Beyond the Shore: The Underwater Maya Project, Paynes Creek National Park, Belize.

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 81st Annual Meeting, Orlando, FL (2016)

A series of posters will illustrate recent work on the Paynes Creek Salt Works from the Underwater Maya Project, Department of Geography and Anthropology, Louisiana State University. This research is part of the larger long-term project in southern coastal Belize to further the understanding of how the coastal participated in the larger Classic and Postclassic Maya cultural sphere. The Classic period (A.D. 300-900) salt works were submerged by a sea-level rise that occurred after the Late Classic (A.D. 700-900). The salt works are associated with large-scale workshop production using the technique of evaporating brine in pots over fires, resulting briquetage – the broken salt-making pottery. Remnants of wooden structures used for production and storage of salt, were preserved in the anaerobic red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) peat below the sea floor. The posters will include an overview of the project and new directions for future research, dietary implications from a shell midden located at the Eleanor Betty Site, a comparison of the workshops between the Paynes Creek and Placencia Salt Works, and an overview of the stratigraphy of two earthen mounds.

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  • Documents (5)

  • Dietary Implications from an Inundated Shell Midden at a Classic Maya Salt Work (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Valerie Feathers. Heather McKillop. E. Cory Sills. Rachel Watson.

    During the 2013 field season, an inundated shell midden was excavated at the underwater ancient Maya salt production site of Eleanor Betty, one of the Paynes Creek Salt Works. Excavations revealed that the midden was located 16-30 cm below the sea-floor and extended both inside and outside of an underwater wooden structure. During the spring of 2015, analyses were performed to identify the shell species, assess the nature of the midden (cultural or natural), and evaluate dietary implications of...

  • Occupational History of Three Ancient Maya Saltworks in Paynes Creek National Park, Belize. (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Roberto Rosado Ramirez. Jessica Harrison.

    In this poster we present the results of archaeological research at three currently submerged Classic period Maya saltworks in Paynes Creek National Park, Southern Belize. Through the study of marine sediment columns, we document environmental and anthropogenic changes over time at these locations. By conducting macroscopic analysis, loss-on ignition, and microscopic characterization of marine sediment samples, we were able to identify the effects of human activities as well as sea level rise on...

  • An Overview of the Stratigraphy at Witz Naab and Killer Bee, the Remnants of Salt Making Mounds, Paynes Creek National Park, Belize (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Rachel Watson. Heather McKillop.

    Three partially submerged earthen mounds at Witz Naab and Killer Bee are currently the only known remaining above ground evidence of a once-thriving salt industry in Punta Ycacos Lagoon, a large salt-water system in Paynes Creek National Park, Belize. During 2012, field season, excavations were conducted at two of the mounds. This poster will present findings concerning the stratigraphic development of these mounds. Understanding the stratigraphy of the mounds will aid in interpreting features...

  • Paynes Creek Salt Works: Ten Field Seasons of Underwater Maya Survey, Mapping, and Excavations (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Heather McKillop. Karen McKee. Harry Roberts. Terrance Winemiller. John Jones.

    The unexpected discovery of wooden buildings preserved in the mangrove peat sediment below the sea floor in Paynes Creek National Park, southern Belize, provided an opportunity to re-evaluate the nature of salt production in the ancient Maya economy and the nature of ancient Maya wooden architecture. Innovative techniques based on shallow underwater survey elsewhere were used to systematically search in a salt-water lagoon system for wooden structures and associated briquetage—the pottery used...

  • Reevaluation of the Placencia Salt Works in the Classic Maya Economy (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only E. Cory Sills. J. Jefferson MacKinnon.

    The Placencia Salt Works in southern Belize are re-evaluated based on 2015 field work, building on previous research by J. Jefferson MacKinnon. Comparisons are made with the Paynes Creek Salt Works based on a similar salt-water lagoon environment, salt-production artifacts (briquetage), the presence of earthen mounds, and the absence of preserved wooden architecture at the Placencia Salt Works. Study of the briquetage indicates a similar process of evaporating brine in pots over fires to make...