Dr. Beverly Chiarulli and eight students, primarily from the Mesoamerican Archaeology class, spent Spring Break 2010 climbing pyramids, patting jaguars, and discovering insect night life in Belize.
The students included undergraduate students Robin Matty, Ashley Shelton, Michele Troutman, Jessica Devlin, Christine Schlosser, and Victoria Gregg and graduate students Donna Smith and Amy Salsgiver. During the eight-day trip, the group visited Altun Ha, Cerros, Lamanai, La Milpa, Caracol, Cahal Pech, Xununtunich, and the Belize Zoo and tubed through Caves Branch Cave. At the Belize Zoo, Christine and Robin organized a close encounter with Junior, a three-year-old jaguar, from the safe confines of a large cage (for the students, not the jaguar). We patted his paws and back and had a few “jaguar kisses,” which involved us putting our hands on the keeper's forehead as Junior took a lick.
During the night walk in the Programme for Belize research station, we saw leaf cutter ants, army ants on the move, scorpion spiders, and several species of lizards, frogs, and toads. We also saw the reflections of dozens of wolf spider eyes in the grass and one set of crocodile eyes in a pond reflecting the light from our flashlights.
Above: Donna Smith, Michele Troutman, Jessica Devlin, Christine Schlosser, Amy Salsgiver, Robin Matty, Ashley Shelton, and Victoria Gregg at Lamanai
The Maya sites included the three largest sites in Belize—Caracol, Lamanai, and La Milpa—and ranged in age from the Late Preclassic (200 B.C. to A.D. 100) through the Late Classic (A.D. 700–900). The Maya are indigenous people who today live in Belize, southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. While many Maya sites were abandoned between A.D. 900–1000, others like Lamanai were still occupied when the Spanish arrived in the sixteenth century. Millions of Maya people still live in this region today.
This was the third time that Dr. Chiarulli has taken students on tours of Belize during Spring Break. Students have also participated in summer field projects with her at the archaeological sites of Chau Hiix and Maax Na.