Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance Project
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In upcoming field seasons our fieldwork will continue with investigations at the ancient Maya sites of Cahal Pech, Baking Pot, and Xunantunich. These major Belize Valley sites are located on the outskirts of the modern town of San Ignacio, capital of the Cayo District of Belize, Central America (click here for a location map and general info on Belize).
Cahal Pech and Baking Pot are among the largest prehistoric Maya sites in the upper Belize River Valley and served as the capitals of medium-sized kingdoms in the Classic period (ca. AD 250-900). The BVAR Project excavations at Cahal Pech have revealed that this site is the location of some of the earliest Maya settlements in the Maya lowlands. First settled between 1200-1000 BC, the site was continuously occupied until the 10th century AD. During the 2022 season, the BVAR Project will continue work at Cahal Pech to document the earliest village settlements in the Belize River Valley dating to the Early Preclassic period (1200-1000 BC).
Despite many years of investigations at Baking Pot, large portions of the monumental site core remain unexcavated and sections of the settlement area remain unexplored. Research at Baking Pot will focus on the monumental center at the palace complex of Group B, clearing sections of the palace's structures and courtyards in order to understand the timing of the abandonment of the palace by the royal court. This research will build on excavations that were conducted in the palace complex during the 2019 and 2021 field seasons.
At Xunantunich, excavations will focus on a large residential complex known as Group B, and on the northern palace complex (Plaza AIII). Excavations in Group B will help us determine the configuration and function of the buildings in this residential group and the relationship between the latter and members of the royal elite who resided in other palace complexes in the site core. Within the northern palace complex, excavations will continue to expose the interior rooms to understand the construction history of the palace in relation to the abandonment of the site. Continued conservation of exposed architecture in Group B and Plaza AIII is also a goal of the summer 2022 excavations.
The 4-week long field school and is designed for extensive exposure to archaeological methods and techniques. This option spans four weeks and includes extensive training in archaeological field techniques: survey, excavation, and artifact processing, among other skills. This option forms a complete curriculum including all lectures, site tours, and written exams. This option is tailored for students wishing to obtain academic credit for this field course. Nonetheless this option is also suitable for enthusiasts seeking in-depth exposure to archaeological field experience.
Note: to earn course credit you must attend the field school for at least four (4) weeks.
Session 1: 28 May to 24 June, 2023
Session 2: 2 July to 29 July, 2023
Cost: $2300.00 USD per 4 week session
Notice! Please read carefully before you consider filling out our application. Thank you for your interest in our project.
All applicants must be at least 18 years old and in sufficient good health to deal with the rigors of this project.
Field archaeology is physically, emotionally and mentally challenging. It is imperative that applicants be prepared to meet these challenges.
Registration fees cover weekly lodgings, weekday meals, as well as transportation to and from the site.
Travel to and from Belize and incidental expenses are the responsibility of the participant. Students must book their flights on the specified start and end dates, as the project cannot pick up students from the airport on other dates.
Academic credit may be obtained for the course through the Northern Arizona University Center for International Education.
Two weeks is the minimum length of stay (for pedagogical and logistical reasons).
Additional details are provided in the application form.
Accreditation: Academic affiliation of the BVAR project is through Northern Arizona University. Through this accreditation, students wishing to obtain academic credit for their participation with the BVAR project may do so by prior arrangement between the department and registrar of their home institution.
Facilities: The cost of the field school covers weekly room and board. Accommodation includes shared bedrooms and bathrooms. Daily meals consist primarily of local fare at Hode's Restaurant. Breakfast and dinner are held at the restaurant with lunch meals delivered out to site.
Travel: Travel to and from the archaeological site are provided on a daily basis. No work is conducted on weekends and thus no transportation is provided on Saturdays and Sundays (except airport transportation on scheduled days). At the start of each session attendees will also be greeted at the International airport in Belize City and shuttled to our headquarters in San Ignacio, the capital of the Cayo District (see map here). Those wishing to make alternate travel plans to San Ignacio may do so, providing they arrive in time for the start of the session.
Travel to and from Belize forms part of the incidental expenses of the participant. In addition, we plan to organize optional weekend tours with local travel agents and tour guides to the important sites of Caracol in western Belize and Tikal in neighboring Guatemala. Over the long weekend in the third week of each session, we traditionally also take a trip to the island Cayes (pronounced "keys") along Belize's Caribbean coast. This optional trip, however, is also not covered by the fees and students may wish to take this opportunity to explore other parts of Belize, or neighboring Mexico and Guatemala.
Lectures: Several lectures are given as part of the field school curriculum and students will be assessed by the content of their field notebooks as well as written exams. Informal on-site lectures will include an introduction to site reconnaissance, survey, excavation unit set-up, and the mapping of archaeological features in section and in plan. Formal lectures given in evenings during the work week, will cover topics associated with Maya prehistory. Specific thematic lectures will focus on current BVAR research including examinations of architecture, ceramic remains, osteology, and hieroglyphic writing. Lab sessions will cover basic finds processing and inventory as well as preliminary artifact analyses. Based on interest we can accommodate lectures on artifact illustration. Students are advised that they will be expected to keep up with required reading and will have to bring the course notebook to the field with them to read at the end of workday.
In addition, the annual Belize Archaeology Symposium will be held the week between the first and second sessions. This is an ideal way to gain a good perspective on the archaeology that has taken place during the course of the previous year. These presentations allow you to be one of the first to find out about the newest interpretations and discoveries made. Participation costs to attend the conference are incidental and details will be posted once these become available.