Chan Chich Archaeological Project

Location: Chan Chich, Belize

May 24, 2016 to June 27, 2016

Session dates: 
May 24–June 27, 2016 (34 nights)

Application Deadline: 
Friday, December 11, 2015
Friday, January 29, 2016

Deadline Type: 
Exact date

Program Type

Field school



Texas Tech University

Project Director:

Dr. Brett A. Houk, Texas Tech University

Project Description

Chan Chich, Belize: "It's Better Here"

In 2016, the Field School in Maya Archaeology will be held at Chan Chich, Belize in association with the Chan Chich Archaeological Project (CCAP). The CCAP represents a truly special opportunity for college students to participate in a significant research project, while receiving instruction in archaeological field and laboratory methods. Rather than a typical study abroad trip, the Field School in Maya Archaeology and the CCAP represent Research Abroad! The field school will include on 34-night long session. Students will have the opportunity to learn how to excavate, how to draw profiles and plan maps, how to record archaeological data, and how to process and analyze artifacts in the lab. Each session is limited to 12 students.

About Chan Chich

Chan Chich is tucked away in the jungles of northwestern Belize and is home to Chan Chich Lodge, a beautiful jungle lodge built in the main plaza of the site. Belize is an English speaking country with a stable government. It is easily reached from Texas on flights going through Dallas and Houston.

The archaeological site of Chan Chich is a medium-sized Maya city in northwestern Belize, very near the border with Guatemala. The area was first settled as a small village during the Middle Preclassic period (1000 to 250 BC) and occupied until the Terminal Classic period, ca. AD 850). Most of the visible architecture dates to the Late Classic period (AD 600–850). In the late 1980s, Gallon Jug Ranch was established on 130,000 acres of jungle, including the site of Chan Chich. Chan Chich Lodge was built in the Main Plaza at the site shortly after that. While some may see that as a negative impact to the ruins, the construction of the lodge and the return of legitimate economic activity to the area put an end to the illegal looting that had been going on at Chan Chich and the nearby archaeological sites for several years.

2016 Research Plans

Preliminary plans for the 2016 season call for students to work on a buried Late Preclassic platform and a Terminal Classic, walled courtyard group at Chan Chich and to investigate a Colonial period Maya village about 30 minutes away.

Research at Chan Chich: Excavations will target a platform buried in the Upper Plaza at the site. Previous work has determined the platform dates to the Late Preclassic period (ca. 400 BC to AD 250), but we have not yet defined its size, shape, or function. Concurrently, another research team will investigate Norman's Temple courtyard to test the hypothesis that the group represents a Terminal Classic period (ca. AD 850) defensive position for the elite at the site. Excavations will uncover the wall surrounding the hilltop group and look for artifact scatters on the floors in rooms and in the courtyard.

Colonial Site: Building on work completed in 2015, a third crew will continue investigations at the late 19th and early 20th century Maya village of Kaxil Uinic, which is a 30-minute walk from Chan Chich. The village was home to a group of Maya displaced by the Caste War in Mexico in the late 19th century.

Archaeology is Hard Work!

Archaeology is fun and exciting, but it is also physically challenging work in difficult conditions. Survey involves hiking through the forest, wearing snake guards, and carrying a heavy backpack. Excavations involve lifting heavy objects, as well as using picks and shovels. Everything we do is in a tropical climate with high heat (often over 90 degrees) and high humidity (often over 70 percent). We sometimes have to work in the sun and other times in the rain. There are bugs, snakes, bats, scorpions, and poisonous plants.

Period(s) of Occupation: Late Preclassic period Maya, Terminal Classic period Maya, late Colonial Maya

Late Classic period Maya, processional architecture, Colonial archaeology, excavation, jungle lodge!

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 34 nights

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 
1 year of college and a 2.5 GPA

Room and Board Arrangements

Students will be housed in the casitas and cabanas at Chan Chich Lodge, a remote jungle resort. More information about the lodge is available on their web site: The lodge has a restaurant, a bar, a swimming pool, wireless internet in the restaurant and bar, 24-hour electricity, and cell phone coverage. There is no TV at the lodge.

The program includes three meals per day while at the lodge, and there is a full-service bar. Students will be able to use the swimming pool and walking trails. Other activities, including horseback riding, guided jungle tours, mountain bike riding, canoeing, etc. can be arranged through the lodge, but are not included in the cost of the program.


Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
Texas Tech University
Number of credits offered 6


Contact Information
Brett A. Houk
Texas Tech University, Box 41012