Read entries from Dr. Chase’s daily journal on the happenings of the project. Find out what life is really like for an archaeologist working in the field.
Saturday, January 23, 1999 Preparations
We have been hurriedly making purchases and arrangements for the last few days. January went by way too fast. We have made headway on some things, but not on others. We are having trouble getting large sheets of metric graph paper, but Amy was successful at having some serving utensils donated for the camp kitchen. We were also pleased to find out that our “antique” survey equipment actually could be repaired by IR Industries and (more importantly) that we could pay later. Amy and Neil will continue finding supplies after we leave. Sandra and Lana came over to our house around 7PM for last minute logistics; they leave driving on Monday morning with James and Chris. The highlight of the day came around 11PM when Matt and Neil finally got the new satellite phone up and running from our screen porch!
Sunday, January 24, 1999 Early Anxiety
Went to church this morning. Spent the rest of the day trying to get ready to go; it will clearly be a late night tonight. I have that panicked feeling I always get this time of year. I am currently wishing that it was already next week and that everything I need to do was already done…
Monday, January 25, 1999 It Starts
The plan was to start the drive to Belize today once Adrian and Aubrey got out of school. I didn’t think we were actually going to make it because there was too much to do, but Arlen was insistent that we could, would, and had to leave today…. We took the boys and Elyse to school this morning while we took care of bills (for the next two months), made a few frantic calls to UCF about problems with e-mail, packed, and loaded up the car. Packing is a blur, we were more or less throwing things in the suitcase by the time we got to the clothes – I know I must have forgotten a few essential items. We left home around 12:30 in the afternoon, picked up the boys at Park Maitland, left Matt with a pile of things to do, got Elyse from the Creative School at UCF, made one last trip to Target (for car amusements – more game-boy batteries for the boys and a new Magna Doodle for Elyse), and then finally started out on the trip!
Tuesday, January 26, 1999 Traveling
We made it to Crestview, FL last night and did a long day’s drive to Victoria, Texas. Everyone is still anxious to get to Belize, but we were all tired by the time we stopped. We ate at a Mexican restaurant, went for a swim in the pool, and slept well.
Wednesday, January 27, 1999 Border Crossing
We did our last busy-work before leaving the US this morning. Phone calls, e-mails, and a few more bills. We made our usual final supply stop at the Walmart outside Corpus Christi (everything from more insect repellent to peanut butter and jelly to rope for hammocks). We crossed the border at 1:30; we made no stops at restaurants, just ate sandwiches and snacks in the car. We drove until about 7PM and stayed in one of our favorite hotels in Tampico.
Thursday, January 28, 1999 Driving
This was a VERY long day driving. We promised Adrian, Aubrey, and Elyse that if we drove longer today, they would get to spend two nights in the same hotel. They liked the idea, but it was a long drive and I’m glad we bought the small TV-VCR! We made it all the way to Palenque in time to have a late dinner and cervesas with some old friends. Elyse and Aubrey fell asleep during dinner.
Friday, January 29, 1999 Palenque
Elyse decided the order of events today. We first had breakfast with friends. Then, we took a trip to the ruins to see the new PARI (PreColumbian Art Research Institute) excavations and lab. Arlen and I worked on re-writing one of our papers; Adrian, Aubrey, and Elyse relaxed and swam in the hotel pool. Other project members (Lana, Sandra, James, and Chris) arrived during the evening. They will stay in Palenque tomorrow to buy hammocks for camp and meet us in Belize on Monday.
Saturday, January 30, 1999 Bug Bites and Tortillas
Elyse got badly bitten by mosquitoes last night even though she was inside – I gave up counting after 60! She is not a happy camper this morning; nothing I put on her seems to be making a difference. Next time she gets sprayed even if I feel no bugs. We went back on the road again today. We stopped for lunch in Escarcega. We selected the restaurant based on popularity – it was full of the drivers from tourist buses – and, it was good! The boys both ate well – breaded chicken fillets and fries; Elyse was happy with her usual Central American diet of toast and flour tortillas. We spent a quiet night in a hotel outside of Xpujil.
Sunday, January 31, 1999 Into Belize
I don’t think we have ever driven to Belize on a Sunday before. The border crossing was pleasant and not at all busy, but there was no place open to get car insurance, so, we drove into Corozal Town for that and anything else we could find for Elyse’s bites. We had lunch in Orange Walk Town and then drove to San Ignacio. They don’t have any large rooms left; the boys are excited and feel very grown up as they get to share a room away from us and with James. I have kept the key to check on them just in case.
Monday, February 1, 1999 Ms. Ritas Back
Lana, Sandra, James, and Chris went in to Caracol with their gear and only basic supplies (peanut butter and jelly to eat and bleach to start the clean-up process). We stayed out to go to the Department of Archaeology and to make arrangements to hire and transport the cooks and workmen. Things are a bit complicated – our foreman of the last 5 years thought we would not be here for another 2 months and took another job. The good news is that Ms. Rita will be back as our head cook. Except for last year when she was visiting family in the US, she has been with us every year since 1987.
Tuesday, February 2, 1999 Camps in Bad Shape
We made arrangements last night for 3 workmen and their cook to go into Caracol this morning. Lana arrives in San Ignacio in time to make the airport trip for Amy; Arlen takes the workmen into Caracol and comes back out again. The good news is that the site is already being bushed. The bad news is that the road before Guacamallo bridge is really rutted, camp is completely overgrown, and the labs were broken into during the off-season.
Wednesday, February 3, 1999 Technical Difficulties and Theft
I tried unsuccessfully to download e-mail last night and this morning with the satellite phone. I seem to be able to send messages, but my computer seems to freeze while downloading. After a lot of frustration and what will be a very big phone bill (directly deducted from our bank debit card!), I decided to use the computer at Eva’s restaurant to do a quick check-in. I had only 30 minutes, so I read and responded to what I could. We loaded up with supplies and food at our usual stops (5 different places), picked up the cooks, and headed into Caracol. The first part of the drive was great. The road to the forestry station in Douglas DiSilva has been recently graded and is the best I remember. The road after forestry and before the Guacamallo bridge is awful. The ruts are really deep and the roadbed is eroded in several places so badly that you can look straight down over the edge of the hill to the river. I really hope the road gets fixed before I have to drive it! We got into Caracol in early afternoon. I can see that our group has already made improvements on camp, but it still looks very seedy. There are vines growing up into the thatch roofs, buildings are leaning, and there are rat nests everywhere. I managed avoid the outhouse until absolutely necessary. We are still trying to assess the full extent of the break-in. A lot has been stolen. We still are puzzling over how the generator – a very heavy Honda – could have disappeared into the jungle. Not only are project items stolen, but our hammocks, mosquito nets, and blankets are gone too. Other things were left out and were eaten by rats. Luckily we had brought down new hammocks for the children and a new air mattress for us, but it took a lot of duct tape to make some functional mosquito nets. Adrian, Aubrey and Elyse are excited about being here, but very apprehensive about the lack of light. With no generator, we have only flashlights and a few kerosene lanterns……
Thursday, February 4, 1999 Vegetables, Generators and School
The children were a little scared last night, especially Aubrey and Elyse. Rats were making quite a bit of noise nesting in the pottery and our gear. Adrian noticed a snake in the lab in the morning. It was small, but… Generators are expensive in town, but we have decided that we have to buy a new one – not only for lights, but to be able to re-charge batteries for the survey equipment, computers, etc. So much for our carefully crafted budget. The refrigerator is not working either, but replacing that will have to wait for another season. Arlen and Lana left after breakfast for more workmen and supplies. Back in camp, clean up continues and the boys start their first day at “school.” The highpoint of the day is the arrival of the supplies in the afternoon – fresh vegetables and a new generator!
Friday, February 5, 1999 It’s Cold at Night in the Jungle
Last night was a lot better, but still a far cry from home. The lab was cleaner and more appealing and the rats didn’t make as much noise. The children were warm. They have sleepers and fleece sleeping bags. Arlen and I were cold! Only one of our stored blankets was left; using our beach towels helped a little, but not much. School resumes for the boys today and camp clean-up continues while Arlen gets back to re- writes of one of our papers on Caracol. We got a visit from Brian and David from the Department of Archaeology. They brought in a few more supplies and the survey and radio equipment we had stored in Belmopan. Brian has also loaned us a refrigerator! We tried out the satellite phone before dinner and will leave it set up for about an hour each day in case there is a need for an emergency call. It really seems strange to have a phone in the jungle.
Saturday, February 6, 1999 Home Sweet Home
Elyse woke up at 2AM whimpering and wanting to go home; she was scared and missed home, her teachers, and her friends. She finally got to sleep about 4AM after going to the potty, getting water and a flashlight, being swung in her hammock, and having several pieces of scary pottery moved on the shelf near her hammock. By then, Arlen and I were cold and bitten up. Aubrey and Adrian did more schoolwork today to try to begin to catch up for the time taken off by the drive. Of course camp repairs continue. The workmen went out for guano (roof thatching materials) in the morning and then started fixing the holes in the kitchens and student huts. We got a chance to see where to re-focus our efforts as it rained about 3PM. They are also replacing beams on some of the buildings. The students have finished re- building the shower area with tarps and cohune leaves. We have also reattached the drain going into one of the rain water tanks from Lab 2. The outhouses have all been sanitized and new lids made to keep the bats out (or in). There is more work to continue tomorrow, but it is beginning to seem like home again.
Sunday, February 7, 1999 We Get Waffles and Students
We usually show videos on Wednesday and Saturday night. The TV was stolen too, so we set up the 9 inch TV we had brought down with some small speakers and made some palomitas (popcorn). Men in Black was not as scary or gross on such as small screen. Elyse woke up during the night again and whimpered very pitifully, but ultimately went back to sleep and was very chipper at 6AM. This morning we had bacon with waffles and pancakes, not because Ms. Rita is trying to be nice to us, but because we only have one of our old-fashioned waffle irons left. The waffle iron is the kind that sits directly on the stove burner and is a bit slow – we don’t have sufficient power for an electric one, but the waffles were worth waiting for. Arlen, Lana, and Sandra took two both vehicles out to pick up our first-time UCF students from the airport. More camp clean up continues, but today is more relaxed. Amy took the boys for a walk around the ruins; Elyse went to the airport with Dad, so I am having my first peace and quiet since the trip began. After making this entry, I will make my first attempt to FTP things to Matt. I still feel a bit queasy about bearing my soul to the world on the internet… Hope all is well at home.
Monday, February 8, 1999 New Students
The FTPing went fine yesterday. It is nice to know that we can get messages back and forth, although even with small files, the process seems to take a minimum of about 3 minutes. The new students came in yesterday afternoon. They arrived in camp just before dinner. Three of them brought the wrong kind of mosquito nets – the ones that are meant to to be used over cots rather than the larger tents that are good for covering hammocks. We had no spare nets because of the break-in, but managed to cut and tie things so that they are covered. We warned the new recruits to take their machetes to the outhouses; however, no one paid much attention until Amy saw a snake in outhouse number 2. Everyone is now substantially more vigilant.
This morning was orientation – a history of Caracol investigations and a tour of the site. The afternoon was spent in the lab. Adrian and Aubrey enjoyed walking around the site too, but their schoolwork doesn’t go as well when we start in the heat of the afternoon. I forgot to mention that Adrian and Elyse have fifths disease. The both have a rash all over their bodies. Luckily neither of them is itchy – yet. The rashes appeared on the first full day at camp; I don’t think that any of the students were in contact with them when they were contagious………
Our new generator isn’t running; it won’t turn over. We expected this from the old generator, but not the new one. James and Scott have already tried sweet talk unsuccessfully. We are hoping that it is just flooded.
Tuesday, February 9, 1999 Tarantula
The generator never turned over yesterday, so, we had no lights after dinner and a really huge tarantula decided to head into the lab while we were putting the children in their pajamas. Needless to say, it didn’t help relax them for bedtime. However, once they were in their hammocks, the lack of lights didn’t bother them as much as during our first night in camp – even with the noise of the howler monkeys. Thankfully, the generator started perfectly this morning.
Camp repairs are basically complete, but we still have clean-up and bushing to do, especially near camp and in the A Group. Nevertheless we started off our investigations first thing this morning. Survey started off auspiciously. It seems that Scott has never been to the Plaza of the Two Stelae, so, our lab director, Amy went with him to be sure that he knew the way for today’s causeway clearing efforts. Everyone else took the causeway walk early this afternoon. We already have uncovered and re-opened last season’s investigations in the A Group and are now expanding the excavations to locate more architecture.
Wednesday, February 10, 1999 Survey Starts
Elyse fell out of her hammock last night. We are still not quite sure how it happened, although she has a small cloth hammock that doesn’t fold over her like large string one would. Surprisingly, once we picked her up and put her back inside she fell right back to sleep.
Scott re-cleared the Puchituk causeway prior to starting a N survey line tomorrow. His first priority will be to survey a 1.5km by .5 km area on the western side of the already mapped NE sector. He has a few blisters on his hands, ant bites on his ears, and needs more lunch containers (he only has two), but other than that survey goes well.
We have almost finished clearing the high bush in the A group and are moving rock piles out of the way of the new excavation areas. We have begun to excavate again at the base of Str. A3 (Operation 12). We are looking for the stairs to the west of the central stair mask. In front of Str. A2 (Operation 71) we have re-cleared the D.O.A. investigations from this past summer and are excavating to the South following the basal architecture in search of the central stair.
Thursday, February 11, 1999 Mosquitoes, Ants and Rats
Ants invaded outhouse number 1 last night; we need to spray! Luckily I noticed before sitting down. It was not as cold last night, but, the duct tape patches are not sticking terribly well on our mosquito net and the holes are reappearing; we found another old one during clean-up and will change it tonight. Thankfully, Elyse and the boys slept through the night with no mishaps.
Arlen and Elyse went out this morning at about 7:30 for food supplies. Today’s shopping list is a relatively big one, including sacks of rice and potatoes, a crate of eggs, two coolers full of chicken and meat, 20 pounds of cabbage, and a case of baking powder. Back at camp, schoolwork, excavations, and survey continue.
Camp repairs and most of the bushing are complete; we also have found and removed the source of the peculiar odor in Lab 2 – two dead rats. It finally seems like home again…
Friday, February 12, 1999 Pit Stop
It rained last night and again this morning. We don’t get the weather report back here, but it doesn’t look like it is going to stop soon. Everyone (except survey) is working in the lab; if the rain keeps up, I expect we will see the survey crew shortly as well.
Arlen and Elyse didn’t return until 5:30PM yesterday. I was already a bit worried and was about to go down the road to the caretakers at the Caracol entrance to find out by radio if they had passed the gate to the Forestry reserve. It turns out that they got two successive flat tires on the way out of Caracol in the morning. Both tires split apart. After the second flat, Arlen put Elyse on his shoulders and started walking. Luckily, they were picked up and given a ride to Spanish Lookout to buy 2 new tires, but not before going with their driver to do a few errands. Buying the tires at Spanish Lookout and then returning to put them on the car took up substantial time. And, according to Elyse, dad got very dirty! Only after that could they do all of the supply run. On the positive side, we got our groceries before the rains started and the road got even worse and Arlen can now change those tires really fast!
Saturday, February 13, 1999 Rain, Rain, Rain
It rained most of yesterday. Only Arlen, Amy, and I took showers today. It was COLD! However, I felt much better having showered and put on clean clothes. We had a senior staff meeting before dinner and then worked on editing papers. It rained again in the evening, so, we spent this morning fixing leaks in the huts and working in the lab. The generator is not working (again) and there was not enough sun to give the batteries any power at all, so, there was no movie tonight. The children are unhappy. Everyone went to bed early.
Sunday, February 14, 1999 Romantic Spaghetti Dinner
Elyse has been looking forward to today for the last week. She made valentines for everyone and decorated the kitchen with hearts. Ms. Rita made a heart-shaped cake with pink icing at lunch. The members of hut 4 cooked a very nice spaghetti dinner. We we ate by kerosene lantern light as the generator is still not working. Lana will go out tomorrow to get it repaired or replaced. There was some unhappiness among several of the workmen over who works hard, who doesn’t, and who said what about whom. Hopefully, things are worked out now…
Monday, February 15, 1999 Let there be Light
It was really cold again last night; Elyse also had trouble sleeping. Excavations continued on Structures A3 and A2 and Scott and James went back out on survey. We continued to repair the workmen’s kitchen. Lana and Stephanie went out to try to get the generator fixed. It was apparently not a pleasant trip. They got stuck on the road on the way out; they were pulled out by the people doing the road repairs. On the way back in they had to help a tourist bus get unstuck just to be able to get past them. I don’t think that Stephanie will be a volunteer for a trip out any time soon. We were all a bit afraid to try the generator, but it started up with no problems. Adrian and Aubrey started cheering. We had popcorn with a showing of Godzilla on the TV, but almost everyone just used the lights to catch up on notes in the lab.
Tuesday, February 16, 1999 “Survey Says…”
It was really, really, cold last night. I know that it will be hot soon enough and I will be wishing it was cool again, but I am hoping that Neil and Tim will get here today with more blankets!
We finally had sun today. That means hot showers and dry clothes! We also had a visit from Brian, John, and George from the Department of Archaeology. They brought in the panels that we had made up for the visitor center and we walked around the site to look at excavations. There are about 2 weeks worth of work left to do on the visitor’s center before we can set up the display. We hope to have an opening by the beginning of March.
Survey continues to the North. Scott and James go out everyday with three workmen. We have been rotating one of the new students in each day just to get a sense of what survey is all about. You can always tell which student has been out with them – it is the one that looks really tired; by the time they have finished a day’s work, the survey team has walked at least 10 km. Today was Dolly’s turn – she did well, but would surely have gone to bed early if it had not been a lab night.
Wednesday, February 17, 1999 Down to Business
It is warm and partly sunny today. Scott and James went out on survey with Chris. Excavations continue in the A Group. We are clearing the west side of the mask on Structure A3 and beginning an excavation behind the mask; the lower stairs seem to be in very good shape. We are following the lower exterior wall south in front of Structure A2; thus far we have found interesting architecture, but have not yet found the central stair. We began our third operation of the season (C150) this morning beginning with excavations at the base of Structure A10. We have taken work shots of all the excavations. I will try to send at least one off to Matt this afternoon.
Thursday, February 18, 1999 Where’s Neil?
Work continued today with no rain. Tim and Neil haven’t arrived yet and we are starting to get worried. We called Matt to check and found out that they only left Orlando last Saturday.
Friday, February 19, 1999 TV and Blankets
Tim and Neil finally arrived at about 11PM, after everyone had gone to bed. I think they were a bit put out that no one got up to greet them. They have blankets and a TV! It’s nice to know that my journals had some impact.
Arlen took Elyse and Aubrey out on a supply run to san Ignacio; the road is pretty bumpy and the eggs didn’t end up staying in their box. There were broken eggs all over the back seat of the Expedition. Most of the mess was on boxes and a tarp, but we found half a dozen unbroken eggs on the floor….
Saturday, February 20, 1999 Excavation Photos
All of the excavations were brushed down for photographs before lunch today. The A group is starting to “shape up” with the basal architecture that we have exposed. Brian and George brought in materials for the visitor center and then stayed for dinner – fried chicken! But, the highlight of the day was the movie – Antz – on a bigger TV!
Sunday, February 21, 1999 R-n-R
We got to sleep late today! We had been telling the children that Sunday was their chance to sleep late all week; they actually stayed in their hammocks until 7AM this morning. In mid afternoon, we got our replacement assistant to Ms. Rita, so, things may be a bit easier this week. I also finally found the 2 ticks that were biting me up! One dug in late last night; I found the second one this morning. After all these years it still amazes me how much damage they can do before I actually feel that one big bite.
Monday, February 22, 1999 Free Time!?
Brian and George came in today with Carmen and Elizabeth from the Department of Archaeology; they brought lime, boxes for packing, and more building materials for the visitor’s center. Carmen and Elizabeth will stay this week to pack up the whole ceramic vessels that have been stored at Caracol so that they can be moved to more secure facilities in Belmopan. I haven’t had a chance to summarize the investigations. Between the excavations, schoolwork, paperwork, and camp/staff administration, there are NO free moments. Tomorrow, I will to try to make a short status report on the various parts of the project.
Monday, February 23, 1999 Excavation Summary
Saturday, February 27, 1999 Another Sleepless Night
Elyse woke us up at 4AM and couldn’t sleep. We put her in with us and the air mattress sprang a leak. Neither of us could get back to sleep then, although Elyse finally did. We got up before light and before the cooks, however, I am writing this now in the kitchen with the smell of freshly cooked bacon. Somehow that makes everything seem better.
We had our first call on the satellite phone last night and we missed it! We were eating dinner in the kitchen and the generator was on, so, by the time anyone heard the phone it was too late….. Now we are just wondering who it might have been.
Work continues well. There are a series of construction floors on Strs. A2 and A3; we have started to look for summit architecture on Str. A10, and there is a crypt in the core excavations at “Valentin.” Drawing is going well and labwork is caught up. Survey is more than half finished with the square kilometer of terraces and settlement near Cohune. Neil is trying to put together some larger format photographs to send to Matt for caracol.org. We also have recovered some of our stolen aluminum kitchen pots – “cached” behind a tree about 5 minutes from camp. Now, if only we could find the rest……..
Sunday, February 28, 1999 Cold Drinks
It was HOT today! We spent most of the day on computer work and budgets. Arlen and I took Adrian, Aubrey, and Elyse for a walk to the Aguada, South Acropolis, and A Group in late afternoon. It was very pleasant sitting on the steps of the Temple of the Wooden Lintel. It was cool and quiet, as all of the tourists had already left the site. Brian and George from the Belize Department of Archaeology came in and stayed for dinner. We are always happy to see them, but given the heat today, we also appreciated the cold drinks in their cooler!
Monday, March 1, 1999 Out to the City
This morning I found (and unintentionally squished ) perhaps the most disgusting thing I have ever seen in the jungle. I was putting clothes in a bag for our trip to Belize City and saw something green on a pair of pants. I picked it off, it crunched, squished, and bright green and black goo came out! The rest of the packing was uneventful, but the trip out was far from relaxing. We heard a thunking sound from the left front of the vehicle and kept checking to see if a tire was flat. It wasn’t until we crept into the Forestry station 26 miles away from Caracol that we realized what had happened. The lug nuts on the tire had come loose, one of the wheel studs had snapped, and all of the holes for the studs in the tire rim had been enlarged to an elongated oval shape. The wheel was barely attached; we are lucky it didn’t come off. We went to Spanish Lookout and then Belmopan to try to find parts. We finally ended up ordering the rim and studs and borrowing a spare tire from the Ford dealership in Belize City. Arlen didn’t leave the shop until 5PM; however, as far as the children were concerned, a little swimming and the cartoons on TV made up for everything. The rest of the evening was actually quite pleasant. We had dinner, went to the unveiling of the new archaeology posters, and got a chance to talk with our colleagues in the Department of Archaeology.
Tuesday, March 2, 1999 Car Sick Kids
The trip back into Caracol was hectic, but almost uneventful. We drove slowly because of the missing stud, making assorted supply stops in Belize City, Belmopan, and San Ignacio and finally leaving for Caracol before 2PM. The road was much improved (even from our trip out yesterday), but is still very bumpy. All of the children were complaining that they felt a bit queasy. Aubrey and Elyse fell asleep; Adrian made it almost all the way into camp before getting car sick…
Wednesday, March 3, 1999 Cache
Today, Lana, Chris, Joel, and Louisbin found a cache in the C151B excavations in front of the east structure in the Valentine Group. It is a small pottery barrel with a lid. Nothing was inside, but the shape is unusual for Caracol. It is located directly above a crypt. They are extending both excavations in the Valentine Group so as to determine what certain rock features mean.
Friday, March 5, 1999 WWW
I logged onto www.caracol.org this morning before breakfast on the satellite phone! We couldn’t check out everything due to the expense of the call and the slow transmission from the jungle, but it was great to see that the satellite updates have finally made it to the web!
Saturday, March 6, 1999 Valentine
This morning was fairly typical – schoolwork, A Group excavations, and survey continued. The afternoon was spent mostly on drawings and labwork. Excavations also continued at Valentine; there are huge stones covering the crypt and at least one Early Classic vessel, but thus far very little bone.
Sunday, March 7, 1999 Baron Bliss Day
Arlen and I got up early this morning. No one else was up except the cooks. It was a clear, cool morning and it was wonderfully pleasant to sit quietly listening to the early morning sounds of the parrots and toucans with no need to rush to get ready for work. Today we celebrated Baron Bliss Day, a national holiday in Belize (celebrating an individual who lived on a yacht off of Belize City and never set foot on Belizean soil, but who left all his money to Belize at the turn of the century). George, Brian, and Katie, as well as Brennan and Bridgit (Brian and Katie’s children) came in for our modest celebration. It was hot, but nevertheless a very enjoyable day. We had our traditional barbeque chicken and special hot sauce in early afternoon (as well as some pork ribs). It was delicious – as usual. Everyone ate well and had a good time.
Monday, March 8,1999 Visitor’s Center Opening
Yesterday we found out the date for the opening of the Visitor’s Center. This morning we sent off messages to the University to see if anyone there will be able to come on short notice. I worked with Adrian on schoolwork, as usual, while Amy worked with Aubrey; Arlen did the morning check of excavations. Besides the usual afternoon checks of excavations and drawings and photographs of excavations, we both did some work on our “paradigm shifts” paper for the upcoming Society for American Archaeology meetings in Chicago. Aubrey was stung twice by a wasp tonight. He is not a happy camper!
Wednesday, March 10, 1999
All goes well. A BRIEF summary follows. Amy got stung by a scorpion, but did lab night anyway.
Survey has completed more than the mapping of the structures and terraces in the 1 square km area near the Cohune terminus. They have moved operations and begun surveying from Chaquistero, 3.5 km west of Cohune, back east to Cohune.
We have cut down behind the mask and encountered a badly preserved earlier stair and a well preserved floor. Excavations will penetrate the floor, but can’t continue to expose anything further to the north because of large stone dry core fill. Excavation in the small room enclosure of the mask also encountered the base of a step and a floor level equivalent to one of the floors encountered in the excavations in front of the mask.
Investigations are continuing in the axial excavation. The earlier stair has only one course of stone preserved. We are attempting to follow the floor that this step rests on into the building to look for any earlier constructions. We should be able to penetrate at least 3 meters behind this step.
Investigations at the base of the structure have revealed a series of floors abutting and going under the stairs. The summit excavations have also revealed evidence of an earlier construction, including a ripped out structural pier. At this point, we are still are not sure about the construction date(s) on the building.
Excavations in the central portion of the eastern building are continuing to find exotic items like spondylus shell and jadeite fragments in the construction core. The crypt in front of the building was covered with huge slabs. There is one adult buried with head to the south. The bone is VERY fragmentary. Offerings include a single basal flanged bowl and two shell earflares.
Thursday, March 11, 1999 Work Work Work
We are at that point in the season when we need to plan for everything. We are taking stock of supplies and attempting to estimate how many more chickens, dozens of eggs, and bottles of tomato sauce we will need until the end of the season. This is not my favorite part of the job. It is much easier in the beginning of the season when we can just buy 100 lb sacks and full cases or crates of all of our staples. We want to have enough, but don’t want to have a lot left over ….. We are doing the same sort of planning for the excavations. We are still excavating, but are working to be sure that we can finish and record what we start and still have time to backfill and complete basic lab processing. A similar situation holds for the boys’ academic activities. We are making sure that all of their schoolwork is complete so that we don’t have to worry about it on the long ride home.
It has been a good, but tiring day. Things continue to move to closure, but there are still interesting developments. Lana went out early today to do the food run. While she was gone, excavations at Valentine uncovered an additional cache in the SW corner of the C151B excavation; it will need to be further detailed tomorrow or Saturday. The Str. A2 excavations have uncovered a series of floors that may have gone with ripped out earlier stairs; these have been photographed and drawn and will be further explored tomorrow. The Str. A3 trench appears to be complete; we cut a small section down to bedrock. Work on Str. A10 continues; its summit is being recorded in section and plan, while half of the basal excavation is being cut toward bedrock.
Back at camp, a small British Army gazelle helicopter set down in the landing pad between camp and the B Group. The pilot let the children sit inside and check things out. They had a great time with the headphones, microphones, maps, and other gizmos! All three of them made journal entries today!
Friday, March 12, 1999 Howler Monkeys
We got up relatively early this morning (5:30AM). While we were sitting outside drinking coffee, we noticed a group of howler monkeys climbing in the tops of the trees situated in the Central Acropolis behind the student huts. Aubrey had been asking to see some of these creatures, so we went into the lab and got all three of the children up. They watched the monkeys in their pajamas until breakfast. Afterwards, we walked up into the Central Acropolis to see them better. At that point all three of the monkeys were quite visible * sitting, relaxing, and scratching on branches in one of the trees. Surprisingly, they really made no noise during any of this activity**.
It was another hot and tiring, but good, day. A lot was accomplished. Arlen and Ramon peeled floors on Str. A2 * all of them rest on bedrock; Sandra worked hard at completing the section drawing. We also began backfilling the Str. A3 trench. Excavations in front of Str. A10 are complete, but we are still peeling floors at the summit. There is much more construction activity here than we expected. We took the boys to Valentine when we went to photograph the Early Classic crypt in mid-morning. They had a great time tunneling in the backdirt while we were working. After the photographs were done, Arlen exposed the smashed cache that had been found yesterday in the west excavation wall of the front test. Given the small exotic items found in the fill of the structure (i.e. the plentiful spondylus), we thought there was a good chance that we might find something besides the pottery. And, indeed, behind the ceramic vessels directly on the bedrock was a carved jadeite pendant.
We are having lab night tonight – and every night – until we leave and/or finish the basic processing**
Saturday, March 13, 1999 Matt’s here ;o)
Arlen and Lana drove out of camp this morning just after 5:30 AM to do car repairs on the Expedition in combination with going to the airport to pick up visitors from central Florida as well as pick up this year’s t-shirts. Back at camp it was really hot and busy. We finished all the excavations * with the possible exception of Str. A10 where we have found yet another floor at the summit. We have also finished almost all of the field drawings (but, they still need to be checked); we still have plenty of labwork, survey, and backfilling to do. Mike Moshell (one of our colleagues in Computer Science at UCF), his wife and daughter, and 4 of his students arrived in camp along with Matt (our webmaster) just before 5 PM today. Poor Arlen got a flat tire right at the Visitor’s Center on the way in! No lab work tonight * just a nice social evening**.
Sunday, March 14, 1999 Just Another Day in Paradise
The entire project was in the lab for most of today. Arlen and I worked on paperwork (payroll and Social Security for the workmen and cooks) and SAA papers. Arlen went through the mail that Matt brought from Orlando * BILLS! Mike and his CREAT group took a tour of the site and then worked on getting panoramas and texture for VRML to add to www.caracol.org. It was cloudy today and rainy just before dinner – no hot showers tonight!
Monday, March 15, 1999 Almost Done
We have finished all of the excavations and recording. The Str. A10 excavation went deeper than we would have predicted, some 2.5 m into a circular discontinuity that probably once supported a large wood post for a very early building; I drew a section through this feature to show its relationship to earlier floors and the visible building. Today and tomorrow we will continue to backfill, cover open excavations with zinc, and try to finish labwork. There is much to be done, but everyone is pitching in and things are moving smoothly. It is hard to believe the season is almost over.
Wednesday, March 17, 1999 Everyone is Leaving (but the museum is done)
The UCF CREATE group left this morning. They are going to try to find lost luggage and take a trip to Tikal (Guatemala). The workmen left at the end of the day; it was an interesting process getting them on the truck. Everyone had more to carry out than they brought in * clothes from the students, limes from the lime tree, brooms made from jungle leaves, empty jars, and “left over” kitchen supplies. No one wanted to leave anything behind! Tim ended up making an extra “night” run as 2 of the men opted to stay behind and wait for a later ride that never materialized.
We finished setting up the displays in the Visitor’s Center this morning. Lana and Sandra mounted that panels and we set up the display cases. I cut myself brushing out one of the display cases, so, we feel like we have had the appropriate “ritual blood-letting.” The formal opening for the Caracol Regional Museum was postponed until next week, but we had our own informal project opening this evening. Even without the glass cleaner, it does look nice. Matt took digital photos of everything so that it can eventually be posted on the web-site.
Thursday, March 18, 1999
Today was hectic. We finished artifact photos and lab-work and then started packing up. Closing up camp is a lot of work, but Amy had things very well organized in the lab. Arlen and I actually got finished with our packing before 10PM * an all time first!
Friday, March 19, 1999 Good Bye, Caracol
We left Caracol this morning. We met Brian on the road with our new spare tire and then headed into town for our last round of bill paying (Celina’s, Social Security) as well as a last load of laundry at Martha’s Guest House. We had time for a quick swim at the San Ignacio Hotel. The children were ecstatic! I was more thrilled with the very hot water in the shower! The end of season dinner in the Stork Club was delicious and a fitting end to the field season.
Saturday, March 20, 1999 Palenque
We got up a little later than we had planned and didn’t leave the San Ignacio Hotel until 7 AM. The students were still waiting for Raul (Godot?), their driver/guide to Tikal (Guatemala). We got to the border of Mexico at about 9:30 or 10:00 AM * and their wasn’t the usual Saturday morning line. We stopped for lunch in Escarcega. At Palenque, we saw Merle, Alfonso, Mo, Yvonne, and the rest of their project and both saw digital images and heard about their ongoin excellent PARI field season. Then, we turned in early at the Tulipanes so as to get an early start on the road.
Sunday, March 21, 1999 Driving through Mexico
We left early and drove from Palenque to Tuxpan. We ate peanut butter and jelly, cereal, and chips in the car and then had a great dinner and late swim at the hotel.
Monday, March 22, 1999 More Driving through Mexico
Drive, drive, drive. Today we went from Tuxpan to Houston. Elyse was asleep by the time we got to the hotel.
Wednesday, March 24, 1999 Ahh, Civilization !?
We arrived in the wee hours of the morning. We spent close to 18 hours in the car driving to get home yesterday. We stopped only long enough to get gas, make a “pit” stop, or pick up food * or coffee. The children were happy to get into their own beds again. The house seems fine * except for the water heater. Tried to look everywhere for something different to turn on. We switched the circuit breakers and looked for a reset switch, but couldn’t actually find the right button until later in the day. It seems ironic that we did not get a hot shower back in “civilization” on our first day home! It is very nice, however, to be able to get up in the middle of the night and NOT have to get dressed to go to the outhouse!
We will take the boys back to school tomorrow. We will also, put the finishing touches on our 2 SAA (Society for American Archaeology) presentations and, then, fax these presentations to the appropriate 3 discussants. Arlen will leave the house ca. 5 AM on Friday to attend the SAA meetings in Chicago and to give our 2 papers on Saturday (he will be back in the wee hours of Monday morning). I just tried to check e-mail, but there were way too many messages to deal with right now; we will probably go into the University to pick up our overflowing “hard” mail on Monday. This will be the end of my journal until next season; once we re-adjust to civilization, we will assess the results of the 1999 field season in our formal report. It seems strange to think that we were in the jungle less than a week ago.***