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  1. Abstract The genetic prehistory of human populations in Central America is largely unexplored leaving an important gap in our knowledge of the global expansion of humans. We report genome-wide ancient DNA data for a transect of twenty individuals from two Belize rock-shelters dating between 9,600-3,700 calibrated radiocarbon years before present (cal. BP). The oldest individuals (9,600-7,300 cal. BP) descend from an Early Holocene Native American lineage with only distant relatedness to present-day Mesoamericans, including Mayan-speaking populations. After ~5,600 cal. BP a previously unknown human dispersal from the south made a major demographic impact on the region, contributing more than 50% of the ancestry of all later individuals. This new ancestry derived from a source related to present-day Chibchan speakers living from Costa Rica to Colombia. Its arrival corresponds to the first clear evidence for forest clearing and maize horticulture in what later became the Maya region.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  2. La producción y el consumo de cerámica con vidrio volcánico alcanzó su punto máximo en las Tierras Bajas Mayas durante elos periodos Clásico Tardío al Terminal. Explicaciones por estas cerámicas varían. Diferencias en el tipo de inclusiones volcánicas y forma indican que la cerámica fue producida en lugares múltiples por grupos diferentes de alfareros. Analizamos cerámica de contextos domésticos en Baking Pot, Belice, utilizando la petrográfia y el análisis por activación de neutrónica (NAA) para documentar la variabilidad y determinar la procedencia. La cerámica se produjo con vidrio volcánica fresca y una arcilla micrítica. Los datos petrográficos y químicos indican la cerámica se produjo localmente en el Valle de Belice. Es probable que la variación se debe tanto a las diferencias de producción como a la alteración post-deposicional. Es fundamental utilizar ambas técnicas analíticas para comprender la producción y la procedencia de las cerámicas en las Tierras Bajas Mayas.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  3. Since its inception in 1988, the Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance (BVAR) Project has had two major foci, that of cultural heritage management and archaeological research. While research has concentrated on excavation and survey, the heritage management focus of the project has included the preservation of ancient monuments, the integration of archaeology and tourism development, and cultural heritage education. In this paper, we provide a brief overview on the history of scientific investigations by the BVAR Project, highlighting the project’s dual heritage management and research goals. This background offers the basis in which to discuss the successes and challenges of the project’s efforts in cultural heritage management and public engagement, particularly in early conservation efforts, in its training and educational efforts, and its ongoing outreach activity. We emphasize the need to train Belizeans as professional archaeologists and conservators, to serve as the next generation of advocates for Belize’s heritage management. We offer some ideas on how research projects can make significant contributions to heritage education and preservation in the developing world.
  4. Maize is a cultigen of global economic importance, but when it first became a staple grain in the Americas, was unknown and contested. Here, we report direct isotopic dietary evidence from 52 radiocarbon-dated human skeletons from two remarkably well-preserved rock-shelter contexts in the Maya Mountains of Belize spanning the past 10,000 years. Individuals dating before ~4700 calendar years before present (cal B.P.) show no clear evidence for the consumption of maize. Evidence for substantial maize consumption (~30% of total diet) appears in some individuals between 4700 and 4000 cal B.P. Isotopic evidence after 4000 cal B.P. indicates that maize became a persistently used staple grain comparable in dietary significance to later maize agriculturalists in the region (>70% of total diet). These data provide the earliest definitive evidence for maize as a staple grain in the Americas.