Working on the BRASS Archaeological Project

In the Beginning

I was in Bullet Tree in nineteen eighty-three. The Boss, she went to my house one day, about ten o’clock, and she told me, "Teo you want to work with me, on my project?" I told her okay. We are opening a transect, a survey line from El Pilar to Bullet Tree bridge. And my field director was Tom [crew chief of transit work], and we had about sixteen students working with us. The workman, helped building that trail straight over to El Pilar. And right there they get to know me, that I’m a good worker, obedient and whatever they told me I did.

I started working for the BRASS project [on the survey]. From that, we went back-filling here in Pilar. And from here, we went right back to doing Bacab Na, in Santa Familia, and we did some excavating over there. We went back to Yaxox [minor Maya center near Branch Mouth]. We did some work over there in nineteen eighty-eight, eight-nine. Those are the times we were working over there. We worked in Spanish Lookout in nineteen eighty-eight. We also excavated in, Bacab Na, one pyramid, and we got the next field Director, Scott. Another field Director... ahm.... what is the girl’s name again? Andrea! Those are the field directors that taught me a lot. And taught me what I know about archaeology. So while working in the project, while I get more experience , and I listen to the field directors many times when they tell me things, my boss [the Field Director], and I do what they say.

Working for the Boss, Field Director, and Students

From my working with her, the Boss, she holds a party after the project, and she would like me to say something concerning what we learnt in the three month project with her. And me, I’m interested to talk on anything from the project, because we saw something in the three, four months we work.

We can say something with the students, that came here. Say something that you learnt, and say something that interests you where you came you don’t see it. They read it in books, see it in pictures, but seeing it natural, the students don’t always see it. So many years I’ve worked, there are many students that come, young and old, I work with. They tell me, and I tell them - and so it comes that I get to learn more. I get to open my mind more, and also I fell like themselves, they fell very more happy. At lunch some days, we lunch on the survey, when I started to work. Then they ask me things, and I tell them things.

They, the students, asking me things, They want to know, "Teo?" how I cook. How your tortilla is nice, your meat is like that. I tell all the students how I cook these things, And all the students they like our ways, they like our speech we give them. And they learn. Sometimes they tell me Teo, where do you get all these things? I tell them, well I just sit doing sometimes and studying them on the project. I go home, but I don’t go straight home. Walking around and down, thinking about tomorrow. There is the next student that can come new. And, well, my Boss would say it, "Teo, you can take this , this student on a tour, or you take him and show him something." My Boss, you know why she told him that? Because she already has a little bit of confidence in Teo, my interest in her project in the field.

Ergonomics of the Field Toilet

Also, every project here I build a new toilet. Now, this toilet that I build here.... behind the champa It’s one day I told Clark, my field director, " what happen Clark, we not build a toilet?" He told me, "Sure, Teo. You ready to build a toilet?" I tell him, well if the Boss say, I know every year I put a toilet for the boss, a new toilet. So, I put a new toilet. I told you bring a Q-bar for me, a shovel, and ah.... and some nails, and a hammer. And I going up, I dig that toilet, which takes me three days, almost, to dig that toilet. 

Then I look for a nice little spot, before I open that toilet. I find the spot on a slope where a cohune hole was, a palm tree. And I dig it right down until I meet the white marl, and it was very soft. It looked like the Maya they started the site from, because it was on the level of the soil, on the flat, where I built the toilet. That toilet was not built on a slope, but on the commencement of the site. That toilet on the flat, where the Maya, they commence their work, like what we find over the big plaza, Plaza Copan.

And after I finish that toilet, I put nice pieces of stick, which is trumpet [small fast growing tree common in second growth]. I made a nice surrounding with it, with sticks, And... and mostly I peel the sticks them for the sorrounds, and get it set on everything. Everybody, every person that goes there, the tourist they told me, "That’s a nice toilet, Teo. I, ... I feel very comfortable when I sit there. Ahaan, it’s you, make it?" I say "it’s me, make that toilet," " And who gave you the idea to make a little cabana-toilet like that?" I say that little cabana toilet, it’s just a temporary toilet for our project which is a four month project. After a four month project, I’ll build a nice toilet, next ninety four, ninety-five, I’ll be building the next toilet. I don’t know, but if you say that one is good, well it’s okay.

El Pilar’s First Caretaker

I work with her and I told the boss that I would like a perminant job with her, a steady job. She told me [spoke Softly], "Okay Teo, I’ll try for YOU." Nineteen ninety three, she give me a full time job to be a caretaker here in EL Pilar. And, I come here in the second of July, nineteen ninety-three, to be a caretaker here. To do some tour guiding, and to walk the site and see what happens on the site... And every time the people they come in the site, they told me that they want a tour, and I take them for a tour.

Every day as a caretaker, I give Pilar a very good check and see. I get up, early in the morning, sweeping out my ....well, the champa. Cleaning up the place for when, ... for in the morning for whatever time what-so-ever the people come into the site, it is clean. I go and visit the site. I go over to the North side first, plaza Lec, give my turn. I go all around. I come over my champa in Plaza Duende. And go over Plaza Faisan here. Going all way at the last site in the south, Plaza Axcanan, turning around.

Fending off Looters at El Pilar

Last year, while walking around the site one day, one morning, I found here noise, way down at the chert site [LDF chert-tool production site west of El Pilar’s Plaza Faisan]. When I look down at the chert site , there was, ahm, LOOTERs, looting a chultun. And when I hail to them, I tell them, "Who is it?" I say like that. Then I say, "Bring my gun, bring my SHOT GUN! My shot gun going to bring them! Come with that rest of four men! Bring,...bring the shot gun!" When....the looters heard that, they decided to throw away their bucket, and they ran over, over the border.

Oh, when I went in there to see, I never make a trail. I just give my turn between the trees there. Just NOT knowing if I’m going inside to see it. So I just make some rough trails going in the same time when I see what they were doing there. And I find some little bits of bones, ceramic, lithic artifacts, and these things, find inside. Out of where they were looting. That’s what I find. So I look inside the chultun and I see it has, .... almost clean, a meter down ... in soil. The rest of the chultun is untouched, it wasn’t touched as yet.

When I get there, it was chultun they were looting out. And discovered it their OWN SELF. Well, they find that chultun, I thought, was their hunting games, Maybe they were just looking for things that, as you say, like the Maya they had been stored down there inside there. And they try to see what the Maya, .... have buried down in that black soil of that chultun. While the soil don’t have no rock, you can find anything inside. And so I did a little bit of hunting with my finger through the small pile the looters had removed from the chultun, and I found some bones, and some Maya things. I have that much experience that I saw what they were taking out of this, chultun.

Then, I decided to see where they put the chultun cover. I found the cover about five meters away. The chultun was round and has almost three meters deep from surface. And I got the cover and I sealed that chultun again. Then I stand up there about an hour, .... or two. Sitting down to see if they were coming back. And no one came back. And from then I visited that site at the chultun, until the project started. And the looters they went, and never come back.

How to Identify a Chultun

Well, whenever time I verify a chultun - that one the looters they found, it’s because I take my own hand, or a piece of stick, or a machete, and I clean around the mouth, that jar, that chultun head. And the mouth I get clean. And see for myself whether it’s going down, or it’s just a rabbit hole, because you have some big animals, they make some big holes, such as the pacary. Or the tree was rooted some many years ago, or that hole is out of a rock. Because where the rock is loose they all time find some impossible chultun. Maybe we see that out , and we say ...."it’s a chultun." But it must be verified. So that’s when these things, we must clean one. Two years ago. I remember we clean one in Aguacate, at Mr. Martinez". And I saw that a chultun only has four meters, three meters and a half at most when you get it clean. I take that bar and I measure it, and I put it down, my own self to get my own experiences.