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The jade head, one of the crown jewels of the country, is going to be the feature artifact in a country wide tour scheduled to begin on Monday. The Institute of Archaeology will also be touring other artifacts found along with the jade head but for the first time the unique Maya masterpiece will be the highlight. Love News spoke to Doctor John Morris from the Institute of Archaeology.

Doctor John Morris; Institute of Archaeology

“I think if you look at any dollar bill you will see an image of the Jade Head on that dollar bill but many times when we are giving lectures to schools or to other organizations one of the questions that are asked is; where is the jade head? How come we don’t see the jade head? This year we decided to have a countrywide exhibition tour that features only the jade head and we will take it all around. We will start in Belmopan and then we will go to Dangriga, Toledo, Orange Walk, Cayo and Belize City. We will be in Belmopan at the George Price Center, we will be in Dangriga at the Town Hall, in PG we will be at the St. Peter Claver Parish Hall and then in San Ignacio we will be at the Cahal Pech visitors Center. In Orange Walk we will be at the Banquitas House of Culture and in Corozal we will be at the Corozal Cultural Center and in Belize City we will be at the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts. The jade head will be exhibited for a day in each of these locations.”

Event though the myth about the jade head not being in the country were dispelled back in 2005 many Belizeans still have not seen the unique object.

Doctor John Morris 

“The jade head was discovered in Altun Ha in 1968 by Doctor David Pendergast of the Royal Ontario Museum of Canada and some of his Belizean workers. The jade head was found with 40 other objects and they were placed in a large tomb that was located beneath one of the temples at the site. We call the temple the Temple of the Masonry Altars. The person that was buried with all these exotic was an elderly man that we believe was the ruler of the site during his lifetime. He might have commissioned this jade head to commemorate an important event in his life. We do not know when it was actually carved but from the analysis that was there we know that it dates to somewhere around 600 and 650 A.D. for the purpose of the school children it has an ahau glyph on his forehead; an ahau glyph is a day sign and a head is the representation of the Maya sun God Kinich Ahau. We would like people to come out. It is a rare opportunity. It is one of those kinds of things where the next time we view it will be five ten years from now. This is an opportunity, especially for the school to bring out their children to see the jade head. As a child I never saw the jade head until I began working as an archaeologist. I think this is an excellent opportunity for them to be able to see; they will be able to come up close and see the hade head.”

Weighing in at nine point 75 pounds and standing almost six inches high, the jade head is the single largest carved jade object yet discovered in the Americas. Again the tour will begin on Monday in Belmopan at the George Price Centre from ten am to three pm.


#368190 - 02/20/10 12:04 PM Re: JADE HEAD FEATURED IN COUNTRY WIDE TOUR [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Apr 2000
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SP Daily Offline
SP Daily  Offline
Why isn't it coming to Ambergris Caye while on its tour of Belize?

#368195 - 02/20/10 01:03 PM Re: JADE HEAD FEATURED IN COUNTRY WIDE TOUR [Re: SP Daily]  
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,310
Katie Valk Offline
Katie Valk  Offline
Well worth seeing.

Belize based travel specialist
#369625 - 03/05/10 09:25 AM Re: JADE HEAD FEATURED IN COUNTRY WIDE TOUR [Re: Katie Valk]  
Joined: Oct 1999
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The mystery of the jade head

jade headAltun Ha is a familiar Mayan name in many Belizean households. It appears on every Belikin beer bottle, but most importantly it is the venue where the famous jade head was discovered in 1968. But who has the full story about Altun Ha, the Jade Head and the legacy of the Mayas? Well, if you can’t say you do, don’t be putt off. And that is why the Archaeology Department held a one day display of some very unique Mayan Artifacts at the Bliss Centre for the Performing Arts. The priceless jade head was among the treasures and News Five Marion Ali viewed the display.

Marion Ali, Reporting

The heavily armed guards at the Bliss Centre for the Performing Arts on Wednesday were no suggestion that some form of violence or crime had occurred. In fact, these officers were there to prevent that from happening. The Archaeological Department held a one-day display and information awareness on priceless Mayan artefacts. There were these pieces of flint, jewelry, obsidian, sea shells and pottery, which Associate Director at the Institute of Archaeology, George Thompson, says date back to an important era and they all had specific purposes.

George Thompson, Associate Director, Institute of Archaeology

“The same way we use gold in our present society, it was the same way the Mayans revered jade. So what they did was to work it into different object.”

Among the gems was this piece. Weighing in at nine and three quarter pounds, and standing six inches tall, this beauty was retrieved from the historic Altun Ha some thirty-one miles north of Belize City on the Old Northern Highway. The discovery was made in 1968 by Dr. David Pendergast of the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada. It was found along with forty other Mayan carvings inside a large tomb. It is believed that the gem was commissioned by an important ruler to commemorate a momentous event in his life. Its unique features depict Mayan divinity.

George Thompson

George Thompson

George Thompson

“Nowhere else in the entire Maya area has any other item ever been found that is of the size and the workmanship that is represented in the jade head. It is a representation of the Mayan sun god, Kinich Ahau. We can tell that because of the cross eyed featured, the Ahau glyph on its forehead as well as the carved depiction on both sides of the jade head. For us as a country, we revere the jade head as a priceless object mainly because there is no more jade head in the rest of the world. It is a one of a kind item and for us and the fact that it was found at Altun Ha, one of our archaeological site makes it even more special to us. While we do not the exact age of the jade head, what we have done is to date the jade head in association with the artifacts that we have one display. All the artifcats found in the tomb at Altun Ha dates to approximately 600-650AD. That makes all these pieces that you see here, they are approximately one thousand four hundred years old. Clearly when you look at the workmanship of the jade head, it is extremely exquisite work. It is a unique piece so the artist who manufactured the jade head was an artist of the highest calibre at that time. In terms of tools, when it was made the ancient Maya had no metal tools of any sort so all the workmanship was done by stone tools, bone tools and using sand as abrasive to polish and give it the sheen that we see on the jade head today. The replicas that are around it are just made from ceramic which is a fired clay and easily breakable but we have not had any other object made of jade and of similar workmanship as the jade head.”

After its discovery, the jade head was taken to Canada for detailed analyses before it was returned to Belize. And when we spoke with a couple students at the exhibition on Wednesday, they were proud that theirs is the country which boasts such wonders.

archaeology display 1Felicia Quan, Student, Belize Elementary School

“It’s really great that Belize has such a treasure and like they said, it’s our national treasure and it’s such a cherished thing. It’s really great.”

Marion Ali

“Which is your favourite?”

Brannon Thomson, Student, Belize Elementary School

“The jade head because it’s colourful and shiny and it’s a Mayan piece. The jade head is just, I don’t know but it’s just nice to see.”

It was also interesting was that the students took copious notes on about the centuries old gems that were once everyday tools or ornaments. Reporting for News Five, Marion Ali.

The jade head is normally kept at the Central Bank vault for safe-keeping.

News 5

#496013 - 09/24/14 05:06 AM Re: JADE HEAD FEATURED IN COUNTRY WIDE TOUR [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
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Man Who Found Jade Head Passes

Another well-known name from the old Belize District is Wilhelm "Busta" Leslie - and he also passed away this weekend at the age of 80. Busta Leslie is from the village of Rockstone Pond-Lucky Strike and he played a pivotal but under- appreciated role in Belize's history.

You probably won't read his name in any history book, but along with fellow villager Winston Herbert, they found the iconic jade head at Altun Ha. At the time - in 1968, the two were assistants to David Pendergast of the Royal Ontario Museum of Canada. They were inside the structure and actually found what is considered to be the most prized artifact in all of Mayan antiquity, the Jade Head.

Channel 7

#496048 - 09/25/14 04:59 AM Re: JADE HEAD FEATURED IN COUNTRY WIDE TOUR [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
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Revisiting Winston and Busta

And while on the subject of iconic Mayan temples, we dug into our archives yesterday to find footage of Wilhelm Busta Leslie – The Rockstone Pond Villager who along with his buddy Winston found the legendary Jade Head at Altun Ha in 1968. Almost ten years ago, we went back to Altun Ha with them to relive the glory of their discovery, and reminisce about the legendary dig led by Dr. David Pendergast:…

Jules Vasquez Reporting

Little do we know how much we owe to the hard headed and stick to it I've-ness of two boys from Rockstone Pond. Walking into the main plaza at Altun Ha you might think these two men - both residents of the adjacent village of Rockstone Pond were accidental tourists. But in fact even as tourists and tour guides walk past them without even a second glance, Winston Butler and Wilhelm "Buster" Herbert are pivotal, central figures in the history of Altun Ha, the site that draws all these visitors. But these men are not even footnotes in the storied and gloried history of Belize's most visited Maya site. In fact they are forgotten, and now they want recognition.

Their story goes back to March of 1968 - when they were working in a crew of 26 men along with Dr. David Pendergast on Altun Ha. They had been working for four years and were clear on what they wanted.

Winston Butler, Rockstone Pond Villager

"We wanted to make our name famous, my partner and I.”

Pendergast put them here at the top of structure B4, or as its known the masonry temple. He warned them of the dangers.

Winston Butler

"He told us it is very dangerous so we must take our time and we started to dig.”

But after a few days - Pendergast became discouraged and told them to close up the hole.

Wilhelm "Buster" Herbert, Rockstone Pond Villager

"Mr. Pendergast gave up and he told us to go home and that when we come back we should cover the hole."

But these two at the time young men from Rockstone Pond, Winston then 23 and Wilhelm then 32, didn't. Instead they were intent on realizing this fame that so obsessed them

Wilhelm "Buster" Herbert

"We were interested in the work, we didn't only work for money, we worked because we wanted fame."

Jules Vasquez

“At this point you all had been working here 5 years.”

Wilhelm "Buster" Herbert

"From the beginning, from the start."

Jules Vasquez

“And you all wanted the fame and the notoriety of finding something great?”

Wilhelm "Buster" Herbert


Jules Vasquez

“And you were confident there was something great?”

Wilhelm "Buster" Herbert


And so they continued to dig:

Winston Butler

"The more we go down the easier it was becoming. While digging we discovered a round object which is a Jade button."

That first find created excitement and the surety that more would follow - it did.

Winston Butler

"It was only about 15 minutes to 12 when I came upon some soft dirt, soft soft, so I took my shovel and start to scrape it and it lead me to something solid at the bottom of that fine dirt. But I said to my partner, look something is here and I said this looks like a capstone."

Beneath that capstone was a tomb - But it would be some days before the tomb would be fully exposed. With the help of the entire crew, they had to raise the massive capstone first, and that's when the glorious jade head was revealed. Winston was doing the brushwork.

Winston Butler

"While I was cleaning I saw a piece of green, just a small piece, and I started to brush it but the more I cleaned this thing, the bigger it get until it got about this size. When I looked up and saw Dr. Pendergast staring down I said, 'boss it seems that this is a very big piece.' He said 'hmm' and to just continue. The more I picked that thing and brushed it, the more it got bigger and it got about this size; all eyes looking down. After looking down on that thing, he turned it over and made a big sigh and said this is the biggest find in Central America. He passed it to each one of us in that room.”

And that feeling has stayed with them throughout their lives. But what has not stayed is that first blush of fame. Nowhere are these two men mentioned for sticking to a mission that their boss had abandoned.

Winston Butler

" My partner and I, we need to be recommended. I would like that history prevails see because they are some youths wondering in the city, and all over the world, who don't even know about this finding. And if they do know or hear about it, they already believe or heard that it was a white man. So I would say that from here on I would like that our names be sounded and not Dr. Pendergast's name anymore because he knows to his heart that he didn't find that."

And while the gods of academia may feel hard to give them that recognition, until then, all they want is a license free and clear to work as tour guides in a place where they didn't write history, they made it.

Again, that story was from mid-2005. And while it is hard to imagine Altun Ha as buried beneath the bush, prior to 1960, it was. The pair told us that in 1958, their fellow villager Benjamin Audinett was the first to come upon a jade pendant in the area – which, the story goes, he took to George Price, who then called in Archaeological Commissioner A.H. Anderson and David Pendergast - the rest as they say, is history.

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