7 News Belize

Back to search results

Bridging the Archaeology Disconnect
posted (July 2, 2008)

You might not know it but at any given time, there are over a dozen archaeological digs and explorations being staged at Mayan sites all over Belize. And that you don’t know says something about the disconnect between the thriving field of archaeological research and the country being researched! Belize is a subject of study and wonderment in North American academia, but Belizeans are the last to know.

For the past 5 years, the Institute of Archaeology has been trying to bridge that gap with the Archaeology Symposium. It’s too early to say if it has helped in mainstreaming the study of Mayan antiquity, but from all outward indications, we’d have to say that it has not: the symposium’s roster of presenters and its list of attendees are still dominated by foreign scholars and students. But the institute soldiers on, and this year, the symposium is looking beyond Mayan sites and structures into the complex, highly developed structure of Mayan society, where the lessons of the past may hold up a mirror to the present.

Dr. Jaime Awe, Director of Archaeology
“The question is why is it that the Maya amongst so many other cultures, developed such a level of complex society, political system, scientific achievements, in contrast to so many others and by seeing how they got there, it might shed some light on where we are today. But also, seeing how they failed, will hopefully shed light as well to us about what we should be doing to make sure that our own system doesn’t fail.”

Dianne Haylock, President NICH
“One of the main objectives of having this symposium is to give the Belizean people a chance to think about ourselves, to think about our lives, to be able to make the connections between the past, the present, and where we want to go with our future.”

But more than clever historical allegory, keynote speaker Minister John Saldivar is looking to the past for cash in those Mayan vessels that were on display today. And talking archaeology, he sounded a lot like he was talking cost of living, so much so that we had to wonder if he showed up at the wrong event.

Hon. John Saldivar, Keynote Speaker
“The Cabinet of Belize has appointed two special bodies; one a Cabinet Sub-Committee on basic commodities whose task it is to ensure that we minimize the rises in price as best we can. That commission I am sure will be looking at culture, at archaeology, as one of the ways in which we can increase our national income.”

And while Archaeology is a foreign exchange earner, it’s also a foreign research dynamo
Jaime Awe.

Dr. Jaime Awe,
”The amount of information that research in Belize produces is really disproportionate to its size. In fact I have made comments like this before, that you cannot purchase a book on Mayan Archaeology that does not make considerable mention of the research that is conducted and the scholarship that is produced in the country of Belize.”

And much of that is contained in the book, the annually published research report that recaps the previous year’s symposium. It is one of the most comprehensive volumes on current Maya affairs.

Dr. Jaime Awe,
“It is of incredible importance because it allows us to provide Belizeans with first hand information of the incredible investigation that is going on about our past.”

But those Belizeans may either be not that interested or intimidated by the foreign led research. We didn’t see students or young archaeological acolytes filling up the hall this morning.

Dianne Haylock,
“The time has come for us to see more Belizeans doing this work as well.”

Dr. Jaime Awe,
It is up to us, people like myself, to take archaeology to our general public and to try to engage them. But I also, like I said, challenge my colleagues for them to do the same, whether they are working up in Corozal or in the villages of Santa Cruz or Otoxha in Toledo or up at Altun Ha or Hector Creek because it is important. We can’t stop, we need to make sure that Belizeans start to participate in what we do. This is our past. The foreigners that come here, we give them the privilege to do this. We have a right.”

That was just the opening ceremony but the symposium runs until Friday when a broad range of research subjects will be presented. If you’re interested in attending, a day pass is ten dollars for Belizeans. Students and teachers enter free.

Back to search results

Home | Archives | Downloads/Podcasts | Advertise | Contact Us

7 News Belize