ”Plumb Bobbettes”!

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Excavation teams

Until next week, cheers from Belize!

Meaghan and Shawn

SCRAP 2018 Week 0: The Unofficial Beginning

Hello everybody out there in the blogosphere (that’s how bloggers address their readers, right?),

We are approaching the end of our first unofficial week of the 2018 season of the Stann Creek Regional Archaeology Project (SCRAP). Here’s the tally:

New sites found: 0
Units excavated: 0
Artifacts recovered: 0
Hours spent at site: 0
Sunburns: Yes
Bug bites: Yes

Admittedly, the numbers at this point aren’t too impressive, however, this is the reality of getting a project going each season. We do a lot of running around in the first week so that when students and other staff/researchers arrive, they can hit the ground running. We haven’t been idle, and we thought we’d give you a sense of what we’ve been up to.

5 May 2018 (Saturday): After a long day (or two) of travel, we finally arrived in Belize (late). After clearing customs, we were met at the exit to the terminal by a representative from the car rental agency—he looked very familiar to us. It turns out that he is the brother of a good friend of ours and we spent the next couple of hours happily chatting with him on our way back to Cayo to finish the paperwork for the rental. We then ventured out for dinner with our friend, before settling into our home for the upcoming week.

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Along Burns Ave. in San Ignacio, Cayo District, Belize

6 May 2018 (Sunday): Everybody needs a break, and we spent the day visiting with friends and getting caught up on the local gossip. BBQ and adult beverages all around!

7 May 2018 (Monday): Breakfast, then on the road to Belmopan to meet with a representative of the Institute of Archaeology (IA) to pick up the season’s permit. We spent some time chatting with members of the IA and Institute for Social and Cultural Research (ISCR), both part of NICH (National Institute of Culture and History), about our plans for the season and beyond, before driving south down the Hummingbird to pick up most of our stored field equipment. We spent the rest of the day sorting through the field equipment to identify any items that needed to be purchased/replaced (for an idea of the type of equipment archaeologists use, take a peek at our blog post on the subject from back in 2016). Stewed chicken, rice and beans, and potato salad for dinner!

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Along the Hummingbird Highway

8 May 2018 (Tuesday): Communication is important, and we spent a couple of hours waiting to have our cell phones reactivated from the past season. Luckily, this gave us time to grab a bite to eat before we drove to Spanish Lookout for a morning of shopping. On the list: pigtail buckets, tarps, and assorted hand tools. We also had ice cream as reward for our hard work. Conch ceviche and tequila for dinner.

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Communication, makes it happen. Communication, talkin’ together  🙂

9 May 2018 (Wednesday): The day was spent going through the remaining equipment, sorting it into categories (drawing, survey and photography, artifact analysis, and various other odds and ends), and again determining what items needed to be purchased/replaced. Conch fritters and fish sere for dinner. Perhaps a beer or two.

 

10 May 2018 (Thursday): We went shopping for the last of the necessary equipment, repaired broken/worn items, and tackled the scary task of tallying expenses to date. It was our good friend’s birthday, so we made him cook dinner for us at his restaurant (Erva’s) before celebrating with him until the wee hours.

11 May 2018 (Friday): We spent most of the morning tackling edits on a paper and catching up on email and university responsibilities. The afternoon was spent prepping–including a trip to the market–for our annual pizza cookout with friends (a raucous event filled with food, family and friends, and a gaggle of hyperactive kids… and their children).

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Market stall selling many different spices, herbs, etc. This shot is of cinnamon sticks, lemongrass, and copal

12 May 2018 (Saturday): Finally, we buttoned up the last of our preparation prior to our departure for Stann Creek on Sunday. Electronics were charged. Computers were backed up. Our new database system from Codifi was installed on our field tablets, and we designed a new logo to go with it all (see below). Ms. Erva’s famous escabeche for dinner… can it get any better?

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Our new mobile digital database system, courtesy of our friends and colleagues at Codifi

13 May 2018 (Sunday): With help from our special movers, we packed up the vehicles and drove out to our field camp in Stann Creek District. We got all set up, then took our helpers for a wonderful fish lunch in Hopkins. Perfection!

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Fish lunch on the beach in Hopkins, Stann Creek District, Belize.

That’s it for Week 0 (the unofficial beginning of SCRAP 2018)—you’ll hear from us again next weekend after our first full week in the field, and when students arrive!

Cheers from Belize,
Shawn and Meaghan

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