Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Marco Gonzalez Maya Site Visit (The Entrance)

Waiting for Jan at Mata Rocks after the rain stopped

     I had called Jan Brown to set up a tour of the Maya Trading Village about 5 miles south of my hotel, and after putting it off a day or two due to some rain showers, we finally travelled down that bumpy and muddy road in her golf cart, just above the mangroves with their feet in the brackish water. I held on tight as we entered the last stretch of the road, where the town of San Pedro had just dumped some fresh (almost) crushed (almost) limestone in anticipation of a possible visit from Dr. Awe, the Director of the Belize Institute of Archaeology that might happen the next day or the day after  -or next week or next month, which is sort of the way everything seems to happen on Ambergris Caye off the coast of Belize, just south of the southern Mexican Border on the Atlantic Coast in Central America where the Carribean Sea meets the second largest coral reef in the world (I think that about sums the location all up).
       Now, I've got to tell you that I've never been on the top of a Maya Temple - or a Hopewellian Mound or anything like that - never even seen one in the distance. The closest I've ever been to anything like that is a pile of stones maybe ten or twelve feet high and thirty feet around, a mile or two from my house. And the heap o'stones is built on a hillside, so maybe it only seems that tall, and is that tall, if you stand in a certain spot and the wind is right (or something like that).
        My first view of the Marco Gonzolez Archaeological Reserve, a Belize National Park, reminded me of my own backyard where I've placed some old scrap boards around some stone mounds behind my chicken coop so that in case anyone ever does show up to look at them, they will know where to step. The building at Marco Gonzalez is however in much better shape than my old chicken coop...
   Now please understand, I am not poking fun at this Maya Site. My visits there were just about the most incredible experiences in my life. I'd trade a dozen visits to all the other places, where I'd walk a roped-in designated path to a designated photo opportunity spot to end up looking at labelled exhibits behind museum glass, for just one more visit to MGAR. I paid my entrance fee to Jacob, the 22 year old caretaker, and to the best of my knowledge, the only employee of the national Park, looking down at these artifacts on display on a piece of card stock I suspect was labelled by Jan - perhaps an earlier version on the other side: 
An Incredible Display of Stuff
There was other stuff on that painted plywood shelf below the window screens. I started to reach for something and then remembered my manners.
  "May I?" Iasked.
Jan said, "Go right ahead!"
And I picked up what looked like a slate birdstone:
Swiss-Army Birdstone
Now that's just me, calling this a slate birdstone. Jan said something about it being an axe, possibly hafted on a shaft of wood, and I could see that beat up axe edge (and I remember thinking "hand axe") by my pinky finger but I couldn't help but notice the notch above my thumb in the above photo, and say like I say about stones I find at home, "This part could be used like a shaft abrader."
And then turn the stone and find another hand hold and another size abrader.
And then suggest that it might be sort of a Swiss-Army Bird.
And then get that "How many Grateful Dead shows has this guy been to?" sort of look from the person I'm suggesting such a suggestion to...
This one below, I am happy to say, I have no clue about. Is it bone or stone or fossilized wood, a tool of some sort or just a chunck of something used as landfill to create the site, the village?
I'm proud to say, "I don't know."

      Jan directed me to a shady spot where I guess she gives more graceful people an opportunity to sit and see some more amazing artifacts from the site, sort of a preview of what's to come, but I actually stepped where I shouldn't and knocked apart a bench or table or something that wasn't nailed down and was quickly directed toward another spot where the budget (that I suspect might come out of Jan's pocket or the occasional donation) had allowed the use of nails...
"Miss Jan" Brown

      Jan began unwrapping some items and placing them on some bubble wrap. Notice I said, "Some items." This called an 'Understatement,' I believe; she is actually displaying a random selection of incredible artifacts that may be anywhere from 500 years old to 2,000 years old, found on this human-made mound of Anthrosol (humanly created soil), layer after layer of which had been placed there by hand, probably basketful  by basketful (potful by potful).

There were pottery shards and stone tools...
Fossilized bone needles and fish teeth...

and Shell Jewelry.
And Obsidian!
Jan said some was green and some was almost clear,
depending on which volcano on the mainland that it was found near...
And I said "What? Green? I've never heard of Green Obsidian"
And she said hold it up to the light.
So I did:
And I tried another piece from a different place:

Ah, I could have spent alot more time looking at all and holding all these things that somewhere else (anywhere else) might've been behind glass (that might have a sign that warned you not to even touch the glass) but the trail began to call to us, the quarter mile hike across the mangroves, on a boardwalk just above sea level (mostly), so with a glance backward:
And a quick look at a sign post:
We started the walk to the Reserve:


  1. can you believe that I live on the island and haven't been down there yet? SHAMEFUL! Thanks so much for the post.

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