Archaeology Magazine - Maya Caves of West-Central Belize: Reconnaissance in the Chiquibul: August 24 - Archaeology Magazine Archive

Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!

In the morning we awoke to a pleasant surprise. It had rained during the night and our ration-tins, which we had placed strategically underneath our hammock tarps, were full of water. After a breakfast of tea and sausage and beans from MRE bags, we executed our plan for the day. Jacinto and Pedro went for water while Rene and I proceeded to recon the area around the camp. Officer Whitworth stayed and watched the camping grounds and equipment. We did extensive recon following the terraces, and in one of the areas we came across two terraces forming a large, flat, square area. We carefully searched for sinkholes and structures on a hillside, then climbed up to the top of a large landform to search for architecture. After the difficult and treacherous climb, we were disappointed to be unable locate any Maya structures on the top of this feature.

Following the recon we all regrouped at camp and discussed the situation while sipping from canteens of brackish water. Pedro and Jacinto informed us that they had all but exhausted the supply in the karst pool. We decided that we were obligated to change plans because of lack of water, and our next step was to head back to the main track and the rendezvous point. Our caving equipment would be waiting for us at the camp, which would afford us the opportunity on the following day to explore one or more of the sinkholes that we had located. We decided to travel back to the main track via a different route in order to increase our total survey area. We began the journey by climbing a tall landform feature and looking for a saddle between two hills that would be our main route. When we reached the top of this feature we noticed a long rectangular structure with aligned square stones. This structure was 1.5 meters in height and 25 meters (82 feet) long. It is likely that this building had some connection to the terraces leading away from it down the saddle. Disturbances in the architecture were apparent underneath the thick humus layer, indicating that the smaller structures on the top of the platform may have been looted.

The diagram below shows a plan view of this structure, created by pace and compass and with an approximate scale.


Mountain saddle structure (Illustration by Rene Torres)

After documenting this feature we continued on our way. We followed the route until finally we came across the main track that we had visited on August 22. This was a relief as we were all again running low on water and knew that this track would lead us to our rendezvous point.

While on the track we came across the three trail junctions near sinkhole #2. Rene stopped in this area to rest for a while because he had injured his knee fairly seriously during the trek. During this time he came across another sinkhole which was located about 60 meters (196 feet) away from sinkhole #1, running in a north/northwest direction (Sinkhole #4).

The crew spent a bit of time recording the sinkhole and taking GPS coordinates. We now had a limited amount of time to make it back to the rendezvous point before the Land Rover was scheduled to take off. We gathered up our equipment, headed out to the road, and hiked full-steam for three kilometers up the road. We made it just in time, and to our delight the rover had an abundant supply of fresh drinking water from the river!

We drove back to Guacamallo camp only to find that our caving equipment had not arrived. The wrong bag of equipment had been delivered to our location. We decided to make the best of it and proceeded to dine by candlelight in the jungle with the brilliant Belizean stars shining overhead. [Next...]

August 23 | Chiquibul Intro | August 25