Field Work

To date, one season of field work has been carried out at SPA, and one season is currently in progress. The first season in 2010 was made possible by support from a National Geographic Waitt Grant and from the Stanford University Department of Anthropology and the Stanford Archaeology Center.

The remains of San Pedro de Aguacatepeque are visible as a dense material culture surface scatter, and construction debris likely from colonial period structures in addition to one (and possibly more) pre-colonial Maya mound and plaza complexes which were mapped during the 2010 field season (see Figure 1,2)

Figure 1-Topo Map of Site with mounds indicated and platform/plaza area circled.Figure 2: 3D Topo Map of Site


During the 2010 Field season (July-September 2010) surface collections, mapping, geophysical prospecting and excavations at the site of San Pedro de Aguacatepeque. The research design implemented complimentary field and lab methods geared towards identifying the presence and condition of colonial and pre-colonial archaeological components at the site, and evaluating the veracity of documentary and oral historical mentions of the destruction of the site by volcanic eruptions.


Magnetometery, Electromagentic Induction and Ground Penetrating Radar surveys were carried out to help identify numerous subsurface anomalies, some of which were groundtruthed with test excavations that have yielded concentrations of architectural debris and intact stratified community midden deposits.


A limited number of test units were placed at different locations on the site that showed minimal surface disturbance, large quantities of material culture on the surface and/or were located on or near anomalies detected by the geophysical survey. Excavations in the area of the colonial component of the site have thus far revealed the presence of flat stones likely associated with structures, as well as a limited number of very ephemeral soil stain features interpreted as posthole and/or wall trench remains. GPR and Magnetomenter surveys of this area have identified numerous anomalies, and those that have been groundtruthed have all yielded abundant cultural material and intact stratigraphy associated with community midden deposits.


The 2010 field season at San Pedro de Aguacatepeque has yielded abundant evidence of extensive archaeological resources at the site from numerous time periods. Ceramics recovered from intact stratigraphic profiles indicate the continuous occupation of the site from at least the Late Classic Period (800-1000AD) through the PostClassic Period (1000-1500AD) and well into the colonial period (1500-1800 AD) a fact attested to by numerous documentary mentions of the community into the 19th century. In addition, the site boasts at least 4 monumental constructions in the form of a mound and plaza complex (likely dating to the Classic and Post-Classic periods), with potentially many more such complexes in the surrounding area.

Figure 2: 3D Topo Map of Site


The site appears to have been minimally impacted by farming operations (i.e plowing) as intact stratigraphy was encountered as shallow as 30-40 cm below the surface and extending to at least 1.3meters below surface. One such strata, a dark volcanic sand and ash layer that is present in all excavated units at the site, that lies in between two layers with colonial material culture, provides a critical chronological marker at the site, as its appearance correlates with the documentary mentions of a large scale catastrophic volcanic eruption in 1582 that destroyed the community.


In progress and recently completed field work will expand on the work carried out in 2010 through a variety of means, including a more detailed geophysical survey of the site with GPR instruments, large scale topographic mapping of the site core and surroundings, and further excavation of geophysical anomalies and areas of the site with heavy colonial artifacts concentrations on the surface.

Please roll over the field work tab above for more info on specific parts of field work (in-progress, more content will be added soon)!

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