Shifting Perceptions of Local Heritage: Community Archaeology in Aguacate village, Toledo district, southern Belize


Claire Novotny

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2015


The recent expansion of community-based approaches to archaeological research signifies a renegotiation of how, and for whom, historical knowledge is produced. This paper reviews the implementation of a community-based archaeological heritage program in the Toledo district of southern Belize. Research conducted by the Aguacate Community Archaeology Project seeks to understand the degree of social, political, and economic integration of ancient Maya households with regional political centers during the Classic period (AD 250-850). Archaeological excavations conducted in collaboration with Aguacate, a Q‘eqchi’ Maya village, and Tumul K’in Center of Learning, a Maya-run high school, not only enhance our understanding of how ancient rural farmers negotiated regional social and economic relationships, but also become a nexus of negotiated engagement between Aguacate villagers, Maya high school students, and archaeologists. This paper explores how engagement with diverse publics over multiple field seasons revealed differing claims, perspectives, and priorities surrounding archaeological resources. Ultimately, incorporating public perceptions of archaeology resulted in the protection of archaeological sites and renewed interest in local Maya heritage.


80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology