The carved serpent head found at the base of Vista Alegre’s temple structure.
The carved serpent head most likely was one of a pair that would have been placed at the base of the balustrades flanking the main set of stairs leading to the top of the main temple structure. Team members found the serpent head in 2002 during the first visit to the site. Click image for larger view and image credit.
Exploring the Hidden World of the Maritime Maya 2011
September 13-30, 2011
Jeffrey B. Glover, Ph.D
Department of Anthropology
Watch a video podcast of the scope of the Exploring the Hidden World of the Maritime Maya 2011 Exploration, presented by Dr. Jeffrey Glover, and Dr. Dominique Rissolo.
Click here to view an image slideshow.
The Maritime Maya Project 2011 was conducted from May 9-27, 2011, and was focused on the ancient Maya port of Vista Alegre. Located at the northeast tip of the Yucatan Peninsula – where the Caribbean meets the Gulf – the site is part of a wild and largely unexplored coastline that bore witness to one of the greatest seafaring traditions of the ancient New World. Maya traders once plied these waters in massive dugout canoes filled with goods from across Mesoamerica. Each port was a link in a chain connecting people and ideas, and supporting the ambitions of city and state.
The Maritime Maya Project is part of the larger Proyecto Costa Escondida (PCE), which began in 2006 under the direction of Dominique Rissolo and me. Our goal, archaeologically speaking, is to gain a better understanding of how the Maya of the north coast of the modern Mexican state of Quintana Roo adapted to this coastal environment over the millennia and how they were linked-in to those broader circum-peninsular trade routes.
While Vista Alegre was occupied between 800 BC and the mid 16th century AD, the occupation was not continuous. In order to understand the ebb and flow of settlement over the millennia, the project has assembled an interdisciplinary team that includes a hydrogeologist, a geoarchaeologist, a coastal ecologist, and two archaeologists. By integrating environmental and archaeological sciences, the project, the first of its kind in the area, explores basic subsistence questions: how did the ancient Maya access potable water? And, what coastal ecological niches were available for them to exploit? In addition, through a coring program the project hopes to gain insight into the coastal geomorphology, whether past storm events can be detected, and if the sediments are favorable for the preservation of organic archaeological remains. Thanks to NOAA OER support, the Maritime Maya Project will begin to explore this hidden world of the maritime Maya.
Updates & Logs
Click images or links below for detailed mission logs and updates.
As expected, the expedition produced, and will continue to produce, baseline environmental data
that will be essential for our investigations as well as for future researchers working in the area. We have created the first salinity map around Vista Alegre and in Holbox Lagoon.
October 14 Log While the ancient Miradors
, Sacbes and ball courts have been enveloped by the jungle or are the focus of tourist attractions, the descendants of the Maya still live in the land of their ancestors, and have adapted to live and work in the modern world.
October 5 Log
We chose to collect at 1-centimeter sampling resolution
. Every sample is removed and placed in its own sample bag. It is a long process that normally takes about 3 minutes a sample, or three hours per meter! Fortunately we had a lot of hands to help.
October 3 Log
As part of my Masters thesis research at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, I learned some of the newest techniques to extract DNA
from the tissue of living corals and ‘fingerprint’ individuals using repeating sequences in their genome called microsatellites.
September 26 Log
While the term "MacGyvering"
is funny, the necessity for resourcefulness in the field is anything but. Each member has done some MacGyvering that not only resulted in amusing anecdotes but, more importantly, in the successful completion of our expedition.
September 25 Log Sediment coring
is a job that is one part experience, one part planning, and many parts luck. Before we arrived in the Yucatan the team spent months discussing and planning how we would accomplish our goals to collect a series of sediment cores from target areas underwater around the site.
September 22 Log
It was a balmy late afternoon at Vista Alegre, and the team was hoping to squeeze in one last core in the East Harbor
before calling it a day. As the flotilla made its way into the little bay, we remarked upon the interesting features along the shoreline that we had noted during our earlier reconnaissance.
September 19 Log The Costa Escondida
is a dirty and thirsty place these days. I am sitting here looking at my dry, blacked, and cracked feet. My ears crunch with salt, even though I had my mid-day swim. The water was uncomfortably warm and slimy. My quick swim was good to cool off, but now my skin just feels weird.
September 16 Log As the project’s coastal ecologist
, part of my contribution to this multidisciplinary effort is to begin quantifying the existing terrestrial and marine flora and fauna associated with the Vista Alegre site in order to put together an initial ecological assessment.
September 14 Log Finally, it was off to Vista Alegre!
When we rolled up to the docks in Chiquila, our unsinkable lanchero
(boat captain), Roberto Echevarria, was there to greet us. We were a sight to behold, the Clampetts of Quintana Roo – two latter-day jalopies bursting with gear.
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