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May 22, 2013

Chaw Hiix devastated and Institute of Archaeology strapped for cash

On Tuesday, News Five reported that thousands of rotted bags full of Mayan artifacts which were left in a cement structure behind the site of Chau Hiix in the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. We discovered that those artifacts, excavated between 1989 and 2007, were left there after the anthropologist on site, Dr. Anne Pyburn, completed her project in 2007 and departed the country. The natural inclination would be to blame the Institute of Archaeology for these thousands of pieces of pottery, flint and other ancient material which seem to have fallen between the cracks. But the reality is that the institute is strapped for cash, resources and manpower. Mike Rudon was at the Institute of Archaeology in Belmopan today and has the story.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

What you’re looking at here are thousands of bags, many falling to pieces, containing broken pottery, shards of flint and other artifacts which were excavated from Chau Hiix and left here near the site in what was once a secure stone bodega constructed by Professor of Anthropology, Anne Pyburn.


Jaime Awe, Commissioner of Archaeology

Jaime Awe

“We knew that a bodega had been constructed there by the anthropologist Anne Pyburn. In fact, I think Doctor Pyburn, the last permit that she received to do work there was in 2007 of which I have a copy of that permit. And she had paid for the construction of the bodega: concrete blocks, zinc roofing. And about a couple weeks ago, we receive word of the situation that you described. One of the archeologists did go and visited the site. What seems to have happened there, somebody had gone in a ripped the roof off—they stole the zinc sheets, they stole doors and windows, etc. and as a result of that, it compromised the bags that contained some of these materials and obviously with the heat and rain it affects the plastic bags. Then vandals started to go in there ripping the bags apart to see if there was any artifact of significance.”


Commissioner of Archaeology Jaime Awe says that they planned to go back and salvage the artifacts but with the Noh Mul issue and a chronic lack of resources, they just didn’t get around to it. That’s not an excuse…it’s the reality which confronts the small department faced with an overwhelming task.


Jaime Awe

“Who is at fault here? For me it is heart-wrenching just as much to see the pottery that was strewn all over the place. And obviously if the vandals had left that building and that had destroyed the building, chances are that that material would have still been not in the condition that you saw them. Having said that, at the same token, I think it is important for people to realize that whenever permits are issued for work at archeological sites, whenever any finds of important materials are made—and I’m not trying to say that not everything is important; that’s not the point I’m making—but any complete vessels, materials that come from tombs etc., we make sure that those things are brought in to Belmopan and we have them in our storage in Belmopan. The millions of broken pottery that were found, we don’t have the storage for them; it is just impossible. Again we have bodegas at all the sites—at Caracol there is a bodega. But all the important pieces we make sure that they come in. many of them are exhibited at the museum in Belize City. Those that are not exhibited are stored here in Belmopan.”


And while the images are heart-wrenching for this archaeologist who has dedicated more than twenty years to his field, the fact is that passion, intent and will are not always enough to get the job done.


Jaime Awe

“I think that it is important for people to appreciate just how thinly our resources are stretched at archeology. We have one field vehicle that goes out and is responsible for looking and recording the incident reports that we get for monitoring the archeological work that is going on out there, for responding to looting, to going into the Chiquibul because we have incursions across the border by Guatemalans, who don’t only come to get xate by the way. If they see archeological sites, they also loot. We also have a long list of things that we need to respond to. We just don’t have the personnel, we don’t have the financial resources.”


And with scrutiny suddenly focused on his department, Awe reaffirmed the commitment of his team, and asked for understanding and consideration.


Jaime Awe

“We want the Belizean public to know that we do take our responsibility very seriously. I have a bunch of very dedicated people. When you came in you said it is nice and cool in this office. Most of what we do is in the field, in the sun, in the rain, in the storms and very adverse conditions and we take that responsibility very serious. We are stretched to the limit and our capacity—financial and human—is to do what we do. But we will continue the background and we will continue to respond. We ask the Belizean people to please keep calling us. We will get there. Be patient, work with us and we will go out there and respond.”


According to Awe they will make the time to go to ChauHiix to determine if there are any pieces which can be salvaged for the Museum. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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8 Responses for “Chaw Hiix devastated and Institute of Archaeology strapped for cash”

  1. Cayo Fool says:

    Strapped for Cash? Is that why Dr. Morris uses a Department of Archaeology vehicle to attend Board of Directors meetings from his home in Belmopan to Cayo and Back and then charge St. Martin’s Credit Union “Traveling Allowance” ? So St. Martin’s is now paying for fuel for GOB?!…Fool di talk but Fool noh di listen.

  2. leo says:

    i tink they should collect all the pieces of artifacts and take it 2 the museum, take 1, take everything . . . come on Dr. Awe.

  3. Cayo Fool says:

    Strapped for Cash? Is that why Dr. Morris uses a Department of Archaeology vehicle to drive from his home in Belmopan to San Ignacio and Back to attend Board Meetings and charge SMCU “Traveling Allowance”? St. Martin’s is now putting fuel in a GOB vehicle?………Fool noh di listen!

  4. mike says:

    Strapped for cash , how when they collect hundreds of thousands of dollars from the cave sites from tourist fees . The only answer could be mismanagement and abuse of funds . And they have received millions of dollars in grants through the years .

  5. Storm says:

    “just didn’t get around to it?” When normal people don’t do their jobs, they lose their jobs! Why are archaeologists different? Maybe Dr. Awe has had it soft for too long and it’s time for change at the top, some young and energetic blood.

    “strapped for cash?” Then GOB needs to quit wasting money on BIL and other thefts.



  6. Corozaleño says:

    I think Awe is guilty of not doing his job.

    I bet he collects a huge paycheck each month for sitting in an air conditioned office and looking important.

    That is why they are strapped for cash.

    Does he really have a degree in archeology? I wonder.

  7. george alamilla says:

    Desde que se inventaron las excusas,se acabaron los pendejos.It sounds better in spanish.
    Lameducks became extinct, when excuses were discovered.

  8. Rasman says:

    That Arab Awe is no good for Belize. He does not care about Belizean Heritage , only himself.

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