Maya Cultural Heritage Exchange In Southern Belize: A Dialogue Among Communities, Archaeologists and Sociocultural Anthropologists

Kristina Baines City University of New York, USA & Rebecca K. Zarger University of South Florida, USA

For Maya communities in southern Belize, environmental and cultural heritage is not a static entity but an everyday lived experience. This paper examines this living heritage through reflections on a small grant-funded project in which community members, community-based organization leaders, and archaeologists exchanged knowledge about land use and land management as a series of activities designed to support and sustain cultural heritage knowledge and practice in Mopan and Q’eqchi’ Maya communities of southern Belize. This was done in concert with the Uxbenka Archaeological Project and Uchb’enka K’in Ahaw Association through multiple pathways: a field guide for the archaeological site and local plant trail at the site, GPS training sessions, field trips to other communities and archaeological sites in Belize, radio presentations, and distribution of a student workbook and teacher’s guide. The objectives of the project were to facilitate dialogue between groups and organizations surrounding cultural heritage education through the production of dissemination materials (workbook and site guide), to evaluate the impact of ongoing archaeologist/community collaborations (through work at the site and presentation of the site), and to provide training for long-term community monitoring of looting activities (with GPS monitoring). This paper discusses how sociocultural anthropologists can play a vital role in facilitating community/archaeology collaborations, documenting the successes and challenges of these groups working together, and describing points of tension that have yet to be resolved. Additionally, it addresses how understanding and sustaining Maya cultural heritage may depend on an exchange of knowledge from multiple contributors rather than simply relying on information put forward by one group.

Heritage, Maya, Community Archaeology, Environmental Education, GPS


Vol 4 2015 Research Reports In Belizean History and Anthropology