By Luisa Carillo ( Concierge at Chaa Creek)
It was late Sunday evening when I noticed missed calls and text messages on my cell phone. I was amazed at the news I received and walked downtown to see it for my own eyes. What was happening? Archaeology in action on what I believe to be the busiest street in San Ignacio! AWESOME was the word that came out of my mouth. As an archaeologist, I never pictured excavations to be carried out in front of one of our regular hanging out spots!!! For years we had been travelling outside of town, not knowing that underneath our feet lay a SURPRISE waiting for us!
As I approached the scene, I saw many people surrounding a long horizontal trench that was being excavated. I then heard a familiar voice saying my name…I turned around and noticed my colleagues with a bright smile on their face saying ‘We are glad you could make it.’ I didn’t waste time and started taking a look at the trench and artifacts. Then I saw Ms. Sherry Gibbs, Archaeology Osteologist, writing notes, I approached her and exchanged comments about the unit and what we thought was going on. She then uttered the most beautiful words I heard that day: ‘Luisa, it would be great if you could join us for the dig.’ Ms. Gibbs was my past professor at Galen University and also the Osteologist on past archaeology projects so I didn’t hesitate to say ‘yes!’ to such an honorable invitation.
The next day was a successful day since we hit what we call the ‘Golden Dirt’; we worked as swiftly and efficiently as we could whilst being surrounded by spectators who were taking pictures, asking questions, cheering us and most importantly coming together as one to show appreciation to our Mayan Ancestors and the remains they left behind for us to unearth. As my watch stroke 11am I started feeling uneasy since I had to report to work at 12pm; as a spur of the moment, I picked up my cell phone and called the Lodge at Chaa Creek and told my boss where I was and about my collaboration; he shared the excitement with me and granted me permission to come in late to work. I would like to say special thanks for that!
As the day progressed we sure hit jackpot revealing to our amazement a secondary burial whereby only the lower body of an elderly male individual was found. However, this person was not any commoner, he had a couple of items that were placed to aid on his afterlife journey which included several deer and peccary bones and teeth, a crab claw, a deer antler, fresh water shells, ceramics and some lithics. Dr. Jaime Awe, chief archaeologist and Director of the Institute of Archaeology, came to the scene and was amazed with the discoveries; we were all eager to hear what he had to say. He mentioned ceramics dating to the Post Classic Period; and peculiar red ceramic fragments dating to the Middle Preclassic that was part of the burial contents.
We are working in a Late Preclassic site which is the downtown area of Cahal Pech. Howcome? Well floods would be the main cause for this relocation from Uphill Cahal Pech to Downhill Cahal Pech. Even present day San Ignasio has floods during the rainy season; hence back then, the Maya may have found the need to relocate due to this. After all they were human as well!
I would like to say a huge “big up” to the rest of the team: Ms. Sherry Gibbs, Fernando Cruz, Antonio Beardall, Josue Ramos, Kim Ringland and Galen University Students as well.
What a great experience to be part of such a historic event at Burn’s Avenue! As sharing with my colleagues, now we can officially say that we are the few that know Burns Avenue from top to bottom. As for my colleagues at Chaa Creek, we exchanged surprised looks and smiles when we would make eye contact whilst being on my dirty clothes in the 170cm deep trench from surface level where they were standing. But nothing could take away the great feeling of giving back to my country and spreading the word about archaeology. I always get the same question over and over…why archeology? I always respond: Well archaeology is everywhere! Except now I added a new piece: Be cautious where you are walking next!
More photos of the excavation: