Blue Creek: Excavating an Upscale Community
When we think of the ancient Maya civilization, the monumental centers of Tikal, Palenque, Chichen Itza, and Copan usually come to mind. These, however, are only a few of the countless ancient sites, many of which, though known to exist, still lie unexcavated and unexplored. Still others are yet undiscovered, and their number is still a mystery. The jungle shrouds their secrets. The archaeologists who uncover and investigate these sites have many years of work ahead them before a complete picture of the Maya civilization, and how it mysteriously and suddenly declined, emerges.
A comparatively small site in northwestern Belize promises to add an important chapter to the story. It will help answer questions about how a medium-sized community of approximately 20,000 people managed to support an unusually wealthy class of residents and a large public precinct surrounded by numerous, well-defined residential structures and agricultural components. Known as Blue Creek, scientists at this site have uncovered a large number of exotic goods, unusual for a community of this size. It is thought that its strategic location, in combination with the techniques the ancient inhabitants employed in agricultural production, defined the foundation for its wealth.
Dr. Thomas Guderjan of the Maya Research Program is leading a team of archaeologists and other professional staff to find answers to the questions surrounding the site. In 2010, the team will be returning to continue excavations in an elite residential area of Blue Creek, and in the agricultural field systems surrounding the site, including other nearby centers. They are calling for students and volunteers to join them for their 2010 season, which begins May 24 and runs through July 25.
The Field School
Participants will receive training in field and laboratory techniques as well as receive a "crash course" on the Maya and archaeological methodology. Accommodation is at the Blue Creek research station, which has 35 small residential cabanas, a 1500 square foot laboratory building, a main building with a dining hall, and men's and women's restrooms and showers. All meals, equipment and supplies are provided. There will be four two-week sessions. Participants are welcome to join any or all of them. A particularly noteworthy aspect of this opportunity involves the offering of 10 Welker Scholarships, funded by income from the Welker Endowment and a generous donation by Mr. Jack Thompson. The intent of the Scholarships is to encourage talented young undergraduate and graduate students to participate in the project and to pursue archaeology or related fields. Moreover, these students will be afforded greater responsibilities than other participants during the fieldwork.
Join the Team
For the student or enthusiast of Maya archaeology, the Blue Creek experience represents one of the best field school opportunities available for this region of the world. If you are interested in becoming a part of it, you can find out more by going to www.mayaresearchprogram.org or by emailing Dr. Guderjan at firstname.lastname@example.org. The project staff has prepared an excellent, detailed Participant Guide that will tell you just about everything you would want to know as a Project student or volunteer. The Guide can be accessed at the website.