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February-May 2003Interactive Dig at Waka'
Juan Carlos Perez Calderon
Griselda Pérez Robles, Michelle Rich, and Elizabeth Baloutine
Marco Tulio Alavarado Ortiz
Stanley Guenter
Horacio Enrique Martínez Paiz
David Lee stands with his crew.

All photos courtesy of the Proyecto Arqueológico Waka'. Click on images for larger versions.

Talking with Project Members

Why do you have an interest in archaeology?

Juan Carlos Perez Calderón: I love everything about archaeology. It's exciting, different, and the best advantage is that not everyone gets the opportunity to place their hands on their own cultural patrimony. I have had the honor to work on sites that are considered the patrimony of humanity. This is very exciting.

Evan Keith Eppich: Archaeology is the only way to uncover new data about the human past, historians argue endlessly over data sources but we have access to primary data because rubbish doesn't lie. The process of discovery is also quite exciting.

Horacio Enrique Martínez Paiz: I've had an interest in archaeology since I was a small child. My father also greatly influenced me in this direction. He's a doctor but he loves ancient cultures and he loves to visit sites. From the age of six he awakened an interest in me to know the history of my country.

How did you become interested in doing archaeology?

Michelle Rich: I have been interested in archaeology since I was a little kid looking at pictures in National Geographic. I forgot about it until college when I took several anthropology courses to fulfill general requirements. Debra Walker was a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota at the time, and she gave me my first opportunity in archaeology and in the Maya area in general. She also happened to be a Ph.D. student of David Freidel.

Fabiola Quiroa Flores: Basically it has been a passion of mine since childhood. Since I was small, the Maya culture has fascinated me. I am very interested in their art and iconography. I have five tattoos that represent Maya drawings. I am a very curious person, and archaeology is something that never ceases to surprise or amaze you; this can happen as often in the lab as it does in the field.

Héctor Escobedo: I know it began when I was a little kid. One of my aunts was a high school student at the time and was taking a course on social sciences that included history and there were some chapters on Egyptians and Mesopotamians. I was interested in these ancient people and that is how I first became interested in the past. When I was younger I tried to build pyramids in the patio of my house from cement and bricks and would draw plan maps of them. I would also collect colored bits of glass and put them in boxes to create my own museum.

David Lee: Friends I knew in school were taking anthropology courses and introduced me to the possibility of doing archaeology. As I read more, I developed my own interests and decided to go back to get a degree in archaeology (after finishing my first degree in commerce and economics).

Why do you have an interest in Maya archaeology in particular?

Griselda Pérez Robles: I especially love Maya culture because I'm from Guatemala. The version of history we learn in primary school and the popular conception of this culture group are quite distinct from that which is actually true. There is much discrimination against indigenous peoples; many say they aren't intelligent. I want to be able to demonstrate how intelligent, capable, and powerful these people were with their knowledge of astronomy, math, and architecture. They were so highly developed, and they possessed knowledge of things and concepts about which people today still struggle with or have no knowledge.

Evan Keith Eppich: The Maya are an interesting blend of archaeology and history, with epigraphy on one hand and archaeology on the other. No other civilization even comes close to that, especially since so much is unknown. Plus, camping in the jungle is really cool.

Horacio Enrique Martínez Paiz: It's because I'm Guatemalan, and it's very close to me. I also think it's because I've had the opportunity since childhood to live in nature, and I was always surrounded by indigenous people and heard a great deal about Maya culture. This has always been something that has inspired me, and I think that in this way my interest developed in an extraordinary way. It's a culture that is very rich, and I consider it very important to know this and be able to reconstruct the history of my country that needs its true history so badly.

Marco Tulio Alavarado Ortiz: I'd love to know how this society was integrated and about their relationship with their environment. I'm interested in how they managed cultivated resources and hydraulic systems to become such a highly developed civilization.

Mary Jane Acuña: I was interested in Maya archaeology from a very young age. We had books about it, and my parents used to talk about the ancient Maya, and we'd visit sites together. Growing up in Guatemala I wanted to know its history, and I knew there was a lot more to be discovered. I wanted to know about the people who lived here before the arrival of the Spanish in terms of their every day life and organization.

What was your initial interest in epigraphy?

Stanley Guenter (project epigrapher): My first interest in ancient Maya culture was as a child growing up in Belize. When we put in a new driveway, I found a bunch of ceramics. When I was ten, I saw some glyphs from Yaxchilán. They said no one could read them and I thought, "Someday I'd read these glyphs!" The rest is history.

What is the biggest challenge for you right now?

Héctor Escobedo: The politics. There are different overlapping national authorities here at the park and it has been necessary to reach agreements with all of them in order to work here. It has also been necessary to make special agreements with the nearest communities. I think that has been very tough because they all have different expectations and different norms and rules. But everything has worked very well so far, and I am glad it has been so successful.

Elizabeth Baloutine (project illustrator): There are no real buildings in camp yet, and there's consequently no real place for me to sit and draw except my tent. And the tables that we do have don't have enough light or a smooth drawing surface.

Juan Carlos Perez Calderon: Right now the biggest problem is the water, because the tanks are empty and the pump doesn't work. Also the language, a little, because I'm not used to hearing so much English. But it's also good hearing people trying to speak Spanish, and I think in this way we can overcome the language barrier. We've already begun doing this with nice, lively chats in the evening over dinner and with a "word of the day" and things like that.

Michelle Rich: Formulating and carrying out my own research design as a Ph.D. student. I suspect becoming more familiar with the site itself and working with Hector and David to help guide me is the best way to resolve this issue. Not to mention doing a lot of background research and not panicking too much!

Griselda Pérez Robles: Mosquitoes. I love the field but the mosquitoes are terrible. But because I love it here so much, my solution is just to deal with it. Also, sometimes at night I hear strange sounds and feel a bit unsure, but then I remember we are all here close together surrounding each other and I feel better, more safe.

Lia Tsesmeli: The greatest challenge for me is the integration of our high tech equipment and our software with our field planning needs and mapping requirements. There is not a single solution, rather it is a work in progress: the more I know about the terrain and the excavations, the more effective I become in my strategy to use our equipment and software to plan ahead, troubleshoot, and create topographic maps of our excavation units, buildings, mounds and trails.

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