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Archaeology symposium being held in Cayo

HighlightsArchaeology symposium being held in Cayo

Photo: Dr. Jaime Awe examines Ancient Maya Strategies and Resilience in the context of environmental stress

by Orlando Pulido

SANTA ELENA, Cayo District, Wed. June 26, 2024

The 19th annual Belize Archaeology Symposium (BAS) began on Wednesday at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel. Some 40 presentations from experts in the region will be made during the three days.

Dr. Melissa Badillo, the Director of the Institute of Archaeology, told Amandala that matters to be examined are related to Belize and the Mundo Maya area.

“We can improve on … to have a more sustainable economy and sustainable livelihood in moving forward, we have the partnership of the Mundo Maya this year; so, in addition to all the researchers who work in Belize talking about Belize-specific research, we have partners from our region,” she said.

Some of the data presented during the three days will be compiled and shared on www.nichbelize.org. The Institute of Archaeology is working in partnership with the Ministry of Education “to look at the end product, what happens to all the artifacts from the excavations, and try to compile it in a manner that will allow students in classrooms to have access to that. So, look out for upcoming notices on that, because we do have exciting research, exciting information that would be available to the public very shortly,” shared Dr. Badillo.

Dr. Badillo stressed that “a lot of data exists that can show us what strategies they employed during their 3000-year occupation of this same landscape. So, we invite people to come out and listen and learn, and maybe we can take away some information from this that can assist us with having a better environment available today for us to continue surviving. We know we are threatened with a lot of forest fires, loss of land, decreased agricultural production, and so we want to look at what the ancient Maya practiced, and how they were able to survive and thrive over a 3000-year period.”

Among the presenters on Wednesday morning was Dr. Jaime Awe, who shared information from Western Belize and the greater Mundo Maya.

“So, by the time we get into what we call the Terminal Classic Period, this is the period between about 750 to about 900 AD, populations in the Maya World were at a maximum. They were exploiting all the available lands; I mean wetlands, mountains, river valleys, and they had no more areas to expand. When and if they get hit by major droughts that last more than three years, the Maya were not very capable of remaining resilient under those kinds of conditions,” Dr. Awe said.

Dr. Awe also explained, “If they are not capable of doing that, well, they would eventually run out of food, or the ability to produce more food for this large population; and so, what do people then do when all of their adaptive strategies are starting to become such that it makes them incapable to do with the situation — they turn to religion. You are looking for divine intervention; you are hoping that the gods will come and make you able to produce food. What you do in those cases is, you start to do more ceremonies, more human sacrifice.”

Dr. Jaime Awe’s studies show that we need to have long-term adaptive strategies, not just short-term ones. He posited that we can’t band-aid the problem. For example, in regard to climate change, we can’t just think, as well, that it is going to be the next generation’s problem.

He continued, “We know the climate is changing; we know sea levels are rising. If we don’t start to build sea walls to protect coastal communities from flooding, eventually Belize City will get underwater. If we don’t see that climate change is affecting us in terms of making things dryer, increasing forest fires, and our ability to produce food, then we are going to run into problems; so, we might need to start to think long-term, and think about irrigation systems where we can bring water from areas where there is a lot of water in areas where there are limited water conditions.”

Some of the major sponsors of this year’s BAS are the Ministry of Tourism, the Belize Tourist Board, the Protected Areas Conservation Trust, and the Social Security Board. Other sponsors of the Belize Archaeology Symposium are Atlantic Bank, Belize Electricity Limited, and Builders’ Hardware.

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