Belize: Actuncan Excavation (IFR)

Location: Cayo District, Belize

Session Dates: May 26-June 22, 2024

Application Deadline: April 1, 2024

Deadline Type: Rolling


Program Type:
Field School

RPA Certified:

Institute for Field Research (IFR), Binghamton University, and University of North Texas

Project Director:
Dr. David Mixter, and Dr. Kara Fulton

Project Description:

Nestled in the picturesque Mopan River Valley, the archaeological site of Actuncan was home to an ancient Maya community for 2000 years—from 1100 BC to AD 900—during which time community members built huge pyramids, broad plazas, roads, water reservoirs, neighborhoods and other kinds of physical infrastructure critical to the long term success of a small city. This urban infrastructure was key to the establishment of the community’s holy lords (k’uhul ajawob). Additionally, it was critical to the establishment of the administrative logistics of those leaders’ power and of the limits of those leaders’ authority over other members of the community. During this field school, students will excavate a monumental platform associated with the administration of water as a resource. Given the cosmological significance of water to the Maya, we expect that this space was both the center point for the negotiation of power relations and a place of community ritual. Students can expect to learn how to excavate architecture and will likely encounter the remains of ancient ritual activities. Students will also learn pedestrian survey methods as we begin a program of inventorying the locations of households in a neighborhood across the Mopan River from Actuncan.

Students will live at Clarissa Falls Resort, located within a working ranch. We have the fortune of being fed fabulous Belizean cuisine by Chena Galvez, one of the best cooks in Western Belize. Each day is an adventure on the Actuncan Archaeological Project: we start by crossing the Mopan River by raft and then hiking to Actuncan for a day’s work. Students will also travel to nearby archaeological sites such as Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, Caracol, and the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave to get a comparative view of ancient Maya cities and will visit the nearby town of San Ignacio to get exposure to Belize’s cosmopolitan modern culture, which is a colorful combination of Central America and the Caribbean. Join us!

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Students are expected to stay the full length of the program.

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: None

Room and Board Arrangements:
Students will stay in an eco-resort, Clarissa Falls Resort, which provides a lovely setting among tropical flowering plants and fruit trees. Accommodations are dorm-style with 3-6 students per room/cottage. Each room has a private bathroom with hot water shower. Meals are served in the resort’s restaurant, and Chena Galvez is a legendary cook in the region. Each day, she and her staff will prepare local favorites such as stewed chicken, beans and rice, fried plantains, and fresh fruit juice for you to enjoy. Breakfast and dinner are served family style at a single long table, where we will get a chance to get to know each other over Chena’s fabulous food. If you have dietary restrictions, please let the project directors know. Chena is used to dealing with a wide range of dietary requirements.

Academic Credit:
8 semester (12 quarter)

Contact Information:

Institute for Field Research

1855 Industrial Street, Unit 106

Los Angeles



United States

Phone: 4242091173

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