Archaeology work site, IX’noha, Belize

 

Hot, dirty, work going on.

An unavoidable fact of increasing complexity is our need for water, a resource that is becoming more rare and more precious as population increases and spreads into areas where it is scarce.   Working in the tropics I had daily reminders, written and oral, to stay hydrated, and we took large containers of water with us every day into the fields.

A lecture given in the field instruction was to notice if we showed signs of dehydration, that include slurred speech, crabbiness, loss of balance, and general disorientation.   We were told to watch for those signs in other workers, and the injunction was occasionally given, and taken, that we needed to go have a drink of water.  Sometimes it was a joke, and a comment on silly judgment or behavior that was taken easily.   Occasionally it was serious.

  • The signs and symptoms of dehydration range from minor to severe and include:
    • Increased thirst
    • Dry mouth and swollen tongue
    • Weakness
    • Dizziness
    • Palpitations (feeling that the heart is jumping or pounding)
    • Confusion
    • Sluggishness fainting
    • Fainting
    • Inability to sweat
    • Decreased urine output

Fussiness was a symptom that had been experienced in the field work we did, so was included in our course of instruction.

Of course, the people out there doing this work were engaged in an avocation that makes it worthwhile, and we found things that made us proud of the work.   Taking safety precautions like making sure we took along large, heavy bottles of water and constantly refilled them, and ourselves, wasn’t onerous if it kept us going.   The few who had to drop out of field work would much have preferred to go on sweating and straining.   There was a lot to do cleaning, sorting, labeling and cataloguing the objects and artifacts that came in from the field and they were producing as much as workers outside in the dirt were, also.

So many people have asked for a bit of information about archaeological digs, that I hope this answers some more questions.   The day in the field is not a full eight hours, because that would be a killer.   Also, full hour at noon for lunch was enforced.   Even our professor contingent didn’t have the lack of supervision that they might keep going.   It’s not worth dying, to take that one last shovelful.

The artifacts that come back from the field are available for display at the museums of the country they are found in, and when I visited Belize City, I did go to the archaeological museum and find a few things about out digs.   There is not a lot of money for the displays, and there is a lot in storage that you only will see if you look for it.  If you want a link to our specific work, here you are.  Incidentally, the fourth largest cache of jade artifacts found in the Americas was discovered at Blue Creek.   The dig we worked on this year is IX’noha, and is conducted by the Blue Creek project as part of its ongoing exploration of the historically rich area.    The Blue Creek jade cache was found on the last day of a dig, something that has become a modus operandi with the Maya Research Program, for reasons unknown and not appreciated.

 

Jade ear ornaments displayed in Belize City archaeology museum from Blue Creek.