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

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SCRAP 2018 Week 1: Small Beginnings

This past week (May 14-18) was our first full week at site. We arrived early Monday morning and met with our Foreman and some of the local crew members who would be working with us (the remaining to join us next week).

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Chopping trails into the site

We got to work on identifying our excavation areas for the season—in the monumental core and in the settlement—clearing structures of low brush, exterminating the accumulated population of mosquitoes, and setting up excavation units.

We also had to dig out some of our previous excavations, where we are adding an extension excavation to expose an enigmatic feature encountered at the end of the 2016 season.

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Digging out old excavations, exposing tarp-covered feature at the bottom.

We occasionally took breaks under palms to enjoy a Happy Cow Happy Hour.

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Happy Cow Happy Hour!

During the week we also caught up with friends in the village, met with the principal of the local school to discuss future collaborations—he even brought the teachers out to visit the site later in the week—and met the new Alcalde (village leader) to talk about the project, future directions, and future community engagement initiatives. It was a really great start to the season.

On Friday, while field assistants finished setting up shelters over the excavations, we headed to Dangriga where we met with the head of the Stann Creek House of Culture to discuss our other new collaborations and future directions; then to the property manager’s office to drop off a copy of our 2018 excavation permit; stopped in Belmopan for some delicious Jamaican food (goat curry and oxtail); and finally back to San Ignacio to pick up the van for the students, and to spend an evening with friends.

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Delicious Jamaican food

Saturday morning we caught a bit of the Royal Wedding on TV, then headed to the airport and collected all of the students and some staff (see website section on Project Members)—all arrived safe and sound (some with more baggage than others… Megan). Other staff and researchers will be joining us in two and three-weeks’ time. We headed back to Stann Creek, settled and fed the students, then it was an early night to bed.

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Students housed and fed

Sunday was spent touring our field camp; hearing lectures about the community and nearby wildlife sanctuary from the Maya couple who host us; learning more about the Alabama project and plans for this season and the future; presenting the Final Examination Challenge to the students (and public outreach initiative); setting up our new lab; and some team building activities.

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Our new amazing lab–built special for us!

With respect to this latter, we would like to formally introduce the world to our excavation teams: “Chulche”, “Ixtuculil”, and the ”Plumb Bobbettes”!

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Excavation teams

Until next week, cheers from Belize!

Meaghan and Shawn

SCRAP 2018 Week 0: The Unofficial Beginning

Hello everybody out there in the blogosphere (that’s how bloggers address their readers, right?),

We are approaching the end of our first unofficial week of the 2018 season of the Stann Creek Regional Archaeology Project (SCRAP). Here’s the tally:

New sites found: 0
Units excavated: 0
Artifacts recovered: 0
Hours spent at site: 0
Sunburns: Yes
Bug bites: Yes

Admittedly, the numbers at this point aren’t too impressive, however, this is the reality of getting a project going each season. We do a lot of running around in the first week so that when students and other staff/researchers arrive, they can hit the ground running. We haven’t been idle, and we thought we’d give you a sense of what we’ve been up to.

5 May 2018 (Saturday): After a long day (or two) of travel, we finally arrived in Belize (late). After clearing customs, we were met at the exit to the terminal by a representative from the car rental agency—he looked very familiar to us. It turns out that he is the brother of a good friend of ours and we spent the next couple of hours happily chatting with him on our way back to Cayo to finish the paperwork for the rental. We then ventured out for dinner with our friend, before settling into our home for the upcoming week.

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Along Burns Ave. in San Ignacio, Cayo District, Belize

6 May 2018 (Sunday): Everybody needs a break, and we spent the day visiting with friends and getting caught up on the local gossip. BBQ and adult beverages all around!

7 May 2018 (Monday): Breakfast, then on the road to Belmopan to meet with a representative of the Institute of Archaeology (IA) to pick up the season’s permit. We spent some time chatting with members of the IA and Institute for Social and Cultural Research (ISCR), both part of NICH (National Institute of Culture and History), about our plans for the season and beyond, before driving south down the Hummingbird to pick up most of our stored field equipment. We spent the rest of the day sorting through the field equipment to identify any items that needed to be purchased/replaced (for an idea of the type of equipment archaeologists use, take a peek at our blog post on the subject from back in 2016). Stewed chicken, rice and beans, and potato salad for dinner!

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Along the Hummingbird Highway

8 May 2018 (Tuesday): Communication is important, and we spent a couple of hours waiting to have our cell phones reactivated from the past season. Luckily, this gave us time to grab a bite to eat before we drove to Spanish Lookout for a morning of shopping. On the list: pigtail buckets, tarps, and assorted hand tools. We also had ice cream as reward for our hard work. Conch ceviche and tequila for dinner.

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Communication, makes it happen. Communication, talkin’ together  🙂

9 May 2018 (Wednesday): The day was spent going through the remaining equipment, sorting it into categories (drawing, survey and photography, artifact analysis, and various other odds and ends), and again determining what items needed to be purchased/replaced. Conch fritters and fish sere for dinner. Perhaps a beer or two.

 

10 May 2018 (Thursday): We went shopping for the last of the necessary equipment, repaired broken/worn items, and tackled the scary task of tallying expenses to date. It was our good friend’s birthday, so we made him cook dinner for us at his restaurant (Erva’s) before celebrating with him until the wee hours.

11 May 2018 (Friday): We spent most of the morning tackling edits on a paper and catching up on email and university responsibilities. The afternoon was spent prepping–including a trip to the market–for our annual pizza cookout with friends (a raucous event filled with food, family and friends, and a gaggle of hyperactive kids… and their children).

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Market stall selling many different spices, herbs, etc. This shot is of cinnamon sticks, lemongrass, and copal

12 May 2018 (Saturday): Finally, we buttoned up the last of our preparation prior to our departure for Stann Creek on Sunday. Electronics were charged. Computers were backed up. Our new database system from Codifi was installed on our field tablets, and we designed a new logo to go with it all (see below). Ms. Erva’s famous escabeche for dinner… can it get any better?

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Our new mobile digital database system, courtesy of our friends and colleagues at Codifi

13 May 2018 (Sunday): With help from our special movers, we packed up the vehicles and drove out to our field camp in Stann Creek District. We got all set up, then took our helpers for a wonderful fish lunch in Hopkins. Perfection!

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Fish lunch on the beach in Hopkins, Stann Creek District, Belize.

That’s it for Week 0 (the unofficial beginning of SCRAP 2018)—you’ll hear from us again next weekend after our first full week in the field, and when students arrive!

Cheers from Belize,
Shawn and Meaghan

SCRAP Logo

SCRAP 2018 Field Season is a GO!

Last week we got the formal go ahead from the Belize Institute of Archaeology for our 2018 season. We are now in the process of finalizing some details and we’ll be ready for the field in May. Looking forward to a great 6-week season, including an exciting 4-week field school program! Here’s some photos from our wonderful new base camp, which includes a great in-camp instructional classroom (in addition to the actual field site) and lab area, where students will learn about archaeology and the ancient Maya, but also about the modern Maya of Belize from our Maya hosts.

Archaeology Field School at Alabama, 2018

Info Session: Maya Archaeology in Belize Field Program

Date & Time: November 28, 2017 | 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Location: ES 614, University of Calgary (available online as well, see below)
Learn more about this Group Study Program (GSP) by attending this info session and visiting the following link — http://www.ucalgary.ca/uci/abroad/gsp/belizearky
The Maya Archaeology in Belize Field Program represents an excellent opportunity for archaeology and anthropology students to develop or extend their field experience through practice in archaeological field techniques within a working archaeological site.

If you cannot make it to our info sessions in person, please join us via Adobe Connect: To join the visual portion of the meeting, use the following link and enter as a guest: https://athabascau.adobeconnect.com/au-anth/

To join the audio portion of the meeting: Dial from your phone: CAN: +1-(866)811-9555; Conference/Participant Code: 5016621923

If you have never attended an Adobe Connect meeting before: Test your connection: https://athabascau.adobeconnect.com/common/help/en/support/meeting_test.htm

Get a quick overview: http://www.adobe.com/products/adobeconnect.html