Galen U and UNC Wilmington team up for Public Archaeology Education Program

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Schools on the island were visited by a team of Archaeologists and students for a series of presentations and talks as a part of a partnership between Galen University in Belize and the University of North Carolina, (UNCW) Wilmington in the USA. The partnership is a public education program geared towards young minds to enlighten and introduce them to the field of Archaeology and Anthropology and encourage them to consider those studies for their future as well as to educate them about the importance of studying our history and preserving archaeological sites for future generations. Dr. Scott Simmons of UNCW along with archaeology students Victor Cucul and Ismael Teul of Galen University served as “Ambassadors of the Past”, visiting the various schools on Ambergris Caye and talking about the history and culture of past civilizations, specifically the Maya, who were the original inhabitants of this entire region and whose impact and civilizations are still evident today.

Victor and Ismael, who are both ethnic Maya themselves, provided a unique perspective into the life of Maya people and culture that once existed here in Belize and used the Marco Gonzalez site on Ambergris Caye as a present example of the Maya influence not only on the mainland but also right here on the island. They talked of the many different languages that were spoken by the Maya, 31 in fact, and about the different ethnic sub-groups that existed within Maya people. Students were fascinated to know that although both students were in fact Maya people, they too were of a different group from each other. Victor, a Kekchi Maya, explained that his culture although similar, had slightly different customs and spoke in a different language altogether from Ismael, who is a Mopan Maya. They went as far as to offer translations from English into the two different languages to demonstrate both the similarities as well as the differences between them. Dr. Simmons then displayed and talked about various artifacts found at the Marco Gonzalez site here on the island and discussed about their possible uses and how Archaeologists go about figuring out what they are and what may have been their purpose.

The San Pedro Sun caught up with the trio as they were visiting the Holy Cross Anglican School, and spoke to them about the presentation. Dr. Simmons said that the students were “very inquisitive and attentive to the presentations.” He also said that he was “happy to see that many of the students know so much already about the Maya culture and people. We’ve been having a very good response so far from the children… they really seem to be having fun learning about Archaeology.”Simmons says that the program is part of a two year grant awarded to them to promote and educate students on the island about the aspects of Maya culture and promote Archaeology among young kids. He hopes that with the success of the current program they will be able to expand it countrywide and cover more ground in future years. Victor, who is the student body president at Galen, along with Ismael, were chosen by Sherry Gibbs of Galen University from among a talented group of young individuals who were well suited to be a part of the program. Being ethnic Maya themselves made them the perfect choice to present and showcase the Maya culture to the students of Ambergris Caye.

Following the school visits Dr. Simmons and his students will conduct an on-site cultural exploration day at the Marco Gonzalez site on June 22nd, called ‘A Day in the life of the Coastal May Traders’ and are planning a four-day exhibit at the Belize Yacht Club from the 20th to the 23rd of June showcasing artifacts and educational materials about the site.

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