December 03, 2007

Rare Maya "Death Vase"...sort of

There's an article on today's National Geographic News website about a marble vase that was excavated where I work in Honduras in 2005. In 2006 I excavated the structure where it was found. It's an "interesting" article:

An extremely rare and intricately carved "death vase" has been discovered in the 1,400-year-old grave of a member of the Maya elite, scientists say.
The vase is the first of its kind to be found in modern times, and its contents are opening a window onto ancient rituals of ancestor worship that included food offerings, chocolate enemas, and hallucinations induced by vomiting, experts say.
Archaeologists discovered the vase along with parts of a human skeleton while excavating a small "palace" in northwestern Honduras in 2005. (The dig was funded by the National Geographic Society, which owns National Geographic News.)
Soil samples taken from in and around the vessel were found to contain pollen from corn, cacao, and false ipecac, a plant that causes severe nausea when eaten.
These traces suggest the vase may have been used in ancient rites the Maya practiced to produce trancelike states through intense physical purging, said Christian Wells, an anthropologist at the University of South Florida who lead the excavation.
"The way to have contact, to communicate, with ancestors is to have visions," Wells said of the Maya rituals.
"And you have a vision either by cutting yourself and bloodletting—which there's really no evidence for in this case—or by having some very powerful chocolate enema, or by drinking your brains out and throwing up.
"We think this beverage [in the vase] may have contained ipecac, which would have made the person who's drinking it throw up—a lot. Then, by throwing up a lot, they could've had visions that would have allowed them to talk with the ancestors."

Read the full story here.

Posted by Will at 12:20 PM

November 13, 2006

Palos Blancos representin'

A few weeks ago I submitted a handful of photos from this past summer in Honduras to the International Photo Competition sponsored by the International Affairs at USF. The photo below won a grand prize and is supposed to be enlarged and displayed in that office for the next year. It was taken at the site I excavated in northwest Honduars, Palos Blancos, and features a bunch of the local kids who hung out with us on a regular basis as well as one of the field school students sifting some dirt. I found that the kids were really good at spotting artifacts before any of us Gringos.

Update: Click here to see the announcement of the 2006 winners. I ended up winning "Best USF Study Abroad Photograph."


Posted by Will at 04:47 PM

June 28, 2006


Tampa, Florida

I made it back to the States in one piece. The American Airlines counter at the San Pedro Sula airport was insane this morning so we barely made our flight. In Miami, my advisor got pulled for "inspection" which probably had something to do with all the fancy survey equipment he was hauling. Because my friend and I waited for him, we missed our flight but made it on a 2pm with no problem. It's strange to be back in the US, even only after five weeks. Tonight I think I'll lock myself in my room, enjoy highspeed internet and catch up on some bills, maybe watch a movie in English for a change, and enjoy the running water and air conditioning. As much as I like the field and living in Central America, the comforts of home are too much to give up completely. So this completes Honduras Blogging 2006. As soon as I get my photos organized I'll probably throw them up on the web somewhere.

Posted by Will at 05:51 PM

June 26, 2006

Wrapping Up

San Pedro Sula, Honduras

We are in Sn Pedro tonight for another "staff dinner" and to get away from Cofradia for a few hours. Two of our co-directors have been in Tegucigalpa working on the business end of the project and appeasing the government officials. I finished up at Palos Blancos on Friday with backfilling, which was back-breaking but satisfying. After a bittersweet farewell to the local children and my workers, we headed back to begin a few days of wrapping up at the lab. One last push tomorrow and I'm off on Wednesday morning.

Posted by Will at 09:45 PM

June 14, 2006

Looking forward to Copan

Cofradia, Honduras

This week has been going by somewhat slow. Perhaps it´s because we´re nearing the end of the season and I´m ready to get back to Tampa to find a new apartment and then to North Carolina for a few weeks to visit before classes start again. The highlight of this month for me is going to be Copan this weekend, a couple of hours from Cofradia near the border with Guatemala. Expect plenty of fantastic pictures from there. No spectacular news from my site, Palos Blancos, but my colleague´s team uncovered a burial at Palmarejo which will keep them busy for the rest of the month.

Posted by Will at 07:33 PM

June 08, 2006

Let it Rain

Cofradia, Honduras

We finally got some rain most of yesterday evening and into this morning. The power went out, interestingly because when it rains the town of Cofradia will shut down the power supply as a precaution. It was still off when we left for the field this morning so I had to go without coffee...a very bad thing especially when I get up every work morning at 6am. In the field my trench had not been destroyed but there was quite a bit of water accumulation in the deepest pits on either end. I was pretty much done with that anyway so we extended a few units across the top of the structure. Nothing too dramatic but some nice large sherds in one lot along with a bunch of carbon. They were burning something at the top, perhaps ritually. In essence, I´m excavating a big pile of rocks. This particular structure is in terrible condition after many centuries of sitting abandoned so its more frustrating than rewarding. I´ve also realized that this is my ¨getting to know Honduras¨season because I´m not doing anything I´m particularly interested in doing for my Masters. Next year will prove to be more productive, I hope.

Posted by Will at 06:47 PM | Comments (1)

June 04, 2006

Lap of Luxury

San Pedro Sula, Honduras

I was able to find an internet cafe in San Pedro Sula where I uploaded some of my photos from the past two weeks. This is the view from my hotel room in the Gran Hotel Sula. We spent one night in town to tour and visit the museum...and to enjoy a hot shower and air conditioned sleep. As expected, Hondruas is a beautiful country.

Imagen 014.jpg

Posted by Will at 01:01 PM | Comments (1)

May 27, 2006

In town for supplies

San Pedro Sula, Honduras

Things are still going great. A colleague and I are in San Pedro Sula today buying some supplies and to eat lunch. We havent been doing much since Monday except eat and drink. Quite a different pace of life in Honduras than in the states...the main reason I like to come to Central America.

The field school students arrive tomorrow and then on Monday we are touring the sites, then starting work next week. Its going to be hot and tiring, but fun. We drove past the Palmarejo site this morning and its beautiful. Not jungle or rainforest like Belize but still very neat. I will have some great pictures when I get back (I already have a good one of a HUGE spider that was in our bathroom).

Posted by Will at 01:40 PM

May 23, 2006

Hola from Cofradia

Cofradia, Hondruas

My friends and I made it to Honduras safe and sound. It is VERY hot here and quite different from Belize, where I was two summers ago. The people seem very nice and down to earth. I am in a little internet cafe right now with a rather slow connection, but I guess I can´t be too picky in the middle of Honduras. We are staying at a lady´s house for a few nights. It´s air conditioned and I actually woke up freezing this morning. It makes going out in the heat that much harder. We still have quite a bit of preparation to do before the field school students arrive on Sunday. Until next time...

Posted by Will at 01:48 PM

May 22, 2006

Honduras or Bust

Tampa, FL

Well, here we go. I hardly got any sleep last night and drank two cups of coffee this morning. I’m going to be feeling GREAT on the plane. My friend is picking me up in fifteen minutes. We fly from Tampa to Miami, and then to San Pedro Sula. A Honduran colleague is picking us up at the airport there where we’ll make our way to Cofradía, my home for the next five weeks. See you on the other side...


Posted by Will at 06:32 AM

May 20, 2006


Location: Tampa, FL

Dropped some more cash today, mostly at Wal-Mart. Apparently Ozark Trail is their main supplier of camping and outdoor gear, so I'll be a walking billboard in Honduras. My field bag is starting to come together:


Posted by Will at 08:01 PM

May 18, 2006

Preliminary Checklist

Honduras Blogging 2006
Location: Tampa, FL

Preparations continue. I think I have most of this stuff already, but I need to buy a bunch of the clothes. Tomorrow and the rest of the weekend are shopping and packing days.

Long pants (work + leisure)
Long sleeve t-shirts
Button-up shirts
Boots (get waterproofing)
Quick dry sturdy socks (10 days worth)
Low-rise socks
Rain poncho
2 nice shirts (polo?); pair of slacks
Brown sketchers
Flip flops
Swim trunks
3 towels

Sturdy travel toothbrush
Starter travel shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, shaving cream
Face wash
Body wash (not bar soap!)
Fingernail clippers, nose hair trimmer, tweezers

Personal equipment
Digital Camera w/ case (return case and buy larger); cleaning wipes
Lithium batteries
Cheap sunglasses (polarized); hard case
Digital watch (2)
iPod w/ wall charger
Book(s) for pleasure

First Aid Items
Anti-itch cream
Band-aids (various sizes)
Antibiotic cream
Bandage tape

Field bag necessities
Water bottles
Sturdy backpack
Bug spray/DEET
Small towels
Sunscreen (at least 45 or 50)
First aid (see above)
Waterproof notebook(s)/binder
Pencils, pens, highlighter, sharpie
Pocket calculator
Pencil pouch/box
Spanish dictionary
Ziplock bags (large)
Face/hand wipes

Ancient Maya (Sharer)
Sharer/Ashemore intro book
Field methods manuals

Posted by Will at 07:52 PM

May 17, 2006

Thinking about getting ready

Honduras Blogging 2006
Present location: Winston-Salem, NC

Welcome to Honduras blogging on Nomadic Thoughts. No, I haven’t left yet but final preparations are underway. I head back to Tampa later this evening after a weeklong, much-needed visit to North Carolina. My digital camera was delivered to my place in Tampa this morning, much to my relief. I hope to go to the park tomorrow afternoon to get some shots. I don’t yet know what the chances are of me being able to upload photos while I’m in Honduras, but at the very least I will be blogging the whole trip.

So, next step is to go shopping. I have a list of things I need to buy including a whole new wardrobe of clothes I’m not worried about wearing out or giving away. My friend tells me that the women hired to do our laundry really put our clothes through hell: they use one of those roller things and a scrubbing board. Also, at the end of the trip it is expected that I will give away some of my clothes to the locals as gifts who have worked with me over the course of the month. At this point, the thing I am looking most forward to is escaping the United States for a brief period and the thing I am least looking forward to is missing my family and girlfriend. Stay tuned!

Posted by Will at 12:21 PM