Archaeology Magazine - Maya Caves of West-Central Belize: Reconnaissance in the Chiquibul: August 25 - Archaeology Magazine Archive

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We awoke in the morning and met as a group to discuss our findings and our preliminary assessment of the situation. We also discussed problems with the mission, what was accomplished, and ideas of how we could improve future missions. After this discussion we proceeded back to Belmopan in the military Land Rovers.

Right, heading back to Belmopan

by Rene Torres

The reconnaissance conducted in the area was designed to identify any archaeological material hidden in the Chiquibul jungle, including surface sites and caves or sinkholes. This mission was the result of a proposed BATSUB military exercise to be conducted in the area. Based on the outcome of this trip, a couple of recommendations can be taken into consideration for future missions in this area.

1. Whenever field trips are scheduled, participants in the mission should be involved directly in the planning stages
2. The recon area should be identified in advance in order to get acquainted specifically on the map.
3. It should be determined in advance how much authority the group has with regard to the changing of plans
4. Proper communications are needed in case of emergency.
5. Extensive research of the information on the area held by the DOA should be conducted before further investigation takes place.

Taking this into consideration, the team should execute the mission in a straightforward manner without creating differences among the team. Future missions should also be based on unity, communication, and flexibility, especially when plans need to be changed during the operation.

Archaeological evidence located in the area surveyed was minimal, and the structures encountered varied in size and height. Agricultural terraces were the predominant features, especially on both sides of tall landforms. Sinkholes were also present but, because of their proximity to logging roads, these may have been investigated and possibly looted by the log cutters using the tracks. Unfortunately we had no equipment to enter the sinkholes, however, their locations were documented for future reference.

In order for a proper recommendation to be made regarding the use of mortar fire in this area, the entire area needs to be visited again. For now, it seems reasonable that the area could be used for rifle firing only, not for bombs, and because of the presence of sinkholes that are concealed by the jungle, precautions should be taken when around this area.

by Cameron Griffith

In my opinion the archaeological features and remains observed on the recon do not represent an assemblage of cultural materials that would prevent the proposed military exercise in the area. However, there are a number of caveats that must be noted:

1. Only a small percentage of the zone was surveyed (+/- 10%)
2. Because of the equipment issue no subterranean areas were investigated
3. The majority of recon took place on roads, tracks, and streambeds. These areas are terraced, yet are not prime locations for surface structures or sites.
4. Live fire from machine guns and other small arms would not significantly damage the terraces and small structures/groups we have identified in this area. However, large artillery and mortar fire could collapse subterranean areas. This could have a dramatic effect upon undiscovered and unexplored cultural materials and sites underground, not to mention a possible ripple effect of subterranean collapse that could endanger the military personnel in the area.

With these caveats in mind I feel that this recon should be regarded as a preliminary and cursory investigation of the proposed artillery range. Another more thorough and extensive mission should be conducted by the DOA in conjunction with BATSUB to fully explore the area both above and below ground.

August 24 | Chiquibul Intro