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Sunday, April 29, 2012


Mark van Stone - Southwestern College

Thanks to the internet and cable television, people have now heard more about the “Maya Prophecies” for 2012 than about any other aspect of their amazing culture.  Guatemala, Belize, and Yucatan are suddenly the most-desirable destinations on the travel map this year.  Americans are flocking to Chichen Itza, Palenque, Tikal, and Cahal Pech in record numbers, seeking… what?  Exotic mystery?  A glimpse of a galactic visitation?   Enlightenment? Their
calendar-“ending” actually does loom this December.  But what did the Maya actually predict on that fateful day? This lecture will guide you through the science and the ancient inscriptions, which inform us about the Maya ideas about the future, their calendar mythology, and our prospects for survival beyond 2012.



George Stuart


 Fact, Fiction and Fun in the Reporting of Maya Archaeology to the Public (1822 - 2012)

 George Stuart - Boundary End Archaeology & Center for Maya Research

Once again George Stuart filled in for a speaker unable to attend. So our closing presentation was George fascinating us with information on how the Maya have been reported over the years.





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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Morning Session


Alan Cobb

Alan Cobb

Midnight Terror Cave is located in Central Belize. The cave was the site of ritual activity by the ancient Maya. After a three-year project, the cave has yielded both answers and even more unanswered questions. You will have an opportunity to hear about the discoveries in this cave and how they were made.


Stanley Guenter

Introductory Maya Hieroglyphic Workshop
Stanley Guenter - Idaho State University, Marc Zender, Tulane University, and Harri Kettunen, University of Helsinki

This workshop will offer a first approach to Classic Maya writing system through ancient texts. The aim of the workshop is to learn the method to be able to analyze the structure of Maya texts, and make some commparisons between different monuments of the Maya art. Participation in this workshop doesn't require any prerequisite.


Shawn Gregory Morton - University of Calgary

This workshop deals with ancient Maya cave use and how we study this behavior in the field setting.  The first half of the workshop will focus on presenting a survey of ancient Maya cave use, and some of the current work being conducted in the presenter’s research area of central Belize.  The second half of the workshop will focus on the practical application of baseline-offset survey techniques. Participants will survey and map a mock cave environment while we discuss how we interpret these landscapes.

Meaghan Peuramaki-Brown - University of Calgary

This workshop deals with household and settlement archaeology as pursued in Maya studies. The first half of the workshop will focus on presenting typical household settings as reflected in the ethnohistoric, ethnographic and archaeological records, in addition to types of material evidence encountered in domestic contexts. Participants will get hands-on experience with artifacts that the ancient Maya used in their daily activities, and the remains that archaeologists regularly encounter. We will discuss how archaeologists use those remains to construct interpretations about the past, as well as the theoretical background of household archaeology for understanding people and events in the past. The second half of the workshop will focus on issues of landscape settlement and population estimates.  We will conclude the workshop with a series of activities dealing with these topics.

4-28-12 Saturday Lunch









Afternoon Session



Terry G. Powis - Kennesaw State University

Long before cacao (or chocolate) transformed world cuisine, ancient Mesoamerican peoples used cacao in their daily social and religious activities. When Spanish explorers and conquistadors entered what is now modern day Mexico in the early 1500s they found that the Maya, the Aztec, and other indigenous peoples revered cacao as “the drink of the gods”.  From Mexico, the Spanish took cacao beans (dried seeds from the cacao pod) back to Europe and chocolate soon became a popular “luxury” drink among the noble classes. Over the succeeding decades and centuries, cacao has been elaborated into a myriad of culinary products, most of which would be completely unrecognizable to the indigenous inventors of chocolate in ancient Mexico. Mesoamerican peoples had a long history of cacao use, spanning more than 39 centuries, as confirmed by previous identification of cacao residues on archaeological pottery from the site of Paso de la Amada on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. However, many questions about the origin of chocolate remain unanswered. For example, how, where, and when did this come about? Archaeologists, botanists, geographers, chocolate producers, and consumers have been asking these questions for generations. My research, however, is more focused on one specific question: was cacao initially consumed as a seed product (made from cacao beans that were dried, toasted and ground into chocolate) or as a fermented beer (made from the sweet white pulp that surrounds the seeds inside the cacao pod)? No scientific inquiry, to date, has been conducted on this idea. The notion that early cacao use focused on the making of cacao beer is interesting because it suggests that the initial motivation for the domestication of certain plants was quite different from their ultimate uses.


Gabriel Wrobel - Michigan State University

The role of bioarchaeologists is to reconstruct ancient lifeways using clues from skeletons.  Often, this type of research is focused on large cemetery samples, in which we can try to infer the experience of individuals by calculating the average life span and health profile of the group to which they belong.  But, the Pre-Colonial Maya do not appear to have used cemeteries, instead spreading their dead across the landscape in a variety of constructed and natural mortuary locations.  So, what happens in cases in which bioarchaeologists must analyze and interpret skeletal samples that consist of only a few individuals, without being able to use aggregate measures?  Such studies often focus on reconstructing the social identity of individuals by using a combination of biological, cultural, mortuary, taphonomic, and contextual data.  This presentation will demonstrate this approach by focusing on the small skeletal sample from Uayazba Kab Rockshelter, located in central Belize.  I will discuss the variety of types of data that were recovered during the excavations and lab analyses, and explain how each revealed meaningful aspects of the lives of the individuals.  Ultimately, this data can be used to understand the nature and importance of the site’s use.  I conclude by discussing Uayazba Kab within the broader patterns of mortuary and biological variation already documented within the region, and explain how these data help to answer questions about the larger social and political context of Late Classic Belize.


Mat SaundersDavidson Day A.F.A.R. Operations 2012

Mat and Jaime reported on the incredible work the students did during the summer field project in 2011. Pictures of some of items excavidated are below. The plans for the trip this coming summer sound even more exciting.

Jaime J. Awe - Belize Institute of Archaeology

Archaeological investigations at Cahal Pech, Belize, has recovered substantial evidence suggesting that the site was either reoccupied following its decline and abandonment in the 9th century A.D., or that it continued to be occupied by a small group of elite families during these challenging times.  The evidence further indicates that these Terminal Classic Maya resided primarily in the eastern section of the site core, but continued to conduct rituals and bury their dead in the abandoned temples and palaces of the site core. Besides providing intriguing new information on the prehistory of Cahal Pech, the data provide an interesting perspective on the processes of abandonment at an important Belize River Maya center.


4-28-12 Maya FeastThe Contemporary Maya Fundraising Feast


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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Maya at the Lago opening

Mat Saunders opened the 2nd annual Maya at the Lago conferenece at Davidson Day School on Thursday afternoon.



thumb Jaime Awe thursday

Jaime Awe stepped up and made the first presentation -- "The Monumental Architecture of Cahal Pech, Xunantunich and Caracol" -- when Harri Kettunen, who was scheduled to open the conference, was unable to make it from Belize.


thumb George Stuart thursday

George Stuart gave a first-hand account of his work at two Maya caves. Called "Past and Present in Xibalba: An Eyewitness Account of Discovery in Two Maya Caves."


Abstract: George E. Stuart - Boundary End Archaeological Resource Center

A first-hand account of two caves, and their amazing contents. First was Balankanche, just east of Chichén Itzá, Yucatán. There, in October 1959, a vast hidden series of passageways was discovered. Later that month the local Maya h-men and his helpers conducted a 30-hour ceremony in order to purify the holy place after our encroachment. Nearly 20 years later, a Maya family in the sparsely populated eastern Petén discovered Naj Tunich and its multitude of pristine 1,200-year-old drawings and texts. This is the story of these places and what they have taught us about the worlds of the Maya.

4-26-12 Opening nightThe Opening Night Dinner Reception was held at the Galway Hooker (local Irish pub). The buffet of classic Irish food included Shepard's pie and corned beef-and-cabbage. And of course everyone enjoyed talking with the archaeologists. (Tickets for the dinner were sold separately.)

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Friday, April 27, 2012


Morning Session


Josalyn Ferguson - University of Albany (SUNY)

The migration of individuals and communities throughout time and across great distances is recognized as a historical fact throughout human history. Migrations are a prominent theme within many Mesoamerican historical narratives and in prehistoric imagery. Archaeologists studying the Maya often cursorily discuss the likelihood of population movements during Precolumbian times, particularly in consideration of the southern lowland Maya “collapse” in the Late/Terminal Classic  period(s)(A.D.  750-1050).  While  in  recent  years  some  scholars  have begun to investigate Maya immigrants using biological and chemical scientific methods, the archaeological investigation of the resettlement of a migrant or immigrant Maya community in wake of the Maya “collapse” has remained somewhat elusive. This paper seeks to discuss the interwoven processes of population movement, resettlement and regeneration in the aftermath of societal collapse, as elucidated through the archaeological investigation of the Terminal Classic period Strath Bogue site of Northern Belize.




Stanley Guenter - Idaho State University

Sihyaj Chan K’awiil II of Tikal, a.k.a. “Stormy Sky”, was one of the most important rulers of Early Classic Tikal. He is most famous for having commissioned Stela 31, which bears the lengthiest text from the site and discusses the “arrival of strangers” from Central Mexico and the imposition of a new dynasty on the city. This inscription has been difficult to interpret due to the monument having been broken and desecrated when enemies conquered the site. A closer examination of this text reveals many important new details about Tikal’s history, including revelations about other damaged monuments, including Stela 1 and the enigmatic “Hombre de Tikal” sculpture. In this workshop we will look at these new data about Early Classic Tikal and the exciting and traumatic events that unfolded in this city in the 4th and 5th centuries.


Shawn Gregory Morton and Meaghan Peuramaki-BrownARTIFACT ILLUSTRATION IN MAYA ARCHAEOLOGY
Shawn Gregory Morton and Meaghan Peuramaki-Brown - University of Calgary

This workshop provides methodological justification and practical application of archaeological illustration techniques.  Participants will learn to draw and process archaeological illustrations for modern publication and research purposes and will practice with a collection from the Belize Valley.


Amanda Harvey - University of Nevada

Archaeological skeletal remains provide data on population demographics that other cultural materials cannot.  Factors such as social status, environment, diet, warfare and genetics all have varying affects on the bones and teeth. This workshop will teach you how to estimate the age-at-death and sex on skeletal remains, along with learning how some commonly found diseases manifest osteologically. Then, through differential diagnosis, we will investigate a case study of a mysterious Maya individual. Do you think you can win the challenge of creating an accurate osteobiography of this person? If so, join in to find out.


Mat's students, who will be going to Belize during the summer, attended the conference. Part of the time Mat had asked speakers to give separate presentations to the students to help wiht their studies. Here Mark van Stone explains the Long Count to them.

4-27-12 Friday Lunch


Each day lunch was available with an additional ticket. This provided a good lunch with some time to talk to other attendees as well as speakers, without having to leave the conference.




Afternoon Session


David Lee - Southern Methodist University


The spectacular contexts of Maya royal burials are the source of some of our most detailed archaeological data.  They also present challenges for the archaeologist because the information must be teased out of centuries of changes, some from natural forces such as decomposition and decay, and some by human intervention, such as sacking, looting, or reverential tomb reentry. Archaeologists must not only draw on training and experience, but must also keep an open mind to what might seem unlikely possibilities in order to unravel these narratives.  This lecture will discuss one of these contexts, a royal burial from the site of El Perú-Waka´.


Marc Zender, Tulane University

Of the literally dozens of burial urns excavated at Comalcalco, Tabasco, Mexico, that of the eighth century priest Aj Pakal Tahn stands out as primus inter pares.  Despite that he carried neither royal titles nor claimed descent from kings, some 30 stingray spines and 90 shell pendants provide us with his richly-detailed life story.  He conducted annual bloodletting rites to his gods, took captives in warfare and, to the extent that we can trust a narrative which amounts to his own memoirs, staved off both a drought and famine during his priestly tenure in AD 765-777.  His grave goods are impressive, and include obsidian blades and stingray spines (used in penitential bloodletting), dozens of small beads made of pyrite, jade and spondylus shell (used in divination), and intricate flint eccentrics (used in fire-drilling rituals).  But for their extraordinary richness, these items would not be out of place in the kit of any contemporary Maya shaman

Until recently, the presence of priests in Classic Maya society could only be postulated, and debate has always accompanied inferences of priestly roles based on Colonial documents.  Nonetheless, a close analysis of Aj Pakal Tahn's commemorative texts, their associated artifacts and their spatial associations with temple architecture strongly urge his identification as a priest.  He provides us with the first contemporaneous evidence that the k’uhulajaw (High King and Chief Priest of the Classic Maya city-state) regularly shared religious duties with subordinate specialists.

Afternoon Break

Both morning and mfternoon, snacks and liquid refreshments were available. The breaks offered a chance to stretch your legs and figure out what to attend next.


Christopher PoolThe Place of Monuments at Tres Zapotes, Veracruz, Mexico

Christopher A. Pool- University of Kentucky


Tres Zapotes has yielded over 50 stone monuments, including such famous examples as Stela C and the first discovered of the Olmec colossal heads. In antiquity, as today, monuments were set and re-set to imbue ceremonial spaces and other places with meaning. In this paper I explore various senses of "place" as they relate to the Olmec and epi-Olmec monuments of Tres Zapotes - (l) a meaningful location, in this case constituted through the placement of monumental sculpture and architecture; (2) the notion of place as significance, parrticularly the historical significance of these works; (3) the current places of the Tres Zapotes monuments and the "place" of ancient sculpture in forming local, regional, and national identities; and (4) how place may be lost, forgotten, and rediscovered. The monuments ofTres Zapotes offer numerous examples of the ancient and continuing importance of monuments as pertains to each of these concepts of place.



Grant D. Jones - Davidson College

 Ah Chan, born about 1667, was a nephew of Ahaw Kan Ek’, the last king in the ruling Kan Ek’ dynasty of the Itzas of Petén, Guatemala. His father, also an Itza noble, was from Tipu, a once-christianized (and archaeologically important) town in western Belize. Ah Chan’s life spanned the final three decades of Itza independence from Spanish rule and the tragic years following the 1697 Spanish occupation of Nohpeten, the Itza island capital on Lago Petén Itzá (today Flores). I present details about Ah Chan’s role as ambassador to the Spaniards prior to the occupation, his later conflicted status as both ally and enemy of the Spaniards, and his eventual self-exile and establishment of a “new kingdom” in southern Belize. These biographical details shed light on the inner workings of the Itza kingdom and provide a unique personal perspective on one of its last royal leaders.

2012 Maya at the Lago Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Grant D. Jones


Grant D. Jones served on the faculty of Hamilton College from 1968 to 1985 and was Professor of Anthropology at Davidson College from 1985 until his retirement in 2004. His principal reesearch interests focus on the ethnohistory of the Maya-speaking peoples of the Yucatan peninsula, Belize, and northern Guatemala, especially their experiences during the period of Spanish coloniallism. In addition he has carried out ethnographic research with Maya peoples in Belize and Quintana Roo, Mexico and has written on the nineteenth-century Caste War of Yucatan as well as the indigenous peoples of the sixteenth-century Georgia coast. He was co-director of the first season (1980) of archaeological research at the colonial-period Maya site of Negroman-Tipu in the Cayo District, Belize.


Dr. Jones is the author of The Politics of Agricultural Development in Northern British Honduras (Wake Forest University, 1971), Maya Resistance to Spanish Rule: Time and History an a Coloonial Frontier (University of New Mexico Press, 1989), and The Conquest of the Last Maya Kingdom (Stanford University Press, 1998). He is editor of Anthropology and History in Yucatan (University of Texas Press, 1977) and co-editor of The Transition to Statehood in the New World (Cambridge University Press, 1981).


He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Socieeties, was a Resident Scholar at the School of American Reesearch (Santa Fe, NM), and was co-principal investigator on a National Science Foundation grant to support archaeological research in Peten, Guatemala. We are honored to present the second Maya at the Lago Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Jones for his amazing career and his contributions to our field.


4-27-12 Lifetime DinnerThe Lifetime Achievement Dinner Cruise honoring Grant D. Jones.

(additional ticket required)

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thumb APMaudslay_001Pioneers in Maya Archaeology

Biographical sketches of men and women who did much of the early defining
work in Maya studies.

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