Archaeology Magazine - Maya Caves of West-Central Belize: Reconnaissance in the Chiquibul: August 23 - Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Since the Land Rovers were not able to make it through the area, the plan was for the crew to be driven into the jungle and dropped off. The group would then spend the next three days camping in the high jungle. Although the trip was planned for three days, we decided that it would be wise to have a vehicle waiting at a designated rendezvous point on the second day in case of emergency. There would be a two-hour window when the vehicle would wait for us. We planned to follow streambeds and landforms shown on the map, and ultimately reaching a small river marked on it. We would establish a camp at the river, conduct reconnaissance in the area, then make our way back to the rendezvous point via another route. This would result in a thin swath of survey coverage through the center of the proposed artillery range. Cammy needed to take a morning helicopter out of the area back to military headquarters. Taff also needed to leave, so he volunteered to drive the team as far into the bush as the Rover could go.

The new route we hiked was an offshoot of the main track. More agricultural terraces were visible during our journey. We also came across another sinkhole (Sinkhole #2) with an entrance diameter of four meters and a depth of 15 meters (49 feet). The terraces in this area seemed to define large, flat, agricultural areas. We also came across a small hole, either natural or man-made, that cut into the limestone. The hole was approximately 25 centimeters in diameter, approximately one meter deep, and was filled with brackish water. This was the only water source in the area. Just next to the pool there was a makeshift awning made of bayleaf palm and some garbage. It appeared that someone had recently inhabited this area. Again, we recorded the GPS coordinates of the sinkhole.

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After reaching our projected destination for the day, we found that water was the main problem. To our dismay, the river, although listed on the map as having annual water flow, was merely a dry streambed that had been used as a mahogany track. Our options were to drink water from tire ruts that we came across or to hike back for about three kilometers where we located the pool in the karst. After discussing it we came to the conclusion that it would be best to head back, since all of us had only one bottle of water each and it was not wise to drink from other sources.

Agricultural terraces hidden by the jungle in the Chiquibul; note the limestone rocks in alignment.

While we were exploring the disappointingly dry streambed, we located a sinkhole (Sinkhole #3) and some small structures across the track. Time constraints and heated discussions over water prevented further exploration and thorough documentation of these features.

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We headed back in the direction of the small pool of water and set up camp in an area of ancient agricultural terraces, about 1 kilometer from the water source. We decided not to camp near the karst water source in case the inhabitants of the area were Guatemalan guerillas or marijuana farmers. Since we had come across an area that contained terraces, our plan was to camp there and in the morning do reconnaissance of visible features. During this time the two trackers, Jacinto and Pedro, would go for water from the pool in the karst. [Next...]

Left, hammock in the jungle camp

August 22 | Chiquibul Intro | August 24

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