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When Provenience is Lost: Achievements and Challenges in Conserving the Historical St. John’s, Belize Skeletal Collection

Author(s): Carlos Quiroz ; Katherine Miller Wolf ; Hannah Plumer ; Yasser Musa

Year: 2017

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Funding in small developing countries like Belize for archaeological research and post excavation curation remains one of our greatest challenges to preserving our tangible cultural heritage. The state of curation of human remains and artefact collections at St. John’s College in Belize City is a perfect example of what can go wrong when there is not established a properly funded and managed curation program both at the national level or the institutional level. This paper highlights the rediscovery of a historically significant group of human remains (n=70+) in the biological collection of Friar Deickman that was forgotten in an attic after his death in 2003. We outline the process and accomplishments in improving the curation conditions of these individuals while uncovering their context and importance to Belize’s history in the 18th-20th centuries. Preliminary analysis reveals life-histories of slavery and indentured servitude of individuals of African, Maya, European, and possible mixed African & European descent. We emphasis the importance of ethical responsibility to properly curate human remains once excavated; the challenges researchers face once poor curation results in lost provenience; and suggestions for scientific analysis in recovering the information lost as a result of poor excavation or/and curation methods.

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When Provenience is Lost: Achievements and Challenges in Conserving the Historical St. John’s, Belize Skeletal Collection. Carlos Quiroz, Katherine Miller Wolf, Hannah Plumer, Yasser Musa. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431463)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -94.702; min lat: 6.665 ; max long: -76.685; max lat: 18.813 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16478

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America