2007 Field Season Updates: Week 5

March 4, 2007

Camp is pleasantly quiet this Sunday morning. There is much to do, but there is nothing quite like having an early morning cup of coffee in a clearing in the jungle – with bright blue sky, birds, and howler monkeys. The only down side is the few spurts of live artillery firing that begins shortly after 8 AM, courtesy of the British Army doing jungle training some 6 kilometers north of us (using the Caracol road as their access).

GRB (production company working for Discovery Channel) with host Scotty were in all week, but left on Friday evening. We were glad that they were here filming, but were also happy to be able to get back to “regular” work once they left. We learned some new terms, like “cheat left,”and gained an appreciation for the detail involved in documentary work. It was an excellent, but tough, week because the production and archaeological schedules both coalesced and conflicted with all the new discoveries of the week. We have some catching up to do.

On Friday, we also had an Orlando Museum of Art tour, led by Curator Andrea Kalis. They brought stories form home along with magazines, newspapers, and candy. We had a barbeque lunch and an all-day tour of the site with lots of questions. Although we had an invite to go to Hidden Valley with them for dinner, but there was too much to do at Caracol and an hour drive in and out for dinner seemed a lot for one night (not to mention the 2 flat tires on the last trip out of site). We would have loved to chat more with the group, but the evening home in camp at Caracol was just fine.

The large satellite dish connection has been terrible this week, making communication a lot more difficult and prompting more use of the portable Explorer. I am hoping that it will be functional tonight when I try to send in the update photos.

Weather has been HOT and muggy. We are out of water in two of the four tanks, but hopefully should have enough to last for the rest of the field season. We cringe every time the BDF or a tourist leaves the tank tap on to rinse or wash something. In spite of our tropical location, water is precious here.

Attempts to view the lunar eclipse from Caana on Saturday were largely foiled by clouds, but served as a good evening outing. The tail end of the eclipse was actually visible from camp.

Excavations have been proceeding at an amazing pace, with Special Deposits (SDs) in both Structure D2 and the I Group. We halted excavations in Structures B1 and A16. Structure D2 excavations have located the front steps of the substructure at the plaza base. Summit excavations have been prolific. Early in the week, a large stone-lined pit with burning, obsidian lancets, stone bars, and broken pottery vessels was encountered. It would appear to be the result of a blood-letting ceremony. While clearing the pit and digging beneath it, Arlen found a crypt with cache vessel in the west side of the excavation. The vessel was a sizeable barrel with a lid that had a modeled jaguar as a handle. Inside were marine and river shells along with “Charlie Chaplin” shell figures, assorted beads, a stingray spine, and remnants of a mirror. Immediately to the East and below the level of the crypt is a hard plaster floor over dry core fill. This is a really interesting excavation.

I Group investigations are also moving forward. Over 20 bags full of sherds came from the fill of a small bench addition in Structure I1. There was hardly any soil in between pottery pieces. While this is excellent material, we were skeptical about digging elsewhere in the building at this point in the season because we were afraid of getting back upped in the lab; thus far, no other area has the same density of sherd material. The interior building and frontal area of Structure I1 are completely exposed, revealing very nice base walls and floors for a plaza level building. We will continue this excavation on Monday.

In Structure I2, there was much filming of excavations and the burial called “Legolas” (which clearly contained at least 2 individuals). An amazing polychrome bowl with hieroglyphs was found smashed in the fill below this simple burial. Another fill interment in the front part of the summit awaits investigation next week.

Structure I7 has a beautiful plaster floor and bench. The fallen roof stones must have been used on top of perishable walls, as there is not enough stone for full masonry walls. Penetration of this building will occur early next week.

Structure I5 has been keeping Andy, us, and lab very busy. Andy may have the record for the most Special Deposits in a single building in one season (at least in recent memory). There are currently 12 SDs in the excavation. On Monday, after completing excavations of the burial at the summit, we uncovered caches set to the west of the front steps – 2 face caches and a finger bowl (with human fingers). This was one of those cases where filming of one thing had to stop so that we could focus on excavation needs. Within one of these face caches was a carved limestone Kinich Ahau head surmounting ten eccentric obsidians. This was highly unusual as face caches elsewhere at Caracol are usually empty! The I Group is clearly an upper status level residence. Behind the front steps were two crypts. The easternmost one was dug by weeks end, revealing a single individual with head to north and 2 ceramic vessels at the feet). We will finish the drawing on Monday. In addition there were 4 more caches in the excavation. A miniature cup with a lid that looks like an elf’s hat came from the southeastern corner of the westernmost crypt. Two large face caches were uncovered in the center of the trench. The two large cache vessels also contained and/or were surrounded by obsidian eccentrics; a limestone bar was also outside these vessels. We removed both from the field, but have yet to finish excavating and drawing the contents of the largest, most intact vessel. Another fact cache was lower and west of the two larger ones in the central part of the trench on the southern excavation limit; this cache contained a chert axe and two limestone bars on the outside, as well as another shaped piece of limestone; within the vessel were three jadeite beads, a pomacea shell, and the bones of a rodent who appears to have been purposefully placed within the urn. Yet another face cache is within a rough and collapsed crypt in the southeastern section line of the excavation; a limestone bar recovered in this area was probably associated with it. We still have more excavation to do before finishing the eastern building. More discoveries await next week!

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