UTSA students and staff make historic discoveries in Belize
(August 1, 2016) -- Members of The University of Texas at San Antonio Department of Anthropology spent the summer exploring ancient Maya sites in western Belize.
Kathryn Brown, associate professor of anthropology, has been directing a team of researchers at the site of Xunantunich since 2008, investigating the site’s origins and political history. One target of those investigations is El Castillo, a 39 meter tall acropolis which served as the site’s royal palace for decades. Team member and UTSA doctoral student Leah McCurdy has focused her dissertation research on El Castillo, examining the architectural history of this impressive acropolis.
In 2014, McCurdy discovered a blocked doorway of a building buried in El Castillo. Brown suspected the room was an important location for the ancient Maya; the occupants took great care to cover the walls and purposefully fill the room when the acropolis was enlarged.
This summer, Brown secured a grant from Alphawood Foundation to explore this important feature. After four weeks of careful excavation, Brown and McCurdy discovered the walls of the room were covered with symbols and images that have been hidden from view for more than 1,300 years. More than 200 incised images graced the walls. Brown believes the room was a sacred place where an ancient Maya scribe trained apprentices. The walls of the room have been partitioned into sections and a red painted register surrounds the base of the room.
“We see incised images repeated as if young scribes were practicing their skills. We know that the Maya had accomplished artists and scribes, but we know little about how this important sacred knowledge was passed on,” said Brown. “The discovery of this room helps shed light on this important aspect of Maya civilization. The images carved onto the walls of this room, ranging from simple sketches to sophisticated renderings, are like snapshots in the development of a Maya scribe’s skills.”
“This is the first of its kind found in the Maya world, its closest parallel being the scribal training location found at the nearby site of Xultun a few years ago, which has a painted mural and glyphs but not incised designs like this,” said Jason Yaeger professor and chair of the UTSA Department of Anthropology.
Every summer Yaeger, Brown and about 25 others including undergraduate and graduate students from the top-tier UTSA Department of Anthropology spend a couple months in Belize excavating ancient Maya ruins. Brown and Yaeger’s team of archaeologists have worked at the Maya sites of Xunantunich, Buenavista del Cayo, Las Ruinas del Arenal, Callar Creek, and San Lorenzo.
Some of their most recent findings from the Belize digs include an Early Classic royal burial from Buenavista del Cayo. Artifacts from this burial were recently displayed at the Witte museum as part of the “Mind of the Maya” lecture series. The Witte Museum is partnering with the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts to offer a new Museum Studies minor for students and UTSA places interns at the Witte as part of the program.
By Kara Mireles
Public Affairs Specialist
Learn more about the UTSA Department of Anthropology.
The virtial event will feature undergraduate student research and creative endeavors from across the university. Students who have participated in research experiences beginning summer 2020 through Spring 2021 are invited to participate.Virtual Event
By participating in this training you will feel more prepared to recognize potential harm on a spectrum, decide how you would respond in certain situations and take action to keep our Roadrunner Community safe.Virtual Event
At UTSA, there are many ways to connect with others, gain relevant career experience, and leave your mark at a world-ranked university. With over 300 student organizations, there’s something for everyone at UTSA. Hear from various UTSA Students Leaders about their life as a Roadrunner and why UTSA is their new home.Virtual Event
This course is offered by UTSA's Employee Assistance Program EAP Deer Oaks. Every new beginning comes from something else ending, and in our ever changing world, it is essential to develop the ability topositively cope with change. This session provides participants with the insight to understand the nature of change and learn how to effectively deal with both the losses and the gains that change brings to one’s life.Virtual Event
On April 28, 2021, millions of people across the world will wear jeans with a purpose, support survivors, and educate themselves and others about all forms of sexual violence. To support this movement our donation drive will be items that we will be putting together to make Care Kits. These Care Kits are for students, faculty and staff to get in case of an emergency and they need to leave the situation they're in ASAP and do not have time to pack.Ximenas Ave Garage
ISD Saturdays are an exclusive opportunity for students at an ISD in San Antonio. Each event will group various districts together for each presentation date or session.Virtual Event
Floor captains play a critical role in emergency preparedness, safety awareness and crime prevention techniques throughout the university. They focus on safety and security initiatives while providing guidance and direction to building occupants. During emergency activations, they assist with required evacuations and reentry, shelter-in-place commands, interface with police and other first responders, and help those who may require assistancer.MyTraining Webinar