SCRAP 2018: The final weeks

Well, our flight is delayed…. Again. Sitting in a shiny new terminal in Houston, surrounded by strangers heading off to places near and far and for reasons unknown, it seems that this is as good a time for reflecting on the season just ended as any. And what a season it was! SCRAP hosted its first archaeological fieldschool, began the first of four seasons’ research under a big new grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada—this included excavation in the monumental core of Alabama, follow-up settlement research, and initiation of a broad regional geological survey—and welcomed new colleagues in both endeavors.

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We attended the primary school graduation in Maya Centre–we’ll also say “Happy Graduation” to our first cohort of field school students 🙂

After dropping the fieldschool students off at the Philip Goldson International Airport at the end of Week 5 (we cried like babies), we traded in our monster of a van for something a little less ostentatious and headed back south. Over the next couple of days we were joined by our colleagues Matt and Danny, and together with the remaining crew, we passed a blistering week tying up loose ends in our excavations (perhaps creating a few more in the process… but that’s a problem for next season), finishing drawings and photographs, and finally backfilling the holes that we had spent the previous weeks so diligently excavating.

Why fill them back in, you may ask? To leave them open would invite damage from plant growth, erosion, and curious passers by. We marked the base of our excavations and will spend the first few days of next season re-excavating what we must to continue. In the end, we gained some resolution on our Structure 1/2 excavations, including the exposure of a well-defined habitation surface. There does not appear to be a stair, though there is a series of low platform terraces, and an alignment of stones perpendicular to the transverse axis of the structure (and below the level of the habitation surface) may hint at an earlier phase of construction. Finally, we may have identified a buried architectural façade in Structure 10, though an organized stair still eludes us. We will return to both areas in 2019.

But digging and filling in holes is only part of the process. All season, we’ve been reporting on the general goings-ons of our lab work (cleaning, cataloguing, analysis, photography and drawing, experimental archaeology, etc.). This work continues after the digging is done, and indeed, accounts for more of our time. In addition to closing up shop in the field, Week 6 was spent finishing up our basic recording and preparing our preliminary report (a copy of all notes, drawings, photos, etc., along with a complete, if basic, catalogue of the material culture recovered are included). Our final task before leaving Maya Centre was to clean, pack and inventory all of our equipment until next time.

Our final week represented a significant departure from these activities, and was spent relaxing for a couple days in Hopkins, then on to San Ignacio, where we attended and presented papers at the annual Belize Archaeology Symposium. This is an extremely important part of the archaeological process and a serious responsibility. The BAS is the primary outlet through which members of the Belizean public, tour guides, and our fellow archaeologists keep abreast of the current work being done in Belize. Some papers deal with theoretical concerns. Others are focused on method. The majority are simply updates on our current knowledge of the archaeological record in Belize, filtered through the particular theme of the year (in this case, challenging dominant narratives in Central Belize). The conference is both informative and a ton of fun. If you happen to be in San Ignacio at the end of June and feel like a hit of archaeology, stop on by!

Alright, that’s about it. All that remains is to say thank you. To all of the students, staff, field crew, thank you. To the directors and administrators of the Institute of Archaeology, thank you. To our wonderful hosts at Nuuk Cheil, thank you. Signing off and finding a coffee.

Botik,
Meaghan and Shawn