Week 2: Rain can’t stop this Reggae Jam

This week was plagued by rain and mechanical problems. We have surveyed all the mowed portions of the orchard, identified mounds, conducted surface collections, and mapped any areas of interest. Unfortunately, after working a full day on Monday we ran out of mowed orchard rows because the tractor AND mower brokedown. We spent a day in the lab cleaning and cataloguing artifacts, as well as making clay briquettes (see previous post), while crossing our fingers that the tractor and mower would be fixed. On Wednesday, folks at the orchard were able to mow a bit for us before the mower broke again. We headed back home and did artifact analysis instead. All the while, Shawn and our field crew from Maya Mopan were able to keep mapping in the epicenter, which is looking amazing (preview to come)!

On Thursday we woke up to thunder and pouring rain. We went to the site and tried to get work done but it wasn’t going to happen. Nothing was mowed and the rain just kept coming. Instead we took a rain day and headed up to the nearby site of Mayflower in the Bocawina National Park in northern Stann Creek. The site is similar to Alabama in that it also has much granite used in its architecture. The site is small but gorgeous with jungle canopy overhead and waterfalls just a short hike away.

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Instead of posting a picture of Mayflower, we will post a picture of SCRAP crew members trying to spell out SCRAP at Mayflower!

After we finished exploring and learning about Mayflower, we drove up to Dangriga. Shawn had the best day ever because we went to Marie Sharp’s factory and took the tour. Plus we got to have all the samples we wanted. He was in pepper heaven!

Friday the weather gods were smiling on us and we worked a full day in the orchard. Nothing was mowed but we trudged through tall grass to surface collect on mounds that SCRAP had located in 2014. We made great progress and checked quite a few mounds off the map.

We were exhausted after a long day in the hot field but we knew we had an exciting evening ahead of us! As mentioned (and blogged), earlier in the week we made clay source briquettes in order to determine which clay sources may have been used by the ancient Maya in the area. So Friday night we got permission from the hotel owner to fire them, which obviously meant we had to have a bonfire and it only makes sense that bonfires need s’mores! SCRAP s’mores nights are possibly the best nights. We had a great time using biscuits/cookies instead of graham crackers, Cadbury chocolate bars instead of Hershey, and chocolate flavored marshmallows.

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Firing clay sample briquettes and eating S’mores!

Saturday we did a half-day, focusing on cleaning and analyzing the artifacts we found this week, and Tawny analyzed the granite with pXRF. After our half day we had arranged to take a tour of a nearby Maya chocolate factory. It was awesome! We got to see cacao trees, learn what kind of environment they thrive in, how they are harvested and then treated in order to go from white, slimy beans to delicious chocolate nibs. But to be fair, the slimy beans were super delicious to begin with.

Fresh cacao bean

Fresh cacao bean

We also got to grind our own chocolate with a basalt mano and metate! We ground up our beans into dark chocolate and then enjoyed the spoils of our work after they had been in the freezer for a bit. The chocolate was delicious but we all agreed that it was best left to the professionals; grinding that much chocolate is hard work!

Jesucita trying her hand at cacao grinding

Jesucita trying her hand at cacao grinding

Now that we have enjoyed our weekend making chocolate and relaxing on the beach in nearby Placencia, we are rested and ready for another week of hard work!

Cheers from Belize!

Lisa & Tawny