Major archaeological find in San Ignacio
Sunday is supposed to be the day of rest right? How surprised I was to receive a call from my uncle Fernando Cruz, that pottery was being unearthed from beneath Burns Avenue, the principal street in San Ignacio Town. I thought to myself, should I go and take some pictures of a few sherds they are finding and call it a day? At least that's what I thought it was. I was not ready for the Sunday that unfolded, where for once in my life, myself and the fellow archaeology enthusiasts became tourist attractions for a day.
In the hot sun (and nursing a hangover) I arrived at the site, to find a large trench dug, apparently for drainage pipes. I saw the men pulling out pieces of pottery, and lots of shells as well. I said to myself, you're brave enough, give them the cease and desist order. I puffed out my chest, asked who was in charge, and gave the order. I was told of further vessels that were pulled out, resting in the office of Pacz tours, under the careful eyes of one Mr. Bob Jones. To my amazement, there were partially or almost whole vessels.
I was very glad when Bryan Woodye and George Thompson, both of the IA, arrived with a police officer to give the official cease of duty order. With the vessels in safety, as well as a bone fragment, shells and hundreds of sherds, they went on their way on previous errands with the treasure in tow. The real fun of the day began, when an impromptu dig was green lighted. Myself, Sherry Gibbs and Fernando Cruz began the salvage operation, and eventually added Galen University students and former students Josue Ramos, Rubio Tzib, Adrienne Wright, April Martinez and Sylvia Batty. Calling in reinforcement and getting tools and buckets, we set up the 1X1 meter unit, and began to descend further beneath the busiest street in San Ignacio.
We quickly became a point of interest for the passersby, some who stood or sat and watched for hours as we dug, exclaiming over each pretty pottery piece coming out, the large amount of shells, the ONE obsidian fragment, and even more curious, what seemed like a fragment of historic period porcelain. Tyler Hess (center) and Samantha MacFarland (left) hung around most of the day, giving moral support, encouraging us, and Taylon Angelino (right) became our official line level dude, and how could we not with his years of experience in engineering?
The biggest surprise of the day was when chief Belize Maya archaeologist, Dr. Jaime Awe, showed up to declare that the vessel fragments found thus far were of the Late Preclassic Period, which is about 2000 + more years before Flayvas and Mayawalk were even conceived. And we were glad to know this, as unfortunately to myself and Ms. Gibbs, Dr. Jim Aimers was not around to quickly classify each piece. Ahh Jimmy, we miss you. Dr. Awe, straight from the aiport and quite possible a long flight, came straight to the site, looker as eager as can be just to be witnessing the events unfolding on Burns Avenue, an actual archaeological dig. What can be said except trowels must run in his blood and line levels in his dreams.
After six excavation levels, bags of beautiful chert, nice slipped ceramics, an obsidian flake, lots of shell and jute, and even bone, we had to call it a day when the sun decided to set anyway, and visibility became dim. It is truly something interesting for San Ignacio, particularly in 2012, that we can say that the Maya made their presence known as far as down town, and not only on the glamorous hills of Cahal Pech. My neck is red, my back and legs are sore, and I am dusty and dirty. All I can say, it was the BEST Sunday I have had in years.
Photographs and story by Antonio Beardall
Dr. Jaime Awe, Director, Institute of Archaeology
ďSkeletal remains, the upper part had been either destroyed in antiquity or the tractor may have taken some parts. We were screening all the dirt that the tractor pulled up and we found bits and pieces of bones, you know, parts of the skull fragment and maybe it wasnít as well preserved. The part that you see in the picture is the lower torso. The person actually appeared in a fetal position, you can see the feet by Antonioís hands and then the lower legs and then the knee, the humerus, where the hip was. Even this, we have been able to determine this was an adult male; at least forty years old; fairly robust, so seems to have been doing well and certainly eating well because all around it we found deer bones, deer antlers, peccary remains and we found lots of shells of jute and fresh water mussels. Based on the materials there it looks as though there was a small settlement that went back at least to about 600BC and eventually the family grew, they added some more houses because the spread of materials goes for at least about fifty yards down Burns Avenue, so itís gotta be more than one house, so itís a household a group of people, related very likely. By the time you get into that period before Christ and shortly thereafter, they are building more substantial houses, somebody dies, they bury this individual there and then it seems as though the site is abandoned because we donít find any late classic remains. Well, what I think happened is that they probably got hit by a major flood and decided to move to higher ground and then they leave. The most recent dated objects that we have and itís just below the modern pavement, is we have alone little leg of a post classic pot, which is about over a 1,000A.D and some bottles that are from the colonial period, so the space in between indicates that there was subsequent flooding.Ē
The artifacts will find a home in the Cayo Welcome Center
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Other Belizean "Pictures of the Day":
San Pedro Daily, Tony Rath's "Images of Belize"