The SCRAP team is ending 2018 and starting 2019 with a bang.
December Belize Trip
From Dec. 8-23, we (SCRAP Co-Directors, Dr. Meaghan Peuramaki-Brown and Dr. Shawn Morton) travelled to Belize for meetings and a short lab session.
During our first week, we visited the Institute of Archaeology to pick up the letter acknowledging our presence in the country to conduct lab work under our 2018 permit. We also had an encouraging and productive series of meetings with the director and various associate directors of the Institute about upcoming projects.
We visited with colleagues and friends in Maya Mopan village to keep them posted on project happenings, to consult regarding plans for our upcoming season, to keep up on village happenings, and to wish everyone happy holidays. The remainder of our first week was spent getting to better know the people and places of Hopkins—including our new favourite hangout, Ella’s Cool Spot.
During our second week, we moved to our field camp for a week of lab work—ongoing analysis of materials recovered during last summer’s excavations in the monumental core and settlement zone of Alabama. This work included
- Analysis of pottery forms, pastes, and surface treatments/decoration to determine temporal designations and function.
- Analysis of lithic debitage and tools to determine raw material type, manufacturing techniques, and overall functions, along with some possible temporal designations.
- Closer analysis of small and/or special finds, including grinding stones, worked pottery sherds, fishing tools, projectiles and axes, etc.
- Illustration of pottery rim profiles for the purpose of communicating vessel shape and for comparison with vessels from elsewhere.
- Artifact photography for the purpose of communicating artifact appearance, comparisons, and for future illustration and 3D modelling purposes.
- Archaeological testing and experimental studies to determine the actual material of our mysterious ‘amber’ pieces encountered during excavations in the settlement zone.
Exciting Times in 2019
2019 is shaping up to be an exciting and busy time for the SCRAP team. In May, we will begin the second season of our SSHRC Insight Grant field research, focused on the reasons behind the rather sudden appearance of more complex development at Alabama and how it was sustained; our field season will last from mid May to early August. Should all go as planned (which, you never know in archaeology), we will be involved in a lidar survey of the Pearce Ruins (10 km away from Alabama) in the spring, thanks to funding from various sources including a SSHRC Explore Grant (via Athabasca University). In March, we will also begin the consultation process for our new education/heritage-conservation Augmented Reality (AR) project, funded by a National Geographic Explore Grant. We’ll also complete our 2018 Final Report about our summer excavations in time for our March trip, and will be releasing a series of social media posts that explain the content of the report in a somewhat more entertaining fashion than is the norm for technical reports in archaeology.
From our team to you/yours, we wish you a very joyous New Year 2019 full of wondrous adventure!
The SCRAP Team
Some great news for the SCRAP team.
Our Field Lab Director, Jill Jordan, was granted a Wenner Gren for her ongoing research into the development and transformation of social networks among potters relative to collapse and migration.
Additionally, our Project Directors, Dr. Meaghan Peuramaki-Brown and Dr. Shawn Morton, along with SCRAP GIS specialist Dave Blaine, were granted a SSHRC Explore Grant via Athabasca University for future LiDAR survey in the Stann Creek District.
Congratulations to Team SCRAP!
Happy to finally be able to formally announce our new 4-year grant for research at Alabama. Thank you to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of 🇨🇦 (scroll wayyy down to Alberta to see our listing):
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.
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.
Meaghan and Shawn
Once again this season, SCRAP has engaged in a series of public outreach and engagement activities. Our 2018 activities have included local teachers and cultural representatives visiting the site; local student volunteers coming to learn to excavate; community get-togethers to discuss ongoing archaeological investigations and to view and handle artifacts discovered this year and in previous seasons; and presentations at village meetings to formally inform community members of our activities, results, and future plans with regard to our research.
A new activity this year focused on our field school student involvement in this outreach. As a final examination challenge, students were asked to create a series of pamphlets to distribute to community members. Two pamphlets were created by each team of students: one introducing the site of Alabama and the other introducing archaeology. We are happy to say the results were a success. Our entire team–including foreign and local members–then voted on their favourite in each category. Last Saturday, we distributed two pamphlets–slightly adjusted here and there–at the village clean-up meeting.
Click on the links below to download the final pamphlet versions:
Click on the links below to download the original designs submitted by each group:
Our final public outreach event this season will be to present our recent research next week at the annual Belize Archaeology Symposium in San Ignacio, Cayo District. This conference is not only attended by other researchers, but also be Belizean students, teachers, tour guides, etc. See the schedule of talks below: