Week 4 (Session 1) & BAAS



On Monday, June 20th, the start of Week 4, the crew returned to the field after a lovely weekend off. Cristina, Megan and Kelsey spent the weekend relaxing and drinking Mango Coladas on the beach in Placencia.  Meanwhile Meaghan and Shawn were stuck in Independence working on their conference papers for the upcoming BAAS [*insert jealous cries of frustration here*].


Defining ceramic wares

On Monday evening, Jill Jordan joined our crew in Independence! Meaghan brought Jill out to the site on Tuesday morning to familiarize her with the area.  Following this, the two of them returned to the hotel to conduct analyses on the ceramics recovered from the site thus far.  Jill was kind enough to provide some insight into the antiquity and nature of some of our possible local and “exotic” ceramics, helping to further understand the occupation span of the settlement, and to begin addressing some of the preliminary results of our characterization studies (you can learn more about these at the SAA meetings in Vancouver in 2017).


A depiction of Megan in her pit (well, not really her, but that’s what it looked like. Thanks to shutterstock.com for this one)

The goal for the crew in Week 4 were to try and finish the units that were started in the area of ALA-047. Monday and Tuesday was spent in the field continuing to dig at our respective units. Megan spent Monday digging her deeeeep unit on Mound C in an attempt to reach sterile matrix and natural geological layers.  She needed to reach up to 40cm without finding any artifacts so that she could close her unit prior to her departure back to Canada at the end of the week [*If she didn’t, we would force her to stay 🙂 ]. Monday proved to be successful and she dug down 20cm with no artifacts to be found.  Tuesday morning continued this same way and it was looking like Megan was going to complete her goal of finishing her unit ahead of schedule.  This was until on Tuesday afternoon while they were digging, the extremely lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it), Mr.Idelfonso came across one lone obsidian blade in the pit.  This meant that the soil was not sterile and Megan had to begin the process of excavation to 40cm of sterile soil all over again.

Cristina and Virginia spent Monday excavating the layers below the daub feature that they had previously removed from the back side of Mound B. They then worked on excavating the entirety of the second daub feature in their unit until that was entirely removed. Following this, they opened a profile window along the southern wall of their unit that was 50cm by 1.25cm. They opened this window in an attempt to reach sterile soil so that they could close their unit. On Tuesday they continued digging the window but were unsuccessful in reaching sterile as they were still recovering numerous artifacts.
I spent Monday and Tuesday with Mr.Sylvestro continuing to dig down into the unit on Mound A in search of our ever-illusive architecture. The search was thus far futile and still by the end of Tuesday, to our dismay, no architecture (platform face) had been discovered.

Crew watching the power of an army ant migration (right through the unit)

Shawn and Mr.Juan continued the excavation of their intriguing “pile of rocks” [*a.k.a. Mound D*] on Monday.  They discovered that it appears as though the rocks form an alignment, although the exact interpretations of what they could represent are still being debated. On Tuesday, Shawn and Mr.Juan were forced out of their unit temporarily as it was overtaken by army ants as they cleared across the landscape taking out all living things in their path. It was a spectacle to see for those of us who have never witnessed the power of all of these small creatures moving in unison [*This migration made perfect sense on Wednesday when we were hit by a huge rain. You can read more about Army Ants here: http://www.insects.org/entophiles/hymenoptera/army-ants.html *].


Rain clouds over the Maya Mountains

Wednesday was an interesting day for the crew as we were awoken in the morning to the roar of thunder nearby.  The crew drove to Maya Mopan and discovered heavy rainfall.  As a result, Meaghan decided that it was best not to attempt to dig through mud all day and the digging was postponed.  Instead, we returned to Independence to conduct lab work for the day.  Cristina, Megan and I spent the morning conducting basic analysis on the artifacts that had been recovered earlier in the week.  The afternoon was spent completing the cataloging and analysis of all of the obsidian recovered from our excavations to-date.



Meaghan and Shawn spent the day using the 3D scanner to record some of the artifacts recovered at the site. Some of these scans are available online for those of you who are interested in seeing them. (here is one: https://sketchfab.com/models/5370085ca4c64aa082d5b19c11649eda).  All of our scans will ultimately become part of the Athabasca University Virtual Archaeology Lab. This will be an Open Education Resource (OER), hopefully up and running by early 2017.

On Thursday we returned to the site and Cristina discovered the sad fact that the rain from the day before had flooded her unit (despite tarps and sand bags). She then spent Thursday morning bailing out the water. The subsequent mud that was left made digging in her unit impossible; therefore, she spent the day mapping the plan view (top plan) of her unit as well as the profile map of the entire mound.
For Megan, Thursday morning was spent digging through another 30cm of sterile sediments. After recovering no artifacts, it was decided in the afternoon to close the unit as she had come across natural sand and gravel layers. The rest of the day was spent straightened the walls, taking closing photos, and stringing up profile lines. Friday was then spent completing a top plan, a profile of the unit north wall, and a profile of the platform face.  Following this, and the recording of much additional information, the unit was then closed and Megan was allowed to return to Canada (sad face).
Mr. Sylvestro and I spent all day Thursday and Friday morning on a mission to find the mythological wall within the mound.  We continued to dig in a mad attempt but still made no progress.  In a sad personal defeat, we finally decided to call it quits on this unit temporarily (until Session 2).  Friday afternoon was spent creating a wall profile of the few blocks that we had exposed, which we then tied into a profile of the entire mound that we mapped.
Shawn, Mr.Juan, and Mr. Idelfonso continued to dig in their unit to attempt to reach sterile levels so that they could also close their unit. They are close (we think). On Friday, Cristina was attempting to also locate sterile soil in her unit so that it could be closed as well.  To her dismay (but also, excitement), about 2 hours before we were completing the fieldwork for Session 1, she discovered a new feature in her unit. This means that she will continue in this unit next session to uncover the feature. The entire crew then spent the rest of Friday ensuring all of the units were properly protected from the elements for the coming week.

Meaghan presenting about SCRAP at the Belize Archaeology & Anthropology Symposium

Meaghan, Shawn, Cristina, Megan and I left Independence on Saturday morning to come to San Ignacio.  We spent the night in town and said goodbye to Megan on Sunday as she flew back to Canada.  The remaining 4 of us spent the week in San Ignacio at the Belize Archaeology and Anthropology Symposium (BAAS) hosted by the National Institute of Archaeology. We learned much about the other research happening in the area, and Meaghan presented a preliminary overview of the first two years of research by SCRAP.

After a wonderful week off, the crew is itching to get back into the field! We will keep you posted on what kind of awesome activities we get up to in Session 2!