Flooded Ancient Maya Salt Works, Paynes Creek National Park, Belize

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

The session discusses research at the Paynes Creek Salt Works, as well as comparisons with other ancient Maya salt works. Excavations and sediment coring carried out between 2009 and 2015 investigated the nature of the Classic period (A.D. 300-900) salt industry that used wooden buildings preserved below the sea floor in a shallow, salt-water coastal lagoon. Salt was produced by evaporating brine in pots over fires as indicated by briquetage, the remains of pottery vessels and supports used in the salt production. Ten underwater salt works were selected for transect excavations. Land sites with earthen mounds were excavated to evaluate their role in the salt industry. Sediment coring, as well as collection of marine sediment from underwater excavations focused on the timing and rate of sea-level rise. Remote sensing using an automated research vessel, as well as air photography from a drone augmented the systematic flotation survey on Research Flotation Devices (RFDs). The Paynes Creek Salt Works, with evidence of infrastructure of production and distribution, provide a model for other salt works along the coast that lack preserved wood, as well as expanding the types of salt production known from inland and coastal salt works.