Rio Frio Cave A

Although excavated originally in 1928, many of the artifacts have been lost and little was published about them. The cave is full of architecture and artifacts are still scattered all over the floors. Our aim is to learn when this cave was used, who was using it, and for what purposes? In the Summer of 2019, we plan to begin to excavations in this cave to address those questions. Unfortunately, the cave has been severely damaged by modern graffiti. One of the ways we are studying this cave and aim to preserve it in its current state for future generations to enjoy is through the creation of digital models and virtual tours that will soon be posted in the Virtual Rio Frio Caves page.

Silhouttes of two people in a cave passage

Domingo Ruiz Cave

Unlike the other Rio Frio Caves, this huge cavern has never been intensively studied or mapped archaeologically, nor has it been exavated. Like the Rio Frio Cave A, it too is filled with architecture, much of which seems to be designed to block sunlight and make the entrance area darker. Walls, terraces, and stone alignments abound. Being archaeological terra incognita, our work here is geared toward teasing out basic details of the site, who used it, when, for what purposes, and what were the architectural constructions truly used for?

Resource acquisition in the Mountain Pine Ridge

Archaeologists have long known that the Mountain Pine Ridge was a primary source of vital resources necessary for daily life for the Ancient Maya in Belize and adjacent regions in Guatemala. Resources such as granite for making manos and metates used to prepare food daily, shale used to make a variety of elite and non-elite objects such as mirro backs, stelae, and burial crypts, and pine wood burned daily in kitchen fires, in ritual offerings, and as a source of incense are found there. Although these products are familiar to archaeologists, we do not know how they were harvested or quarried, who, if anyone was controlling access to them, or what life was like for the individuals traveling up there to get the resoureces. We also know that many Maya people today consider resources in the wildlands as being owned by an Earth Lord. Whenever someone wants to use some of the Earth Lord’s possessions, they must make a petition to him and a ritual of thanks afterwords. Were these kinds of rituals being performed at quarry sites?

A waterfall surrounded by trees and boulders

Waterfalls and pools

Anthropological studies of cultures world wide report that waterfalls are nearly universally revered as powerful places. The Mountain Pine Ridge is home to many waterfalls and pools, such as the Rio On pools, Big Rock Falls, Pinol Falls, and Thousand Foot Falls. With many cave sites and important rock outcrops near them, the ancient Maya were undoubtedly aware of these beautiful spots. Yet, such places are few in the Maya world and we will be investigating these well known tourist places to search for shrines and other evidence for how the Maya may have used them.

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