This is what I wrote in the airport yesterday:
I write this in the Atlanta airport, Wi-Fi-less (how little we realize our dependence on internet until it is denied us), awaiting my flight to Belize City. I am trying to finish reading the articles I was supposed to have read before my arrival, which seems unlikely to happen at this point. The optional article on osteology that was intended to be my reward after pages upon pages of site descriptions and records of pottery whose classifications remain mysterious (read: meaningless) to me may have to be scrapped. This is sad. It is all the more sad because one of the few things I have so far gleaned from my readings on Baking Pot, the site where I’ll be studying, is that there are lots of burials. Which means there are likely more to be found. Which means there is an excellent chance that I will excavate/help excavate/at least see one.
Why Baking Pot, you ask? Beats the hell out of me. I can’t think of a stranger site name, with the possible exception of Naranjo (“Orange”), though admittedly most of them are in either Spanish or a Mayan dialect and I usually don’t actually know what they mean.*
But Erica, you ask, weren’t you trying to learn Spanish?
To which I reply, Haha.**
Anyway, other things I have learned about Baking Pot today include:
1. It is seven kilometers from San Ignacio, which makes me really hope that my daily commute will involve something with a motor. I love hiking, but I doubt I will love it THAT much while also working in the sun all day.
2. It is, contrary to my earlier perception, a ceremonial center. Not just a small agrarian community. There’s a ball court. If you don’t know much about the Maya I will translate: that’s a big deal. There’s also a small pyramid temple, apparently.*** I’ll still be digging up house mounds, I think, but the site as a whole is cooler/more important than I thought.
3. They have found some cool shit in the temple burials at Baking Pot. It saddens me that anything I get to see while working on the periphery of the site will likely be way less impressive. But still.
From an article co-authored by the guy I’m studying under: “One of the primary indicators of wealth considered by archaeologists is the presence or absence of exotic or high status objects in burials (Ricketson 1925). At Baking Pot we have noted that, despite the medium size of the settlement, the absence of massive monumental architecture, and the relative absence of inscribed monuments, the graves that have been excavated to date are comparable in material wealth to many of the larger polities such as Tikal, Copan, and Palenque.” That may not mean anything to you, but it sure does to me. In a nutshell, it means there is way cool shit here. Tikal and Copan and Palenque have been part of my vocabulary for years, and I could look at a picture of a building and tell you with reasonable accuracy which city it’s from. All three are gi-normous and beautiful and amazing and full of wonderful things and fantastic stories.
I should stop typing and go back to reading. But I would like to add that it seems increasingly likely that my computer is going to crap out on me during this trip. It’s now doing not just weird annoying things, but weird annoying things it’s never done before. And it has a long history of doing weird annoying things. Sigh. I suppose if I have to buy a new computer before school starts, I’ll get a used something to run Windows XP, because I don’t feel like spending the money for a new MacBook anytime soon. And then when I do, I will have the best (worst?) of both worlds. When one annoys me, I can switch to the other until it annoys me, too.
Or maybe I’ll find out if I can run OS X on a non-Intel Mac (I’m not sure, but I don’t think that works) and buy an old iMac. That would be cool. But then I wouldn’t have a laptop, I guess.
Maybe it’s time to just learn Linux. The consensus among computer geeks seems to be that Linux > Mac OS > Windows. (I feel like I may have just stolen that from xkcd, though I’ve definitely heard similar sentiments from real-life computer geeks.)
Ahh! Boarding now!
* Fun fact: I do know some [extremely random and limited] ancient Mayan. And I can read number glyphs, though it seems that will not be an important skill in the Belize Valley, where there seems to be little text of any kind.
** I was, actually, and would like to continue. But right now my vocabulary is limited to a handful of random nouns, adjectives, and present-tense verbs. My grammar is deplorable. I know few generally useful phrases and lack the useful vocabulary to construct more. And it takes me unfortunate amounts of time to call up what I do know. In short, Rosetta Stone is lovely and fun and useful but I have concluded that it must be supplemented by a dictionary and a grammar text. I need real instruction.
*** Correction: In fact, now that I am reading a recent article and not one from the sixties, it has multiple ball courts and multiple temples. Awesome.