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