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Jul 7, 2004

Archaeology symposium opens at Princess

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In its inaugural edition last year the Belize Archaeology Symposium surpassed all expectations in terms of presentation and attendance. Not content to rest on its laurels, the team at the Institute of Archaeology today kicked off the 2004 version at the Princess Hotel. Patrick Jones was one of the many participants.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

The three-day symposium brings together over thirty archaeologists who have done research at sites all over the country. Director of the Institute of Archaeology Dr. Jaime Awe, says it is an opportunity for the Belizean public to learn more about our past and to complement the ongoing programme for the introduction of Maya and African Studies to the school system.

Dr. Jaime Awe, Director of the Institute of Archaeology

?The current state of archaeology in Belize is that it is dynamic and we are at the forefront of research on the Maya anywhere in the world. Belize is and has contributed incredible information to our knowledge about the Maya. There is not a single book that is published on the Maya that does not make reference or does not include information that comes from Belize.?

That information continues to be updated almost on a daily basis. Dr. Arlen Chase of the University of Central Florida, who first did research at Caracol in 1983, says the more digging is done, the more light is shed on the ancient Belizeans.

Dr. Arlen Chase

?One of the things the public thinks is that you just go and do archaeology for a year and you find all these spectacular things and you are done, but realistic archaeology and archaeological data is all additive. And what we are now doing in terms of Caracol because we have worked there for so long is we are getting answers to questions that we never thought we could answer about particular time elements and what goes to what, what kind of status information is there.?

Dr. Chase says a major part of his presentation at the symposium will be to show the transition between the pre-classic and the early classic periods, based on ongoing work at Caracol. Awe says continuing analysis of data taken from sites around the country indicates that Belize was an integral part of the early development of the Mayas.

Dr. Jaime Awe

?Much of what we know about the pre-classic Maya comes from research done here. The classic period Maya of Belize were also very actively involved in the trade and communication with their neighbours. In the post-classic period, we have a lot of information because there were Mayas here at places like Lamanai, at Tippu, etcetera. With the coming of the Spanish, we have churches that were built here by the Spanish to convert the Mayas to Catholicism. Even when the British showed up, there are conflicts and challenges between the Mayas and the British, so the answer is, certainly.?

With less that twenty-five percent of the sites uncovered so far, Dr. Anabel Ford, who is the principal investigator at El Pillar, says preserving the past for the future will depend heavily on community participation.

Dr. Anabel Ford, Principal Investigator, El Pilar

?It?s adaptive management, it?s focusing on partnerships between community experts and officials.?

Patrick Jones, Reporting

?How important is that partnership??

Dr. Anabel Ford

?That partnership is really going to be the future conservation in this country and probably the world. The work that I have been involved with is so critical in terms of acknowledging those partners and keeping them in the planning process, the decision making process, and ultimately supporting the implementation process, the plans that will effectively maintain things.?

Patrick Jones for News Five.

The symposium continues through Friday at the Princess Hotel. Papers presented during the three-day forum will be compiled into a single publication and made available to students, teachers and anyone interested in learning more about research work being done at archaeological sites around the country. Those sites, by the way, are not confined to the ancient Maya civilization, as a number of presentations deal with post colonial occupation as well as early African influences on Belize.

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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