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#512167 - 03/04/16 01:11 PM Benque Archaeological Reserve Inauguration
Marty Offline

Benque's new Archaeological Reserve was inaugurated yesterday. The CTGA got some pictures too. "Official unveiling of the Benque Archaelogical Site. Special Thanks to our former volunteer, Mr. Subrata Basu for having the initiative in Making this project a success."

Click photos for more pictures!

#512172 - 03/05/16 05:13 AM Re: Benque Archaeological Reserve Inauguration [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

A Maya Site For Benque Viejo

Benque Viejo has some of the richest Mestizo traditions in Belize - but if you want to experience mayan grandeur, you have to head a few miles east, to Xunantunich. That premier Mayan site with the magnificent El Castillo structure is the pride of Succotz Village. Well, now Benque has its own Mayan site. Now, it's not Xunantunich - but was we found out yesterday, it is a part of it. Jules Vasquez has the report:...

Jules Vasquez reporting
Benque Viejo Town now has its own Maya site. Xunantunich in the nearby village of of Succotz still casts a long shadow - but here a few miles away, Benque is holding its own with more than just the sweet sounds of the Marimba Youth Academy.

Hilberto Rancharan, Mayor, Benque Viejo
"The Benque site has been restored. A temple among and within the town isn't that special enough?"

Dr. John Morris, Director of Archaeology, NICH
"We said, 'look, you know there's an archeological site right in the middle of Benque that we want to preserve. We can do some work here, let's come together apply for some funds and this will attract people who come here' and not only people who come to Xunantunich but people coming to Benque will have an area to go to."

A tourist attraction for Benque and a part of the Xunantunich archeological puzzle:

Dr. John Morris, Director of Archaeology, NICH
"This side is actually a rural household of the main inside of Xunantunich, so if we can think in terms of Xunantunich as a city around 700 A.D. This site over here would be a part of that city."

It was like a suburb - something like Belama - but strictly for the elite:

Dr. John Morris, Director of Archaeology, NICH
"Because this was actually an extremely wealthy suburb of the main site of Xunantunich. That is why your find around the site, several palace structures and a temple shrine and in fact some of the artifacts that we have recovered from the site indicate that the site was very significant. It was actually a part of Xunantunich. One of the things that is very convenient about this site, is that from here you have direct line of view to the main temple at Xunantunich. If you can see in the background, you have a direct line to the main temple A 6, el Castillo. So these people who lived here, I would hazard, I guess that they were probably children of the elite at Xunantunich."

Of course all this was buried by overgrowth and getting it to look like this was not small task:

Dr. John Morris, Director of Archaeology, NICH
"It took us almost an entire year of excavations to understand what was going out here before we can even begin the conservation and preservation, because if you don't know what you're preserving, then you won't do a good job."

The US Embassy paid for it through the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation:

H.E. Carlos Moreno, U.S. Ambassador to Belize
"In the program, generally seeks to preserve cultural sites, objects, collections having intrinsic cultural value."

And the value of this site - while not at all major is great because it tributes the towering Xunantunich:

Jules Vasquez
"Looking at it now, is this an expression of how politically powerful Xunantunich was?"

Dr. John Morris, Director of Archaeology, NICH
"Well, Xunantunich dominated the Mopan Valley, it was the largest political power in this area in 700 - 900 A.D. they dominated this valley, in fact, at the time when Xunantunich was at its peak power they probably had more control over the area than let's say Caracol or some of the other sites."

NICH Plans to build a visitors center at the site which is now open to the public.

Channel 7

Benque Viejo archaeological reserve opened

Benque Viejo del Carmen now has a new attraction at its center, with the opening of the Benque Viejo Archaeological Reserve on Thursday of last week. Once a suburb of the nearby flourishing Xunantunich City State, which existed around 700 A.D, the just opened Maya site may have once been the home of an elite leader or warrior; that gathered significant tribute last week with the presence of Ambassadors from Mexico, Guatemala, Canada, Britain and Brazil.

Master of ceremony for the opening was Dr. Allan Moore, Associate Director of the Institute of Archaeology, who welcomed all the guests and attendees. At the start of the ceremony, the National Anthem was played by the Benque Marimba Academy from the Benque House of Culture. During the ceremonies, Mayor of Benque Viejo, Hilberto Ramcharan accredited the efforts of Subrata Basu, a US Peace Corps volunteer, who had worked tirelessly for a period of three years to preserve the Maya site.

Dr. John Morris, the Director of Archaeology also spoke on Thursday of last week, giving a background to the Benque site and remarked that much effort had gone into making it a central attraction.

While H.E. Carlos Moreno, Ambassador of the United States of America, also expressed that he appreciated the work of the National Institute of Culture and History - NICH, which had done considerable work to make the Benque Viejo Archaeological Reserve a reality. The U.S Ambassador also shared some of his personal history and interests in the Maya culture, arising from when he was studying Mesoamerican history in college some 45 years ago.

Adding to the presentations was Ms. Diane Haylock, President of NICH, who thanked the US Ambassador for the many grants, offered to NICH, over the years. Ms. Diane Haylock pointed out that there were many Maya sites around Belize.

Master of Ceremonies Allan Moore then announced the unveiling of the Benque landmark sign, which was witnessed by Dr. John Morris, Ambassador Carlos Moreno, Mayor Hilberto Ramcharan and Diane Haylock. Thereafter; students from the Mount Carmel Primary School also joined in for a photographic opportunity under the new landmark sign.

The newly opened Benque Viejo Archaeological Reserve was made possible as a result of a unique partnership between the Benque Viejo Town Council, the Institute of Archaeology within NICH and the United States Embassy. Work began at the site in October of last year, with NICH investing $50,000.00 and the US Embassy another $110,124.00 from under the U.S Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation AFCP.

Established by the U.S Congress in the fall of 2000; the AFCP award grants for the preservation of cultural sites, cultural objects and collections, and forms of traditional cultural expressions, such as music, dance, and language in more than 130 countries around the world. Administered by the Cultural Heritage Center, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State, and funded from Diplomatic and Consular Program funds, the AFCP offers the U.S a meaningful opportunity to show its respect for cultural heritage of other countries.

One remarkable feature of the newly opened archaeological site of Benque Viejo is that is has a direct line of sight to the main temple of A6 El Castillo at Xunantunich, which is located several miles away.

The Benque site was first recorded and excavated in the 1930’s by the famous British archaeologist Sir J. Eric S. Thomson. A subsequent 1990’s survey by the Xunantunich Archaeological Project (under the auspices of the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Pennsylvania) and the Belize Institute of Archaeology conducted further investigation of the site and produced a brief description of the settlement.

According to Oki Nabet, who is now attached to the Benque Viejo Town Council, the true tourism potential of the Benque Maya site was recognized by Peace Corps volunteer Subrata Basu, who has left Belize, but was fortunately followed in his work by JICA volunteer Akane Kato.

Remarking on the opening of the Benque Maya site, Subrata Basu has stated:

“I am so happy to see the images of the site. Next best thing to being there. Its not that often that one can see such a significant project take shape from conception to reality in such a short time. I think a great vote of thanks must go to the Benque Tourism Committee and the Belize Tourism Board for the support we got from them. It almost seems like yesterday that I was calling Jaime Awe almost every day till he agreed to support and commit to the project. He simply got tired of me and gave in. We applied for the Cultural Preservation Fund at the US Embassy and even with very strong recommendation in from then Ambassador Thummalapally were not successful the first year (no funding was made available for Belize that year). I am thankful for the US Embassy support and funding the following year. For the people of Benque this is another tangible reminder of the link to the past. I am proud to be part of this great project.”

Dr. John Morris, who also played a key role in the now opened Benque Archaeological Reserve, also tells the Guardian, “I’m proud to say that you know these kinds of projects just simply show the Nation what the Belizean experts can do, given the opportunity and given the resources. We are able to convert these archaeological sites into tourism destinations. We are able to convert them into areas where our school children can visit and learn something about the ancient Maya.”

Belize’s most Western municipality, Benque Viejo Town, has an enormous tourism potential and the addition of one more major landmark will in due course bring great benefits to taxi drivers, hoteliers, tour guides and many other Belizeans. With the marked presence of various representatives from the Community of Artists for Cultural & Historical Endeavors CACHE at the opening ceremonies on Thursday of last week, there now seem ample opportunities to make Benque a better place by working along with the Area Representative, Benque’s House of Culture, the Institute of Archaeology, the Benque Viejo Town Council and the residents of Benque.

The Guardian


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