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Arizona Archaeology Society meeting to focus on Belize caves


CAVE CREEK – Dr. Jaime Awe will be the featured presenter at the next Arizona Archaeology Society – Desert Foothills Chapter meeting, happening Feb. 10.

Awe will present ‘Tales from the Dark Side: Cave Archaeology in Western Belize and its Implications for the Decline of Maya Civilization.’ In Maya cosmology, few locations were (and are) considered more sacred or ritually charged than caves. Representing portals to the netherworld and places of origin, these dark subterranean sites also served as the abode for important, powerful, and often capricious deities. The Maya further believed that the spirits of deceased ancestors descended to the watery underworld where they could eventually be reborn. Caves were thus places of death and creation. Both the ancient Maya and their descendants visited and visit these sites to conduct rituals.  

Until recently, intensive scientific investigations of cave sites were rare. The Western Belize Regional Cave Project embarked on a multi-year research program designed to ascertain the nature of Maya cave utilization. By combining ethnographic and ethnohistoric information with data from archaeological investigations, this presentation provides evidence which suggests that the Maya visited caves in an effort to communicate with particular gods or ancestral spirits and the primary focus of their ritual activities were directed toward sustenance and agricultural fertility, and that intensified cave ritual in the ninth century A.D. was intrinsically related to factors that led to the decline of Maya civilization.

Dr. Awe was born in San Ignacio Town of the Cayo District in Belize. A graduate of St. John’s Junior College in Belize City, he was awarded a Bachelor’s Degree with Honours and a Masters Degree in Anthropology at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. In 1992, he completed a Ph.D. in Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology at the University of London, England. In addition to serving as a professor of Archaeology at multiple universities, Awe has directed major conservation projects in Belize and has conducted research at many different sites. Dr. Awe now lives in Flagstaff, where he teaches in the Anthropology Department of Northern Arizona University and continues to conduct archaeological investigations in western Belize.

Everyone is welcome to attend Arizona Archaeology Society – Desert Foothills Chapter meetings. Meetings begin at 7:30 p.m.; refreshments are offered prior to the meeting start. Meetings are held at the Foothills Community Foundation, 34250 North 60th Street, in Scottsdale.

For more information on the Arizona Archaeology Society – Desert Foothills Chapter, see