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Belize Valley Archaeological
Reconnaissance Project

Fieldwork Opportunities:

In 2018 BVAR will be hosting its 31st summer field school. Our fieldwork in 2018 will continue with investigations at the ancient Maya sites of Cahal Pech, Baking Pot, Lower Dover, and Xunantunich. These major Belize Valley sites are located on the outskirts of the modern town of San Ignacio, capital of the Cayo District of Belize, Central America

(click here for a location map and general info on Belize).

Cahal Pech, Baking Pot Lower Dover, and Xunantunich are among the largest prehistoric Maya sites in the upper Belize River Valley and served as the capitals to small kingdoms in the Classic period (c. AD 250-900). BVAR excavations at Cahal Pech have revealed that this site is the location of some of the earliest Maya settlements in the Maya lowlands. First settled around 1200 B.C., the site was continuously occupied until the 10th century A.D. Despite many years of investigations at Baking Pot, large portions of the monumental site core remain unexcavated and sections of the settlement area remain unexplored. Lower Dover, in contrast, is a recently discovered site and investigations here are only just beginning. At Xunantunich, investigations of the large palaces and temples at this site continue to examine the late rise of this major Maya city.


Academic affiliation of the BVAR project is through Northern Arizona University. Through this accreditation, students wishing to obtain academic credit for their participation with the BVAR project may do so by prior arrangement between the department and registrar of their home institution.


The cost of the field school covers weekly room and board. Accommodation includes shared bedrooms and bathrooms.

Daily meals consist primarily of local fare at Hode's Restaurant. Breakfast and dinner are held at the restaurant with lunch meals delivered out to site.


Travel to and from the archaeological site are provided on a daily basis. No work is conducted on weekends and thus no transportation is provided on Saturdays and Sundays (except airport transportation on scheduled days). At the start of each session attendees will also be greeted at the International airport in Belize City and shuttled to our headquarters in San Ignacio, the capital of the Cayo District (see map here). Those wishing to make alternate travel plans to San Ignacio may do so, providing they arrive in time for the start of the session.

Travel to and from Belize forms part of the incidental expenses of the participant. In addition, we plan to organize optional weekend tours with local travel agents and tour guides to the important sites of Caracol in western Belize and Tikal in neighboring Guatemala. Over the long weekend in the third week of each session, we traditionally also take a trip to the island Cayes (pronounced "Keys") along Belize's Caribbean coast. This optional trip, however, is also not covered by the fees and students may wish to take this opportunity to explore other parts of Belize, or neighboring Mexico and Guatemala.


Several lectures are given as part of the field school curriculum and students will be assessed by the content of their field notebooks as well as written exams. Informal on-site lectures will include an introduction to site reconnaissance, survey, excavation unit set-up, and the mapping of archaeological features in section and in plan. Formal lectures given at the end of the work week will include an overview and introduction to Maya prehistory, spanning from the Paleoindian phase to the Late Postclassic / early Colonial period. Specific thematic lectures will focus on architecture, ceramic remains, osteology, and hieroglyphic writing. Lab sessions will cover basic finds processing and inventory as well as preliminary artifact analyses. Based on interest we can accommodate lectures on artifact illustration. Students are advised that they will be expected to keep up with required reading and will have to bring the course notebook to the field with them to read at the end of workday.

In addition, this year the Annual Belize Archaeology Symposium will be held the week between the first and second sessions. This is an ideal way to gain a good perspective on the archaeology that has taken place during the course of the previous year. These presentations allow you to be one of the first to find out about the newest interpretations and discoveries made. Participation costs are incidental and details will be posted once these become available.


Please read carefully before you consider filling out our application. Thank you for your interest in our project.

All applicants must be at least 18 years old and in sufficient good health to deal with the rigors of this project.
Field archaeology is physically, emotionally and mentally challenging.
It is imperative that applicants be prepared to meet these challenges.
Registration fees cover weekly lodgings, weekday meals, as well as transportation to and from the site.
Travel to and from Belize and incidental expenses are the responsibility of the participant.
Academic credit may be obtained for the course through Northern Arizona University.
Two weeks is the minimum length of stay (for pedagogical and logistical reasons).

Further details are provided in the application form available via links at the end of this page.

Available Programs

Participation on the BVAR project can take a number of forms. Which one suits your needs and time constraints?

Summer Sessions:

Option One - 4 Weeks

This option is designed for extensive exposure to archaeological methods and techniques. This option spans over a four week duration and includes extensive training in archaeological field techniques: reconnaissance, survey, excavation, and artifact processing. This option forms a complete curriculum including all lectures, site tours and written exams. This option is tailored for students wishing to obtain academic credit for this field course. Nonetheless this option is also suitable for enthusiasts seeking in-depth exposure to archaeological field experience.

Session 1: 27 May to 23 June, 2018
Session 2:
1 to 28 July, 2018
Cost: $2200.00 USD per 4 week session

Option Two - 2 Weeks

This option forms a basic introduction to field research techniques and spans the first two weeks of either session. All the introductory lectures to archaeological methods and most site tours are provided during the first two weeks of each session. For those wishing to get a good "feel" for how archaeology works in a short period of time, this option is ideal.

Session 1: 27 May to 9 June, 2018
Session 2:
1 July to 14 July, 2018
$1100 USD per 2 week session

Option Three - Customized

If you are interested in a customized stay with the project, submit your proposed dates of stay with your application. However, all stays must be for a minimum of two weeks (and preferably two weeks of 'Option Two'; see above) in order to include a solid introduction to archaeological methods before proceeding to the field component. In addition, all customized stays are by week-long increments over the course of the field season. Please note that the Annual Symposium of Belizean Archaeology spans the intra-session week (from the 24th to the 30th of June inclusive). As a result this slot is not available as part of the 'Customized' Option.

A combination of week-long increments between 27 May and 29 July 2018. (Note that the week of 24-30th of June is not available)
Cost: Variable (at a cost of $550 USD per week)


For more information on BVAR please contact us:

General Information:

Myka Schwanke

Academic credit information:

Myka Schwanke


Nicole Wood

Website design:

Christophe Helmke

Website Editor:

Julie Hoggarth

Late Classic figurine fragment
from Xunantunich.
Drawing by G. Valenzuela.