Glascock: Turquoise waters and mysteries of the Mayan gods

(A photo of Xuantunich by Cristina Glascock)

Belize is a country full of natural beauty and fascinating archaeology.

My experiences in Belize combined the crystal-clear turquoise sea and white sandy beaches of Aubergines Cay, an island 20 minutes by plane from Belize City, with the thick jungle and a Maya archaeological site near San Ignacio, which is a two-hour drive into the mountains.

The Belizean coast line is considered one of the top marine ecosystems in the world because the barrier reef runs the entire length of the coast creating shallow waters and thousands of patch reefs.

The snorkeling was superb with tremendous clarity and vast schools of fish often in vivid iridescent blue, green, and yellow colors.
We saw angel fish, parrotfish, sting rays, lobster, crabs, sea turtles, nurse sharks and amazing sea horses. The most remarkable were the nurse sharks.

(Photo by Cristina Glascock)

At first startled by their ominous fins, a calmness took over watching the guide calmly feed and play with them. The sparkling water caused me to reflect that this is a unique area full of fascinating abundant sea life.

After two days of snorkeling, I traveled to work at a Maya excavation site at Baking Pot located on the southern bank of the Belize River Valley sponsored by Northern Arizona University.

This phenomenal experience combined adventure with history. While the work was rigorous, the cultural experience was astounding. My group focused on the entry way and the main rooms at the front of a palace dating to 1,000 B.C.

Our excavation site was carefully constructed with thick string protecting the area from foot traffic. Our days began at 6 a.m. trekking 20 minutes up a steep mountain.

For six hours each day, we used trowels to gingerly fill large buckets with damp dark soil to carry down the mountain and sift through to find artifacts. After a full day of digging, we would head back to the lab and catalogue the findings that would be washed the following morning and analyzed. Among the artifacts that I unearthed, my favorite was a rabbit figurine related to the Maya moon god.

We learned that the figurine was notable because it represented the moon goddess and was an important source of protein used for food and trade.

Studying Belizean archaeology is exciting because it combines the adventure of trekking through the jungle on a quest to discover the history of a 1,000-year-old society with the science of carbon dating and testing materials to develop a more accurate picture of mankind’s origins in Central America.

My trip to Belize was incredible, and I hope other students interested in marine life and ancient civilizations will consider venturing to this beautiful country.

Editor’s Note: Cristina Glascock is a Paradise Valley resident, and student at Phoenix Country Day School