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Pook's Hill  



Origin of name:

Named after the place of origin of the mythic character Puck in Rudyard Kipling’s play ‘Puck of Pook’s Hill’ (1906), inspired and adapted from Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsommer Nights Dreame’ (c. 1590).  In the story Puck is said to appear on an ancient site known as the ‘Fairy Ring’ after children perform an abridged version of ‘Midsummer’s Nights Dream’ on Midsummer’s Eve, after which Puck goes on to recount ‘the story of the ancients’ (Vicki Snaddon pers. comm. 1999).

Named by:

Raymond and Victoria Snaddon (1992)

Alternate names:

Pook’s Hill 1, PKH1, PKH (in epigraphic designations)

Date discovered:

late 1980s, by Hellmuth Schön (caretaker for Society Hall), by which time the eastern shrine of the site had already been looted.

Date reported:

1992 by Joel Borieck (intern to the Dept. of Archaeology)

Site code:

30/189-002 (PKH1)


North-westerly view of the plazuela as seen from the summit of Str. 4A (the eastern shrine).  Visible in this view is the consolidated Str. 1A, the largest building platform at the site, as well as the modern lodge buildings in the background.  Detail of composite photo-mosaic by Christophe Helmke (2006). Click on the image to see larger view.



Location:              Cayo District, Upper Roaring Creek Valley.  The site lies 13.5 km southwest of the modern capital, Belmopan at an approximate elevation of 78 m above MSL.  On the western banks of the Roaring Creek, on a karstic bluff overlooking the overgrown floodplain.  Located on land owned by Raymond and Victoria Snaddon, adjoining to the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve.  In the NW quadrant of the NAD27 UTM Grid 030 / 189. 

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Site description:   Medium-sized plazuela group consisting of the remains of nine masonry platforms delimiting the quadrangular perimeter of a central, plastered plaza platform.  The terminal architecture of the plazuela encompasses a total of 1087 m2.  Two structures define each of the sides, save the north that is formed by three platforms.  Terminal platforms range between 0.8 and 2.9 m in height, and cover surface areas of between 30 and 138 m2.  In the terminal phase the plaza covered as much as a third of the site’s total surface area.  All platforms appear to have had superstructures made mostly of perishable materials such as wood, thatch, as well as wattle and daub.  The terminal phase of the site is notable for the presence of a circular shrine (Structure 4A-1st – which served as mausoleum and locus of ancestor veneration) and a dome-vaulted sweatbath (Structure 1B-1st – that served both hygienic and ritual needs).


Map of the site:    The first map of the site was produced by Joel Borieck during his initial reconnaissance to the site in 1992 (a map that has not been relocated in the government archives in 1999) (René Torres pers. comm. 1999).  Subsequently Melissa Bunton of the BRASS project (under the direction of Anabel Ford) produced a topographic map of the plazuela in 1999.  Later, the same year, the first season of intensive archaeological investigations was initiated at the site by the WBRCP project during which a complete map of the plazuela’s mounds was produced by Christophe Helmke.  Between 2000 and 2001 Bill Poe and Sue Hayes (Sonoma State University) produced a detailed topographic map of the plazuela and portions of the surrounding clearing using DPGS.  With completion of the tourism development works at the site in 2005 a complete architectural plan of the site was produced.




Map of the Pook’s Hill plazuela as mapped by the BVAR project (1999-2005).  Map and survey by Christophe Helmke.  Note Structure 4A, which served as the eastern shrine to the group and Structure 1B, the site’s sweatbath structure.  Map aligned to UTM grid north.  Click on the image to see larger view.



History of research:  The first recorded archaeological inspection of the site was conducted by Joel Borieck in 1992, at which time a sketch map was produced and the site registered with the Department of Archaeology.  Following mapping of the site by the BRASS project in 1999 Dr. Anabel Ford examined some of the ceramic specimens fortuitously recovered during informal surface collections during site clearing and maintenance (see Helmke 2000).  Following this the WBRCP project undertook mapping and salvage operations on the looters trench of the eastern trench late in the 1999 season (Helmke 2000; Bassendale 2000).  In 2000 the BVAR project initiated test excavations in the plazuela, focusing on the centre of the plaza platform, the primary axis of the eastern shrine (Str. 4A) and the principal western structure (Str. 2A) (Helmke et al. 2000a, 2000b).  In 2001 work focused on complete exposure of Str. 2A (Helmke et al. 2004) and the SW flank of Str. 4A (Ek & Helmke 2004; Bassendale et al. 2004), which were subsequently consolidated as part of tourism development efforts.  In addition, the northern Str. 1A was tested by a trial trench (Saunders et al. 2004) and a small nearby housemound Str. PKH-M1 was salvaged (Cavanaugh et al. 2004).  The 2002 season focused on complete exposure of the terminal phase of Strs. 4A and 4B, which were subsequently consolidated (Helmke 2003), continued testing of the primary axis of Str. 4A (Bassendale & Graver 2003), and exposure and consolidation of the SE flank of Str. 1A.  Following the lab seasons of 2003 and 2004 excavations were resumed at the site in 2005.  The 2005 season proved to be the most extensive to date and resulted in the completely exposure of Strs. 2B, 4B and the partial exposure of Strs. 1A, 1B and 1C (Helmke 2006; Helmke in press).  Excavations of Str. 1B led to the discovery of a well-preserved dome-vaulted sweatbath (Helmke & Awe 2005; Anonymous 2005; Billing 2006; Foster 2005; Helmke 2006).  With the completion of the 2005 season the consolidation and tourism development of the site are deemed completed, and several analyses of the material culture are still on-going (ceramics, lithics, faunal remains, human remains, plaster, limestone, macrofloral remains, carbon samples, etc.).


Carved and incised mammal bone plaque found in Bu. 2A-2, Structure 2A, Pook’s Hill.  The iconography represents a crouching and elderly male figure (possibly related to God N or Pawahtun) emerging from the right edge of the frame atop a basal field that is designated by hatched elements (that may serve a toponymic function).  Photograph by Christophe Helmke (2002).  Click on the image to see larger view.



Literature and reports:  Click here


Text:  Christophe Helmke (August 2007).