Ordinary Histories of People and Place

Synopsis: Today, the Corozal District of northern Belize is home to peoples of Spanish and Maya ancestry who sought refuge from the Caste War of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the mid-1800s. In this paper, I reflect on the stories and oral histories I have heard from my colleagues on the Aventura Archaeology Project who are locals of San Joaquin Village. I show how these stories complicate ideas heritage and history and what it means to live amidst archaeological remains of the ancient Maya. I draw on local conceptions of history and heritage to explore how locals craft a sense of social and material belonging to the landscape beyond abstracted connections to the ancient Maya. Ultimately, I argue that attending to ordinary histories of people and place enables archaeologists to collaborate with locals on issues of heritage and history without essentializing local identities or relationships to archaeological remains.

About the presenter: Zachary Nissen is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Northwestern University and has conducted archaeological research at the ancient Maya city of Aventura, Belize since 2015. His research examines ordinary people’s households during a period of stress (750-1100 CE) to show how strategies of inclusion can prevent exaggerated inequalities during periods of crisis and can enable cities to maintain robust and diverse populations over the long-term. In addition to his research, he has co-organized annual community engagement events with Dr. Cynthia Robin, Aventura Archaeology Project staff, and members of the Belize National Institute of Culture and History.

This was part of the Belize KULCHA Symposium!