Monday, 19 December 2011

St. Ignatius High School sends brave intern to the IA

            Here at the Institute of Archaeology we have exciting jobs, where we get dirty and wet at times, or are whisked away to far corners of the country knee deep in mud. Ok, so we are not exactly like Indiana Jones would have you believe. There is no shooting of bad guys in the temples or rescuing treasures while avoiding booby traps.
I think our new intern would be happy that we won't have her visiting any Temples of Doom in the near future, or having to fend off Nazis from stealing the crystal skulls. Gladis comes to us at 17, to get a taste of what it is like to work in the IA. These are her words:

           My name is Gladis Bautista.  I’m 17 year old and I live in United Ville Village. I attend St. Ignacious High school in Santa Elena Town. I’m in fourth form and I’m studying in the science field. It’s a bit challenging but it allows you to take out your skills and show yourself that u can challenge any thing to the best of your ability. I chose this area of study because I believe it has many things u can learn from. Science can be difficult but never impossible to challenge. 

         Why I chose the Institute Of Archaeology to do my work experience? I chose this place because my dream is to become an archeologist one day and what better place could I have gone. It really inspired me from the time I began high school. This is because I believe its really interesting and it can allow me to learn many new things. Therefore, as an intern at The Institute of Archaeology I’m looking forward to learning interesting facts of archaeology and the job of an archeologist. I also hope to have the opportunity to visit one of the sites. I’m willing to give the best of my ability to learn and to do a good job here. Nevertheless, as a young girl aiming for the best I’m looking forward to studying hard and someday finding myself here working as an archaeologist.  Thank you.

            Myself and Ms. Badillo welcome Gladis to the fold and will do our best to show her the ropes. It is always encouraging to meet young people who have an interest in archaeology.

Monday, 28 November 2011

2012...end of days?

Ok. So most of us have seen the movie 2012, and those who were lucky, did not. The whole 2012 doomsday prophecy is becoming quite a phenomenon. It ties in with the end of the Maya Long Count Cycle, and some people may see this as proof that the end of the world is nigh. Then again, wasn’t Y2K or SARS or H1N1 also heralded as the end of days?

Think of the Christian Armageddon, disease, anthrax or celestial bombardment, the concept of 2012 can scare people into hopeless situations. So let’s look at 2012 by first examining where the whole 2012 concept comes from.

The Mayan Long Count calendar is quite unique among those of Mesoamerica. It counts the progression of days, and using a base 20 system, created a five number system to count the passing of time since the date of creation. Essentially the Long Count leads up to the ending of a grand cycle, which is about 5,126 years.

According to this then, the Maya creation began sometime on or around August 13, 3114 BC. Of course we know from archaeology that humanity existed long before this date. How this date was concocted is a question to ponder over eternally. It can be seen that the Maya saw the Great Cycle as one World Age.

The Maya believed that the cosmos had a way of affecting what happened on Earth. Each planet, galaxy and constellation had a specific way that they affected time and the events that happened or were to come. The alignment of these bodies with the sun also affected outcomes. By observing the cycles the Maya were able to determine and understand future and past events. Their study of alignments in the cosmos helped to create the excitement about December 21, 2012, the end of the current Great Cycle.

What does all this mean, if anything? The predictions of a declined civilization are freaking people out. People are prone to spreading and believing hysteria. New Age movements in the West have also long been talking about a Changing of the Age, and use the 2012 date to confirm their theory. Hollywood used it as the basis of a movie to make more money, causing many to believe a lot of the hype surrounding 2012. (Many in Taiwan questioned me about it, fearing for their futures)

So there's no real need to freak out. If you're worried about something happening in 2012, just take sensible steps like making sure you have sufficient food and water for about a week, just in case. It's something you should be doing anyway and the feeling of security you get from being prepared should help you with any pre-2012 jitters.

Antonio Beardall


Friday, 18 November 2011

Belize Tops Nat Geo’s Top 10 Sacred Caves List

Thanks to Ambergris Today for posting this article:

We are very pleased to see that Belize’s Actun Tunichil Muknal is on the top of the list of National Geographic’s Top 10 Sacred Caves. The list is published in the National Geographic book Sacred Places of a Lifetime.

This inspirational book showcases 500 of the world's most powerful and spiritual places—and guides modern-day travelers to and around them. From prehistoric burial chambers to modern monuments and sanctuaries, each site's history, lore, and appeal is evocatively detailed.
Nearly 300 locator maps point out pilgrimage routes, temples, mountains, churches, and holy places. This beautiful book answers the call of the spiritual traveler while also appealing to the many readers interested in sites of unique cultural heritage.

1. Actun Tunichil Muknal, Belize

In myths, journeys to the underworld are never easy, and after visiting Actun Tunichil Muknal (Cave of the Stone Sepulchre), you may feel that you have been through your own epic test. Access to the Maya sacrificial site within the cave involves hiking, wading, and underwater swimming, but nearly a mile (1.6 kilometers) underground you will reach the resting place of the “crystal maiden,” a complete female skeleton that sparkles from eons of crystal calcification. The cave also contains Maya pottery shards, many showing the “kill hole” intended to allow spirits to escape.

The following are the rest of the top ten:

2. Elephanta Caves, Gharapuri Island, India
3. Longmen Caves, China
4. Dambulla Cave, Sri Lanka
5. Corycian Cave, Greece
6. Bronze-Age Minoan Caves, Crete, Greece
7. St. Paul’s Grotto, Malta
8. St. Michael’s Shrine, Italy
9. Grotte de Font-de-Gaume, France
10. Sof Omar Caves, Ethiopia

Click here to see the whole post by National Geographic

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Sites of Toledo, Belize

Lubaantun (Place of the Fallen Stones) is located near the village of San Pedro Columbia. The site is well known for its mass of ceramic whistle figurines and three major ballcourts. Given its size and complete lack of carved stone monuments (stelae) is a curious point of interest. Lubaantun is alleged to have been the place where the Crystal Skull was found by F.A. Mitchell-Hedges.
Lubaantun is located north of the Colombia River, one mile past the village of San Pedro Colombia, and is accessible by public transportation. From Belmopan, take the Hummingbird Highway for 45 miles to the junction of the Southern Highway Exit. Turn right unto the Southern Highway and travel an additional 70 miles (2 hours) until you reach the Silver Creek cut off. Travel through the villages of San Miguel and San Pedro Columbia. Exit right on the all weather gravel road and continue for about 1 1/2 miles until you reach the reserve.

The name Nim Li Punit is derived from a carving on one of the site's twenty six stelae, which depicts a figure wearing a large headdress. In the Maya Kekchi language, Nim li Punit means "the big hat." The monument on which this carving appears is the longest stela in Belize (Stela 14), originally located in an area called Plaza of the Stelae.

Nim Li Punit is a small site in the Toledo District. It is situated on a ridge in the foothills of the Maya Mountains just off the Southern Highway, 25 miles north of Punta Gorda. Nim Li Punit is regarded as a ceremonial center consisting of two plazas, one higher than the other. There are 25 stelae of which 8 are carved. The largest structure is 33-40 feet above the plaza level and is constructed of dry, sandstone typical of sites in southern Belize. There are 3 plaza areas and a ballcourt. The concentration of so many stelae makes this a unique site.
From Belmopan, take the Hummingbird Highway for 45 miles until you reach the Southern Highway Exit. Turn right onto the Southern Highway and travel an additional 50 miles (1 ½ hours) until you reach Indian Creek Village. Exit to the right on the gravel road and continue for about 1/2 mile until you reach the reserve.

Recently discovered in 1984, Uxbenka is noted for its more than 20 stelae, at least 7 of which are carved.  One of these carved stelae is dated to the Early Classic period, an otherwise non-existent date in Southern Belize, and a rare date for stelae in all the Maya area.  The name is Maya for “Old Place” and was given to the site by the people of Santa Cruz where the site is located.

Pusilha translates into "Dirty/Muddy Water.”
Pusilha is a mid-size population and political center located in the extreme southwest of Belize.  The site is known principally for its many carved monuments dating to the Classic period and a unique architectural feature: a triple-span bridge over the Pusilha River and two artificial diversion canals.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Welcoming the IA to the era of the BLOG

We here at the Institute of Archaeology have many primary goals, such as managing and sustaining our cultural heritage, as well as the pursuit of educating the population about what we have available in our country, and why it is important to preserve them. Of course along with educating others, we must also educate ourselves and never stop learning and striving to be on top of things, to be cutting edge.

Melissa Badillo and Antonio Beardall out on a site visit
By cutting edge I meant being up-to-date, relevant, known. Social networks have done wonders in terms of linking people, are a great tool for publicising what your organization is doing, and of course links one to new audiences and target groups. Facebook has done wonders, but blogging gives us a greater chance to share our views more in depth, than just a post on Facebook.

Not too long ago we here at the IA had a newsletter called The Underground that covered internal stories and developments we wished to share. Staff members such as Rafael Guerra, Melissa Badillo and Nicholas Foster spearheaded the compilation of articles written by our very own Dr. Jaime Awe as well as other staff members. It was always a great success. However, the very idea of a newsletter is as archaic as snail mail. By the time it gets to you, the story may have lost its power. So, presto! Instant newsletter on your computer.

So consider this the new underground, but always available, saving lots of trees by not wasting paper, and where news and events gets to you as fast as you can click. We may preserve the past for the future, but we do it by using the means of the present.

Antonio Beardall
Research Assistant
Research and Education