Saturday, April 28, 2012
DARK SECRETS OF MIDNIGHT TERROR CAVE
Midnight Terror Cave is located in Central Belize. The cave was the site of ritual activity by the ancient Maya. After a three-year project, the cave has yielded both answers and even more unanswered questions. You will have an opportunity to hear about the discoveries in this cave and how they were made.
Introductory Maya Hieroglyphic Workshop
Stanley Guenter - Idaho State University, Marc Zender, Tulane University, and Harri Kettunen, University of Helsinki
This workshop will offer a first approach to Classic Maya writing system through ancient texts. The aim of the workshop is to learn the method to be able to analyze the structure of Maya texts, and make some commparisons between different monuments of the Maya art. Participation in this workshop doesn't require any prerequisite.
This workshop deals with ancient Maya cave use and how we study this behavior in the field setting. The first half of the workshop will focus on presenting a survey of ancient Maya cave use, and some of the current work being conducted in the presenter’s research area of central Belize. The second half of the workshop will focus on the practical application of baseline-offset survey techniques. Participants will survey and map a mock cave environment while we discuss how we interpret these landscapes.
This workshop deals with household and settlement archaeology as pursued in Maya studies. The first half of the workshop will focus on presenting typical household settings as reflected in the ethnohistoric, ethnographic and archaeological records, in addition to types of material evidence encountered in domestic contexts. Participants will get hands-on experience with artifacts that the ancient Maya used in their daily activities, and the remains that archaeologists regularly encounter. We will discuss how archaeologists use those remains to construct interpretations about the past, as well as the theoretical background of household archaeology for understanding people and events in the past. The second half of the workshop will focus on issues of landscape settlement and population estimates. We will conclude the workshop with a series of activities dealing with these topics.
Long before cacao (or chocolate) transformed world cuisine, ancient Mesoamerican peoples used cacao in their daily social and religious activities. When Spanish explorers and conquistadors entered what is now modern day Mexico in the early 1500s they found that the Maya, the Aztec, and other indigenous peoples revered cacao as “the drink of the gods”. From Mexico, the Spanish took cacao beans (dried seeds from the cacao pod) back to Europe and chocolate soon became a popular “luxury” drink among the noble classes. Over the succeeding decades and centuries, cacao has been elaborated into a myriad of culinary products, most of which would be completely unrecognizable to the indigenous inventors of chocolate in ancient Mexico. Mesoamerican peoples had a long history of cacao use, spanning more than 39 centuries, as confirmed by previous identification of cacao residues on archaeological pottery from the site of Paso de la Amada on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. However, many questions about the origin of chocolate remain unanswered. For example, how, where, and when did this come about? Archaeologists, botanists, geographers, chocolate producers, and consumers have been asking these questions for generations. My research, however, is more focused on one specific question: was cacao initially consumed as a seed product (made from cacao beans that were dried, toasted and ground into chocolate) or as a fermented beer (made from the sweet white pulp that surrounds the seeds inside the cacao pod)? No scientific inquiry, to date, has been conducted on this idea. The notion that early cacao use focused on the making of cacao beer is interesting because it suggests that the initial motivation for the domestication of certain plants was quite different from their ultimate uses.
The role of bioarchaeologists is to reconstruct ancient lifeways using clues from skeletons. Often, this type of research is focused on large cemetery samples, in which we can try to infer the experience of individuals by calculating the average life span and health profile of the group to which they belong. But, the Pre-Colonial Maya do not appear to have used cemeteries, instead spreading their dead across the landscape in a variety of constructed and natural mortuary locations. So, what happens in cases in which bioarchaeologists must analyze and interpret skeletal samples that consist of only a few individuals, without being able to use aggregate measures? Such studies often focus on reconstructing the social identity of individuals by using a combination of biological, cultural, mortuary, taphonomic, and contextual data. This presentation will demonstrate this approach by focusing on the small skeletal sample from Uayazba Kab Rockshelter, located in central Belize. I will discuss the variety of types of data that were recovered during the excavations and lab analyses, and explain how each revealed meaningful aspects of the lives of the individuals. Ultimately, this data can be used to understand the nature and importance of the site’s use. I conclude by discussing Uayazba Kab within the broader patterns of mortuary and biological variation already documented within the region, and explain how these data help to answer questions about the larger social and political context of Late Classic Belize.
Mat and Jaime reported on the incredible work the students did during the summer field project in 2011. Pictures of some of items excavidated are below. The plans for the trip this coming summer sound even more exciting.
Archaeological investigations at Cahal Pech, Belize, has recovered substantial evidence suggesting that the site was either reoccupied following its decline and abandonment in the 9th century A.D., or that it continued to be occupied by a small group of elite families during these challenging times. The evidence further indicates that these Terminal Classic Maya resided primarily in the eastern section of the site core, but continued to conduct rituals and bury their dead in the abandoned temples and palaces of the site core. Besides providing intriguing new information on the prehistory of Cahal Pech, the data provide an interesting perspective on the processes of abandonment at an important Belize River Maya center.
The Contemporary Maya Fundraising Feast