Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Celebrate Florida Archaeology Month with a Dash through the Past

Did you know that Florida Archaeology Month is right around the corner? Every March, an array of programs and events are scheduled to put Floridians and visitors in touch with the rich history and heritage of the Panhandle State, which stretches back over 12,000 years.

This year, the 
Florida Public Archaeology Network and the University of West Florida Historic Trust are hosting Dash Through the Past, a high-speed scavenger hunt set for March 7th from 10 am to 12 pm at 207 East Main Street in downtown Pensacola. Participants will race through a two-mile course in the heart of the city's historic district, using maps to search for hidden treasures and competing for prizes. For more information, view the event details, or email the event organizers at  

Dash Through the Past is just one of several events planned for the month of March. This year's theme, Innovators of the Archaic, invites participants to discover prehistoric Floridian culture and its connections to the present day. You can find a full list of programs on the Florida Archaeology Month website

With this state's rich cultural history, it's a wonder there's just one month dedicated to Florida archaeology. Thousands of years ago, some of the first civilizations to live in Florida hunted mammoth with stone-tipped spears. Rising sea levels, changing environments, and increasing populations were just a few of the challenges they overcame by testing and adapting to new ways of life. 

Curious about Florida's unique past? Enjoy these free articles from Public Archaeology

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

What's Mayan is Yours: Ancient Water Temple with Rain God Offerings Discovered in Belize

Archaeologists recently discovered the remnants of an ancient Mayan water temple at Cara Blanca, tucked away in the center of one of Belize's lush forests. The structure is situated alongside a deep pool of water where Mayans from across the region gathered to sacrifice bowls, pots, and jars to the water god, and to pray for rain. 

"It was a special place with a sacred function," explained Lisa Lucero, the archaeologist who led the discovery, in a recent National Geographic article

The water temple serves as a timeline of the drought that's thought to have contributed to the Maya's demise after A.D. 800. The Mesoamerican civilization, known for their art, architecture, and fully developed pre-Columbian writing system, thrived due to plentiful rainfall for centuries. During this time, sacrifices to the water temple were irregular and seldom. But after an unexpected and dramatic shift in the climate, repeated droughts wreaked havoc on the Mayas and their water-dependent society, making the temple quite a busy place. 

Archaeologists also suspect that this lack of rain ignited a "drought cult" of people who understandably became obsessed with pleasing Chaak, the ancient Maya rain god. But despite their daily sacrifices and prayers, Chaak and his friends in the underworld continued to withhold rain, unraveling the Maya’s intricate agriculture system.

"I do agree this was likely a shrine where ritual practices took place that point to times getting tough for people," Holley Moyes of University of California, Merced told National Geographic. "When you start getting down to actual drought, we are starting to see sacrifices picking up across the Maya world."

Want to learn more about the Maya and their relationship to water and agriculture? Check out these fascinating, free articles from the Journal of Field Archaeology: