Monday, April 9, 2007

Mayan Ruins Found on Brooks Tropicals Site

by Brian Gaylord

Workers excavating land in Corozal, Belize, in preparation for building headquarters for Homestead, FL-based Brooks Tropicals Inc. have unearthed Mayan artifacts dating back more than 1,500 years.

The discovery occurred about a month ago with workers first finding a wall of a structure. Work was halted, and the Belize Institute of Archaeology was called to the site.
Brooks Tropicals has paid for the excavation to date and will continue to fund the archaeological dig and the preservation of the artifacts, according to Mary Ostlund, director of marketing at Brooks.

These Mayan ruins lie in a rural area of Belize where Fruita Bomba grows, packs and ships Caribbean Red and Caribbean Sunrise papayas for Brooks Tropicals, the largest U.S. importer of papayas. The discovery has delayed construction of Brooks' new base of operations in Belize, Ms. Ostlund said.

The foundations of three early Classical-period Mayan structures were uncovered. One is believed to be an upper middle-class residence. Buried in polished stone crypts beneath the house some 20-30 centimeters underground were a male and female believed to be 1,500 to 1,800 years old. Outside the residence, another male not believed related to the others also was buried.

The crypts were in a back room that had been cut into the earth and lined by stones approximately 12 inches by 12 inches. The stones were precisely cut and plastered, indicating the wealth of the residents. Each side of the crypts was six stones high, and the tops were six stones wide. The crypts were filled with fine soil.

As per Mayan tradition in the region, a vessel was placed with the remains, possibly to aid the dead through the underworld. In this finding, the female had a bowl placed over her head, and the male had a large plate -- possibly a family heirloom -- over his face. Mayans usually placed the vessels under the head. A small jade button also was found. The other skeleton was buried with much less ceremony outside the house.

The house is approximately 26 feet by 65 feet, which is relatively large for the period. Four rooms have been uncovered so far. The size of the house and the ornate pottery found in the house indicate that the family -- though likely not royalty -- certainly lived and worked within royal circles, Ms. Ostlund said.

The area where the bodies were found appears to be an open-air plaza, one of five or six plazas that the area had. There usually were five to eight structures in a plaza, Ms. Ostlund said.
While the artifacts will go to the Belize Institute of Archaeology, Brooks will be allowed to display some of the artifacts at the site. Ms. Ostlund said that the find offers a view of "neighbors from 2,000 years ago" and an "understanding of their heritage."