Chan Chich Archaeological Project

Location: Chan Chich, Belize

Monday, May 19, 2014 to Friday, July 18, 2014

Session dates: 
Session 1: May 19–June 16, 2014; Session 2: June 19–July 18, 2014.

Application Deadline: 
Saturday, March 1, 2014


Program Type

Field school


Texas Tech University

Project Director:

Dr. Brett A. Houk, Texas Tech University

Project Description


—>Our application deadline was March 1, 2014. At this point we are only accepting waitlist applications; in the event that a currently registered student withdraws from the program, we will turn to a waitlist applicant to fill the vacant spot.<—

Where High Tech, Hard Work, and High Class Meet in the Jungle: Chan Chich, Belize

In 2014, the Field School in Maya Archaeology will be held at Chan Chich, Belize in association with the Chan Chich Archaeological Project (CCAP). The CCAP represents a truly special opportunity for college students to participate in a significant research project, while receiving instruction in archaeological field and laboratory methods. Rather than a typical study abroad trip, the Field School in Maya Archaeology and the CCAP represent Research Abroad! For the first time, the Field School will include two 28-day sessions. Students will have the opportunity to learn how to excavate, how to draw profiles and plan maps, how to record archaeological data, how to process and analyze artifacts in the lab, and how to survey (Session 1 only) for previously unrecorded archaeological sites. Each session is limited to 12 students.

About Chan Chich

Chan Chich is tucked away in the jungles of northwestern Belize and is home to Chan Chich Lodge, a beautiful jungle lodge built in the main plaza of the site. Belize is an English speaking country with a stable government. It is easily reached from Texas on flights going through Dallas and Houston.

The archaeological site of Chan Chich is a medium-sized Maya city in northwestern Belize, very near the border with Guatemala. The area was first settled as a small village during the Middle Preclassic period (1000 to 250 BC) and occupied until the Terminal Classic period, ca. AD 850). Most of the visible architecture dates to the Late Classic period (AD 600–850). In the late 1980s, Gallon Jug Ranch was established on 130,000 acres of jungle, including the site of Chan Chich. Chan Chich Lodge was built in the Main Plaza at the site shortly after that. While some may see that as a negative impact to the ruins, the construction of the lodge and the return of legitimate economic activity to the area put an end to the illegal looting that had been going on at Chan Chich and the nearby archaeological sites for several years.

Preliminary plans for the 2014 season call for students to work at two areas at Chan Chich and to conduct survey on transects located about 30 minutes away on Gallon Jug Ranch and the Laguna Seca parcel of Yalbac Ranch. Because each session has separate research activities scheduled, they are described separately.

2014 Research Plans

Session 1 Research Plans: Excavations will be conducted in the Upper Plaza for the third straight season. The Upper Plaza investigations will target buried architecture in the plaza and begin to assess the surrounding buildings. Students will have the opportunity to excavate monumental architecture, which is a physically challenging but rewarding endeavor! The work will supplement grant-funded studies of looters’ trenches in two of the largest mounds in the plaza. Our team will use “Structure from Motion” mapping methods to create three-dimensional models of the exterior of the mounds as well as the looters’ tunnels.

Concurrently, students will excavate the Back Plaza, which houses a group of structures behind the largest pyramid at the site. Nothing is known about the Back Plaza, so this work will be an important component of the research and will contribute to an MA thesis.

A graduate student will lead the Belize Estates Archaeological Survey Team (BEAST) to continue investigations of previously cut seismic survey transects on the Gallon Jug and Laguna Seca properties. Last year, BEAST recorded three previously unknown sites, and in 2014 the team will search for a suspected site along one seismic line and attempt to relocate El Infierno, a large site reported in the 1970s but not seen since.

Session 2 Research Plans: In Session 2, crews will continue excavations in the Upper Plaza, building on the results of the first session’s work. Other possible research topics include continued work in the Back Plaza and preliminary investigations of "processional architecture."

Archaeology is Hard Work!

Archaeology is fun and exciting, but it is also physically challenging work in difficult conditions. Survey involves hiking through the forest, wearing snake guards, and carrying a heavy backpack. Excavations involve lifting heavy objects, as well as using picks and shovels. Everything we do is in a tropical climate with high heat (often over 90 degrees) and high humidity (often over 70 percent). We sometimes have to work in the sun and other times in the rain. There are bugs, snakes, bats, scorpions, and poisonous plants.

Period(s) of Occupation: Preclassic and Classic Period Maya

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 28 nights

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 
1 year of college

Room and Board Arrangements

<p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Students will be housed in the &ldquo;casitas&rdquo; and cabanas at Chan Chich Lodge, a remote jungle resort. More information about the lodge is available on their web site: The lodge has a restaurant, a bar, a swimming pool, wireless internet, 24-hour electricity, and cell phone coverage. There is no TV at the lodge.</p> <p>The program includes three meals per day while at the lodge, and there is a full-service bar. Students will be able to use the swimming pool and walking trails. Other activities, including horseback riding, guided jungle tours, mountain bike riding, canoeing, etc. can be arranged through the lodge, but are not included in the cost of the program.</p>

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
Texas Tech University
Number of credits offered 6


Contact Information
Brett A. Houk
Texas Tech University, Box 41012
806-742-2401 x234