Week 2: The Adventure Continues!

Our second full week in the field was hot hot hot! Sunday was a lazy day spent at our home base in Maya Centre – a delicious breakfast with fresh fruit from the garden, followed by time to catch up on work (or sleep), or hang out with the dogs. Jill and Frank also spent some time firing pottery with our hostess, Miss Aurora Saqui.


Experimental pottery

Monday morning, Frank left us to return to San Antonio (Cayo District, Belize) and his studies in tourism. The rest of the crew headed out to set up excavation units for structures ALA-002A and ALA-002C, two of three structures in a settlement group organized around a large courtyard, to the southwest of the monumental core. Our goal is to determine what these structures were used for, who used them, and how they relate temporally to the monumental core. We spent the morning clearing, erecting shelters, and setting up excavation units. It wasn’t all work – we stopped for orange breaks (we are in an orchard after all!) and some refreshing coconut water (thanks Higinio Jr!) to keep us hydrated. We called it a day by about 1pm and headed off to Dangriga for supplies and an excursion to Red Bank and Roseville on the way back. We finished the day with a fabulous 3-course meal that included Rigo’s amazing chicken cheese dip – delicious!!

Tuesday we got back at the hard work of excavating! Shawn’s crew continued to work on exposing blocks of an underlying structure at Structure 1/2, while Meaghan’s and Dave’s crews opened up their new units. The soil made for easy digging in Meaghan’s unit, while it was an entirely different story for Dave and crew in the packed earth under the orange trees. We wrapped up early in order to pick up Matt, fresh off a bus from another excavation in Campeche, Mexico and suffering the after-effects of jungle snail ceviche. Thankfully he was feeling better by the time he reached us!

Dave's Unit

Dave’s unit at ALA-002C

Wednesday was a busy day as Matt started prepping for his shovel test pits in the ALA-002 courtyard, while Shawn’s crew started to pull some of the large architectural stones in an effort to understand their building’s construction. Meaghan and Dave continued to expose architectural stone in their units. We ended the day with a trip to Ella’s Cool Spot in Hopkins, and Jill made a new friend!

On Thursday Shawn stayed in Maya Centre to attend to some business, while his crew was deployed to help Matt dig shovel test pits. Matt’s crew not only uncovered the cobble ballast of the plaza surface but also a variety of artifacts. 9 holes down, only 150 to go!

We were all glad when Friday rolled around. Matt and crew continued to work on test pits, Meghan and crew made progress on the extension to their unit, Dave and crew continued to expose an architectural alignment, and Shawn and crew continued their work on Structure 1/2.

Saturday we were up early and off to Belmopan to attend a Maya Glyphs workshop put on by Mayas for Ancient Mayan (MAM) and our host M. Ernesto Saqui. Seven of our crew members from Maya Mopan–both young and old–also attended, and a good time was had by all. Mr. Idelfonso Cal put it best when he said how pleased he was to learn something new about his ancestors that he had never been exposed to before–it made him feel young (he’s 71). After the return trip to Maya Mopan to drop off our colleagues, we headed into Hopkins for some celebratory pizza!

Stay tuned for our next Sunday to Saturday installment…..a trip to Placencia in the Vomit Comet is involved!

Cheers from Stann Creek District, Belize!

The SCRAP Team

Week 1: Setting Up, Digging Out, and Preliminary Adventures in the Foothills of the Maya Mountains

This week was our first full week in the field (Alabama site) and we hit the ground running… well, running with sweat, at least. After picking up Jill, Niki, and Frank on Sunday and getting settled into our “field camp” in Stann Creek District, Belize—we unpacked our lab and prepped for our first day of field work. At day’s end, we travelled to nearby Hopkins for an evening of pizza and fun.


Our newly screened-in lab

On Monday, after a late breakfast, we met with our Belizean collaborators—happily greeting friends from past seasons and meeting a couple of new individuals—, inspected the areas that we’d be focussing our efforts on this season, and went over the general plans.


Discussing and debating plans for 2019 season

The folks from the village near the site had gotten an early start to avoid the heat of the day while clearing our excavation areas, so we called it quits early. That night, Meaghan schooled Shawn and Frank at dominoes.


Shawn pretending he’s better at dominoes than Meaghan

On Tuesday, we departed Maya Centre at our regularly scheduled time of 6 am and breakfasted in Maya Mopan. The guys set up an extensive tarp palace (rain shelter) in the monumental core and we re-established the boundaries of the 2018 excavations at Alabama Structure 1&2 (we’ll be continuing in this locale this season).


Excavations at Tarp Palace (a.k.a. Structures 1 & 2)

Meanwhile, a couple of kilometres to the southwest, a small crew began prepping for excavation of a mysterious granite feature first recorded in 2015 when Mr. Chiac Sr. (our Foreman) showed it to Meaghan, wondering what it might be. Originally interpreted as a staging area for the extraction of granite from the neighbouring streambed, the team was interested in ascertaining whether the feature was truly cultural, and to when it may have dated.  Was it related in any way to ancient community efforts at granite extraction for architectural blocks or other artifacts? Our ace Lab Director, Jill, strutted her stuff in the field, exploring the wild world of sand and clay in the Waha Leaf Creek valley. Hopkins beckoned yet again, along with our friend from Cayo (grown-up grandkids in tow), Mr. Landy.


Jill digs sand.

On Wednesday, we cleared the backfill out of the 2018 Op 6 excavations at Structure 1&2, where we will be revisiting some cool architectural finds uncovered at the end of last season. We also started excavating our granite feature, finding only a single potsherd within (thanks, Niki)! This, along with a stone axe uncovered by Higinio the following day, confirmed the feature was cultural, and we currently believe this to be the intentional shoring up of a natural terrace area, perhaps to prevent erosion for agricultural purposes (currently being used for growing jipijapa and bamboo with cacao and banana lower down, the steward of which was also curious as to original purpose of the feature). In present day, agricultural terracing is not a common technique used in Stann Creek, and its use in the pre-Columbian past of the region had only been hypothesized by archaeologists in the 80s and 90s. Future carbon dating will hopefully confirm the pre-Columbian designation, and we are now looking for a graduate student to do future terrace studies (hint hint), with a particular focus on understanding the extent of its use during the period of Alabama’s “boom.” The evening brought further excitement. As the water was out, we elected to drag our sweaty selves to Hopkins for a well-deserved dip in the Caribbean.  Nothing like an all-natural seaweed scrub and salt on the bug bites to put you in a positive frame of mind!


Excavations at granite feature (Higinio, Niki, Frank)

On Thursday, we began excavation in earnest at Structure 1&2, following up on leads suggested in 2018. Two questions dictate our efforts here: First, what is the temporal span of construction represented at the locale? Tantalizing evidence for an earlier structure running perpendicular to the principal mass of Structure 1&2 was identified at the end of the 2018 season, and a conspicuous pile of granite slightly above the final plaza level may suggest post-Classic, post-abandonment, reuse/visitation. Second, how were earthen-core, granite-faced structures actually built and how have the taphonomic processes of a millennium transformed them?  Excavations continued at the granite feature in the foothills and our Lab Director took control back in camp. At the end of the day, we returned home to find water still in absence. This time, a quick trip to the Sittee River at Kendal cooled us and cleansed us. For dinner… All we can say is black dinner for the main and stewed pumpkin with 3lbs of sugar for dessert… sigh…amazing…


Frank and Virginia screening Tarp Palace matrix

Friday. Oh, Friday. How we love you. Meaghan completed her excavations in the foothills (mapped, profiled, 3D modeled, and backfilled), and Shawn completed a second full day of excavations at Structure 1&2. We ended the day with celebratory Ideals (basically Mr. Freezes) and headed back to camp where we enjoyed a delicious supper and the best dessert ever concocted by human or god: a banana pineapple fritter with chocolate sauce (thank you, Rigo)!


Working and relaxing in Hopkins.

Weekend was free for crew to catch up on work, relax, or whatever. On Saturday, we hung out in lab all morning doing work, until we picked up Dave at the airport. We then took him to a “Welcome Back to Belize” evening in Hopkins, hanging out at Ella’s Cool Spot.

That’s all for now. We’ll cover Sunday to Saturday of Week 2 next time. Stay tuned!

The SCRAP Team

Prep Week: You Can’t Can This Type Of Heat

There is no more important point of a field project (except, perhaps, the actual digging, lab work, and reporting) than the beginning. We arrived in Belize late on a sweltering Saturday afternoon, after repeated delays and way too much airport coffee. Temperatures in Belize have been soaring at over 100 F, a sharp contrast to the still snowy conditions where we had just been (Calgary and Flagstaff).


Arriving in Belize to +100F weather

It has become our habit to arrive in Belize at least one week before fieldwork is set to commence, in order to take care of all the minutia—purchasing supplies, printing paperwork, renting vehicles, and picking up our permit (you may have seen an earlier post involving a “happy dance”). When things go smoothly, this leaves us with ample time to take care of other essentials to a successful field season—socializing, reconnecting with friends and family, taking in the sights, and acclimatizing. While things rarely go as smoothly as is ideal for the former, we always have ample time for the latter, and this year was no exception. Thank you to Ms. Erva and Mr. Landy, Nigel, Yvette, Karim, and all the rest of the Espat clan, to Raf Guerra, Kay Loague, and everyone else that we had the pleasure to reconnect with this week. We’ll see you at the Belize Archaeology Symposium in 5 weeks’ time!


Hanging out on Burns Avenue in San Ignacio, Cayo


Cooling off at the lovely Rio On Pools in the Pine Ridge

We met our other project members, Jill, Niki, and Frank (more members to follow next week), and headed out for Stann Creek District on Sunday, spending the day setting up our lab and going through items left in storage. We are ready and raring to go for our first week of the season!

Next week’s blog will introduce the goals of this season and outline our first week’s progress.

Meaghan, Shawn, and the SCRAP team.

SCRAP & International Women’s Day 2019

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2019, we’d like to recognize (via photo collage) the amazing women who have supported—through a variety of ways—the Stann Creek Regional Archaeology Project. These women have explored, taught, studied, surveyed, excavated, analyzed, innovated, illustrated, written, presented, cooked, cleaned, toured, chauffeured, trailblazed, constructed, mentored, shared, organized, advocated, fundraised, cared, and so much more. SCRAP would not exist without you—Thank You! #scraparky #WomensDay #sisterhood #archaeology #bettabelizeit @unwomen


Congratulations & some press

Congratulations to SCRAP member, Megan Williams, who completed her BA Anthropology @athabascau this month and has now been accepted into the MA archaeology @ucalgary! Megan is finishing up work on obsidian sourcing at the Alabama site (to be submitted for publication later this year) and will go on to experience field work in Mexico this summer.


Also, check out this recent press item in the Athabasca University Hub re: SCRAP and Dr. Peuramaki-Brown.




SCRAP outreach feedback

Do you follow our website, Facebook Page, Instagram feed, YouTube Channel, or Twitter feed? Let the SCRAP directors know why and what type of materials/posts you would like to see through these media in the coming year(s). Comment below or write to scrap.arky@gmail.com #archaeologyoutreach #scraparky #stanncreekdistrict #bettabelizeit
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