SCRAP 2022 Week 1: Back in Belize!

We are officially up and running in Belize after almost three long years! Where to start? This past week (and a half) has been all about preparation for the field:

An organized storeroom indicates an organized project.

Meaghan and Shawn cleaned out our storage and set up our field lab at camp. After all this time away, we were concerned about the status of our gear. Had it all survived? Mould and mildew. Dry rot. Corrosion. Critters! None were wanted. All were suspected. We were vigilant for the many tarantulas, scorpions, roaches, termites, and rodents that we had assumed would have made our gear home, but none were to be seen. The reason became apparent in short order; we had ants! While they were a little annoying, they didn’t hurt the equipment and were easily moved out (important, as Matt, one of our graduate students, would soon be moving in). In the end, most of the equipment survived our absence. The total cost of our time away? Three pairs of boots. One pair of runners. Two camera lenses (mould) and two camera LCD screens (functional but not 100 %). Not bad!

Our lab space!

Fundamentally, archaeological fieldwork is about relationships. Just as we were concerned about the state of our equipment after our absence, we were worried about the status of our relationships and the well-being of our friends and colleagues. While nobody escaped the last few years unscathed, the dominant sentiment was hopeful and optimistic. This past week, we spent some quality time renewing ties (and creating new ones) in Maya Mopan, Maya Centre, and Cayo. With them, we planned additional details for this season. We also had a surprise visitor from NCALM (the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping) in Houston, USA. They spent the night with us at Nuuk Che’il in advance of re-flying our 2019 lidar survey at the site of Pearce to capture some missing details.

Most importantly, Ms. Aurora and Mr. Ernesto Saqui, our hosts and friends, conducted a blessing for our season of research at Alabama and the flight over Pearce. From the departed ancestors and local spirits, they asked for permission and aid to help ensure a successful season, for the safety of our entire team and that of the communities of the region affected by our activities.

Mr. Ernesto and Ms. Aurora preparing for a blessing/ ceremony.

Sometimes fun can be serious business! As this is planting season, we were fortunate to be invited to participate in the “corn game” with the friends and family of the Saquis. The game results are used for divining the outcome of the harvest and the timing of rains. While Shawn was on the losing team, the results were deemed auspicious for our hosts.

On a board marked by dried corn kernels, using tokens of sticks and flowers and dice of marked corn, through attack and counterattack, the results predict the outcome of the planting season and the coming of the rains.

On Friday, to wrap up the week, we visited our colleagues at the Institute of Archaeology—Dr. Melissa Badillo (Interim Director) and Dr. John Morris (Research Director)—and picked up our official permit for the 2022 season. We also handed in the report of our 2019 season, which you can read here.

On Saturday, we picked up our second rental vehicle and drove to Belize City to meet Saralyn Smith (M.Sc., Western University). After a cancelled flight and a frantic re-booking, we picked up Dave Blaine (M.A., Athabasca University) in Dangriga on Sunday, along with Belizean natural resource manager, Alson Ovando. You can learn all about our 2022 field team by visiting the “Project Members” tab.

Watch this blog and our social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, and sometimes Twitter) as we update you throughout our season.

Cheers from Belize!

Meaghan & Shawn