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Jungle canopy in the Belize Valley overlooking the North Vaca Plateau

(Source: Dr. William Stemp)

Minanha, Belize

Situated in the north Vaca Plateau of west central Belize, the Maya site of Minanha spans the Early to Terminal periods, constituting a minor royal center in the Late Classic (visit the project's website). Work at the site is contributing to the understanding of smaller elite centres and their internal socio-economic configurations, while excavations of nearby hamlets provide an insight to Maya rural populations and their networked relations to other members of the Minanha kingdom. The site has been excavated within the larger Social Archaeology Research Program (SARP) since 1988 under the direction of Dr. Gyles Iannone of Trent University.

The MAX Lab, primarily through the work of Sarah Grant in collaboration with Drs. Iannone and Stemp of SARP, has been working on a mass analysis of an almost 100% sample of the Minanha obsidian assemblage (approx. 900 pieces). The research engages with debates on the role of material culture in identity construction, evaluating claims that significance is often given to exotic materials and skilled crafting. Focusing on obsidian artefacts from elite, ‘commoner’ and religious contexts, we are studying the artefacts’ source and form to see if correlations exist between specific social groups, the materials’ distant sources (Guatemala / Mexico) and how they were worked.