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NEIU Archaeological Field School

Location: Programme for Belize, Orange Walk District, Belize

May 19, 2013 to June 16, 2013

Application Deadline: 
Friday, March 15, 2013

Deadline Type: 
Exact date

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



Northeastern Illinois University

Project Director:

Dr. Jon Hageman

Project Description

The NEIU Field School is part of a multi-year research program investigating rural Maya populations in the Late/Terminal Classic (AD 600-900) period.  Our primary focus is on the nature of rural autonomy from Classic-era kings and cities.  Investigations address the relationship between rural populations and urban centers along two research fronts. The first is the continuation of an intersite survey transect between the sites of Dos Hombres and La Milpa. These are two of nine large sites in northwestern Belize, and were occupied through the end of the Classic period. Rural areas were also occupied from the Late Preclassic (400 BC-AD 250) through the Late and Terminal Classic. The aim of this work is to record the location and type of settlement in areas between these two large sites to identify sites for future work, where excavations can suggest the degree to which the larger sites exerted direct political control over rural populations.


A second front also explores the nature of rural autonomy from Classic-era kings and cities. This front focuses on identifying ways in which rural populations differentiated themselves socially from urban centers while creating and reinforcing identities distinct from those of other rural groups.  Past excavations in rural settings indicate the absence of elaborate polychrome pottery that typically indicates the presence of patronage relationships between urban lords and rural populations.  Rural Maya, therefore, were organized into largely autonomous groups, but the ways in which these groups maintained power locally are poorly known.  In 2013, our work will focus on the ways in which the heads of these rural social groups used food as part of highly charged ritual to not only define and enhance the prestige of their group relative to others, but also to reinforce the power of the group head.  Remains of feasting should reflect the presence of this ritual, particularly when compared to food refuse from other households.


Excavations in pursuit of this research will be conducted at Guijarral, a small rural site located some 8 km northeast of La Milpa.  These excavations will open rooms within buildings thought to have been the location of food preparation and/or storage.  Floor deposits will be targeted for recovery, and interior floors will be gridded and scraped to collect materials ground into the floor through foot traffic and other processes.  This material will complement previous seasons' work on recovering paleoethnobotanical data from middencontexts.


The project will offer a unique look into the social and political-economic history of a particular settlement and region of the ancient Maya world.  In so doing, the research will contribute significantly to our understanding of social and political organization as well as to our understanding of such processes in similar societies

Period(s) of Occupation: Late Classic Maya, AD 600-900

In addition to excavation techniques, students will learn the use of total station mapping equipment and the collection, processing, and analysis of archaeobotanical samples.

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 28 Days

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 
Some anthropological and/or archaeological coursework preferred

Room and Board Arrangements

The R.E.W. Adams Research Station is a rustic yet pleasant field camp located in the heart of the tropical rainforest. Facilities include a dormitory, kitchen, latrine, laboratory, and tent platforms.  Students can request to stay in tents with one roommate or in the dorm with as many as three roommates, and must provide their own bedding for a single mattress. Meals will be prepared by kitchen staff. 

$2989 including airfare

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
Northeastern Illinois University
Number of credits offered 6
$1987.80 for Illinois residents; $3637.80 for non-Illinois residents


Contact Information
Dr. Jon Hageman
5500 N. St. Louis Ave.
Recommended Bibliography: 

Results of previous field schools and excavations conducted in the area (not required reading):


Goldstein, David J., and Jon B. Hageman

2010       Power Plants:  Paleobotanical Evidence of Rural Feasting in Late Classic Belize.  In Food and Feasting in Mesoamerican Civilization: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Food Culture, and Markets in Ancient Mesoamerica, edited by J. E. Staller and M. Carrasco, pp. 421-452.  Springer, New York.


Hageman, Jon B., and David J. Goldstein

2009       An Integrated Assessment of Archaeobotanical Recovery Methods in the Neotropical Rainforest of Northern Belize:  Flotation and Dry Screening.  Journal of Archaeological Science 36:2841-2852.


Houk, Brett A., and Jon B. Hageman

2007       Lost and Found: (Re)-Placing Say Ka in the La Milpa Suburban Settlement Pattern.  Mexicon 29:152-156.


Sullivan, Lauren A., Jon B. Hageman, Brett A. Houk, Paul J. Hughbanks, and Fred Valdez, Jr.  

2008       Structure Abandonment and Landscape Transformation: Examples from the Three Rivers Region.  In Ruins of the Past:  The Use and Perception of Abandoned Structures in the Maya Lowlands, edited by Travis Stanton and Aline Magnoni, pp. 91-112.  University Press of Colorado, Boulder. 


Good general background reading on the Maya:


Coe, Michael D.

2011       The Maya.  Thames and Hudson, London.


Excellent book on archaeological field methods:


Hester, Thomas R., Harry J. Shafer, and Kenneth L. Feder

2008       Field Methods in Archaeology.  Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, California.