Institute of Archeology combs excavation of old football field for artifacts and antiques

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

With the construction of the San Pedro Sunset Boardwalk replacing the old Saca Chispas Football Field, there is major excavation taking place. And with the excavation comes the unexpected unearthing of antique items such as bottles and Maya artifacts. For that reason the Institute of Archeology dispatched personnel to San Pedro Town on Monday, September 17th to rescue, recover, document and transport whatever antique bottles and Maya artifacts found during the excavation process.

The team, consisting of two representatives of the Institute of Archeology and senior students of the San Pedro High School as volunteers, combed through large piles of excavated material in search of larger pieces or intact old bottles and whatever Maya artifacts that could be found. Archeologist at the Institute of Archeology Silvia Batty said that they are also monitoring the excavation. “Currently we are monitoring the excavation because we received reports that there were bottles coming up so we wanted to see the amount of bottles coming up and salvage whatever we can. We are trying to salvage old colonial bottles that are coming up and by law an antiquity is anything that is over 150 years old, so that is what we are focusing on and we have found quite a few of them,” said Batty.

According to Batty, to determine the antiquity of a bottle several things need to be looked at which includes the mouth and neck of the bottle as well as any attachment to the bottle that is made by hand and not machine. Batty says that they are also looking for single hand blown objects that are not clean cut, such as the case of industrially produce bottles or those made with the use of a mold and are made in large quantities. They are also observing the wear and tear of the bottles known as the patina or commonly refer to as the onion skin, which is a strong indicator of the antiquity of a bottle.

The team of two are conducting surface collections from the piles of dirt being excavated and hope that with the help of the senior students, who are participating as a community service, they can dig into the piles before it is being trucked to a different location. The involvement of the students, explained Batty, is part of the Institute of Archeology’s practice to get the community involved, for them to see some of the things collected from within the area. “Regrettably a lot of the larger bottles are broken because the dirt was removed with an excavator so it is expected. On the bright side, the smaller bottles are intact and we are glad for that. For now we have collected about 60 bottles some of which are antique medicine and Vicks bottles and a lot of ceramic. Some of the larger bottle, we picked up the rim or the neck and the base of it so that we can get an idea of the number of bottles that were out here,” explained Batty. So far a few Maya artifacts such as three intact grinding stones have been found.

Part of the Saca Chispas area was filled with community garbage in its early stage of development and according to Batty one of the best places to search for evidence of the way people lived are in such areas. “Well one mans trash is another mans treasure and this is similar to what we do in Maya archeology. A lot of the most interesting areas to look into are the rubbish heaps. It tells you what type of bottles where being used, the amount of bottles being used, where they were imported from and so forth. If you are not looking at the garbage heap then where else would you look at to get a good chronology of the materials that are being used in a common household,” explained Batty.

After being catalogued, the antiquities found will be kept at the Institute of Archeology in Belmopan City where the archeologist will try to determine the make and age of the items. As per normal practice, the items will be housed in a safe environment by the Institute of Archeology and pieces of interest will be handed to the Museum of Belize or the future House of Culture that is being planned for San Pedro for display. The Institute of Archeology is encouraging members of the community who are aware of those who have in their possession antiquities that were found at the Saca Chispas Field and are being sold, to report it to the Institute of Archeology at 822-2106 or 822-2227.

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