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Jul 8, 2004

Archaeologists find more than just Maya artefacts

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On yesterday’s newscast we interviewed a number of archaeologists attending the annual symposium now on at the Princess Hotel. And while those scientists and most of their colleagues are investigating ancient ruins, they sometimes run across more modern artefacts. Patrick Jones, has more.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

With hundreds of ancient sites scattered across the Belizean landscape, the bulk of the attention of archaeologists has been spent on investigating our nation?s Maya heritage. But during the course of those investigations, archaeologists have uncovered evidence that there were interesting interactions between the Maya and subsequent settlers. Andrew Kinkella found one such link while researching a classic Maya centre at Yalbac.

Andrew Kinkella, Investigator, Yalbac Historical Record

?We were just going for Maya stuff; again we were working right on top of a Maya mound. And just as we started to dig, wow, there you go you know historical artefacts, bottles and little bits of ceramics that were like new ceramics like plates, like that we would recognize as plates that were just a hundred years old or so.?

Kinkella?s analysis of the artefacts is that they were left there by logwood cutters who came across the Maya site long after the first inhabitants had left.

Andrew Kinkella

?If anything, actually this is definitely sort of a colonial settlement because we actually found, for people of that time, we found like knives and forks and that type of thing. And that usually equals like a western culture background because at that time, like 1900 or even a bit before, if it was Maya there probably would not have been knives and forks because they would use tortillas instead.?

While no conclusive answers are available for why colonial utensils would be found on top of a Mayan site at Yalbac, hundreds of miles further inland archaeologist Steve Morandi found more concrete evidence of direct interaction between the Maya and the Spaniards who arrived in the mid 16th century in an area of Gracie Rock Village called Cedar Bank.

Steve Morandi, Investigator, Spanish Colonial Frontier

?What we did find at the site of Cedar Bank was an interesting small metal star-shaped object. We?re not sure exactly what it is, but it?s possible that it?s part of a self-mutilating type of device that was used by certain Spanish religious officials. So it may be some sort of a part of a religious type artefact, but clearly the Maya were–the Spanish friars were coming in and trying to convert the Maya and trying to teach them aspects of Christianity.?

?We thought at first that it was just Maya site, and we started turning up European type artefacts in the test pits from the archaeology. So, it was a real surprise to find Spanish colonial pottery and some other artefacts while we were excavating. So then we realize that we had something more than just a Mayan site there.?

Like the Yalbac historical record, the Cedar Bank discovery points to a common denominator: even in the early days, Belize was teeming with cultural diversity.

Steve Morandi, Investigator

?There is pre-Maya archaeology, then there is Maya archaeology, and then subsequent to that there are the European, sometimes called invaders, but there are Europeans who came in starting in the 16th Century. You have the Spaniards, followed by the British people, and these Afro-Caribbean influences. So Belize surely is a melting pot and as you go on in time you find a mixture of more and more cultures coming together.?

Andrew Kinkella

?What?s important about it is to kind of make everybody realize that wow; Belize has the resources of the Maya sites which is fantastic. But there is also later historical and archaeological occupations that are just as interesting. It?s really great to learn about Belize after the sort of classic Maya period and what happened after that with the Spanish inroads and inland with the British later on and how it all kind of works together.?

The patterns of Mayan interaction with the Spaniards and other post classic period settlers are documented in artefacts, some of which still lay buried in sites not only at Yalbac and along the Sibun River, but in other areas of the country. And when the symposium ends on Friday, many of these archaeologists will head back to the jungles to continue their investigations. Patrick Jones, for News Five.

The Archaeology Symposium runs through Friday at the Princess Hotel.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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