Francisco Estrada-Belli

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Francisco Estrada-Belli

University and/or Organization you are currently working with:

Boston University and the Maya Archaeology Initiative, which is a project to protect archaeological sites and the environment in the Peten while teaching local Maya children about their heritage.    

Type of archaeology you do:

Maya, origins, environmental dynamics, complex society

Project/Site(s) currently working on:

The Holmul Archaeological Project 

Holmul, Guatemala

Does your site or project have a website?

Yes. and


Most interesting find from the field:

Cival, the oldest city so far recorded

Strangest thing encountered in the field:

A dead bull, with a dead vulture inside its gut. (see picture here)

It took me a while to figure out why only one dead vulture was on the scene. The bull had been killed by a fer-de-lance snake and the first vulture that bit its liver was fulgurated on the spot. All other vultures took notice and left the scene. It was amazing to imagine  how the word had gotten out among vultures that that bull was not edible any more...


What made you choose that site to work at?

Early finds from R.E. Merwin in 1911

What size crew do you have working with you?

50-70 people

Are archaeologists from your host country working with you?

Yes. But that's confusing because I am one, being Guatemalan. These year we will run a 100% crew. Other years is about 50-50%

Do you have problems with looters?

Yes. We are under constant threat. Because of that, we had to sacrifice a considerable part of our research budget to keep guards at the sites. It is very costly to protect each site.

If you could describe the site with only one word, what would it be?




On January 24, 2012 the National Geographic Society named Francisco Estrada-Belli among its Explorers. He is one of thirteen archaeologists and the only Mayanist!

You can read more here at National Geographic's page on Explorers. Here is Francisco's Bio page.


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thumb APMaudslay_001Pioneers in Maya Archaeology

Biographical sketches of men and women who did much of the early defining
work in Maya studies.

Copyright 2012 Francisco Estrada-Belli. The Institute of Maya Studies is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. Your charitable contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
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