Tuesday, June 19, 2007

On the Verge

Well I had hoped to start posting updates on this blog some time ago, but as many of you have heard there have been some delays this year. I came down to Mérida, Yucatan, in February to continue work at the site of Xtobo for my dissertation at Tulane, but the permit that I was supposed to work under disappeared. As such I had to apply directly to the Consejo Arqueologico (Archaeological Council) of the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History). They over see all archaeological work in Mexico, and thus they are the people you need to deal with if you want to work in this country.

After the Mexican revolution in the 1920’s a law was written stating that all resources beneath the ground were considered government property. Of course at the time the primary purpose of this law was to nationalize all mineral resources. For those of you less familiar with Latin American History, Americans have had a long history of coming south and basically seizing natural resources and monopolizing the profits from them. Guatemala’s attempt to kick these foreign monopoly’s out of their country in the 1950’s got them labeled as a communist country, and an outpost of the Kremlin, and the CIA was sent in to over throw the democratically elected leader. Hind sight demonstrates quite clearly there was no substantial communist presence in the country let alone a drop of Kremlin influence. Anyway I’m going a bit off topic. The wording of the Mexican law allowed it to eventually be turned to archaeological resources. Thus providing much needed federal protection of archaeological sites in Mexico. Thus the trade off, I have to deal with massive Mexican government bureaucracy, but thanks to them there are still places for people like me to work.

But the permit saga is nearing completion. This morning I met with INAH officials and arranged to pay the required tax on my project. Once my check clears in a couple of days I will be given the official permit letter. As soon as I have that letter in hand I can arrange for workers and the field work can begin.

This season will provide all the data I need to write my dissertation, but really it will only provide a preliminary look at the site of Xtobo. In previous seasons down here I have documented the extent of the site and created a good quality map of the political center of the site (i.e. the main plaza flanked by pyramids). This summer I will start mapping the peripheral regions of the site where the residential architecture is found. Once the map of the site is complete, the next step will be a series of test excavations. I will be putting 1x4m trenches along the back edges of several structures looking basically for garbage dumps. Garbage is the gold of archaeology, it can tell us an amazing amount about who was living in these places. Once the dissertation is complete I hope to move on to larger scale excavations of the actual architecture at the site, but one step at a time.

This blog somewhat collapsed last time I was working down here, but now that I have my own internet connection I will try to update you all on my progress once a week or so.


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