September 15, 2018   Dr. Michael Callaghan and Dr. Brigitte Kovacevich
“The Naked and the Dead: Ritual and Warfare at the Dawn of Maya Civilization in Holtun, Guatemala”


(IMAGE: Bronze Corinthian Helmet, Taman Peninsula, courtesy of Institute of Archaeology/Russian Academy of Sciences)
Archaeologists have discovered a bronze Corinthian helmet in the burial of several fifth-century B.C. Greek warriors in southwestern Russia. This type of helmet, which completely covers the head and neck, is depicted on iconic statues of such figures as the Athenian statesman Pericles and the goddess Athena, but is rarely found during modern excavations. The recently unearthed example was uncovered at a necropolis on the Taman Peninsula, which, together with parts of Crimea, formed the territory of the Bosporan Kingdom, a Greek state that was founded around 480 B.C.

​In addition to the helmet, the burial also included the men’s weapons, as well as an amphora and other ceramics. Bridled horses were interred nearby, suggesting that the warriors may have been cavalrymen. Roman Mimokhod of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who leads the excavations at the site, speculates that the warriors all fell during the same battle, perhaps during a conflict with one of the nearby nomadic tribes. But the men’s lives were evidently not completely consumed by warfare. Mimokhod’s team found that one of the warriors was buried with his harp.


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In this talk, Dr. Michael Callaghan and Dr. Brigitte Kovacevich, discuss the latest insights into the dawn of Preclassic Maya civilization from the perspective of the site of Holtun, Guatemala.  Recent excavations reveal the importance of ritual and potential conflict in the establishment of Holtun as a Preclassic-period urban center.  Highlighting entombed temples with painted walls, monumental stucco masks, writing, graffiti, and early burials Callaghan and Kovacevich present a model for Holtun’s founding emphasizing early community worship that quickly transforms into ruler-focused ritual.


University of North Florida, 
Social Sciences Building 51 ​​​

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The material record of coastal living along the northern Gulf Coast of Florida continues to be overcome by the water of rising sea. Encoded in this record are clues to the ways that people and ecosystems responded to sea-level rise over millennia. Since 2009, the Lower Suwannee Archaeological Survey of the University of Florida has been working to salvage vulnerable sites while developing information relevant to future challenges with environmental and social change. 

Among the results is remarkable evidence for an enduring ritual strategy to sync human movements to celestial cycles in order to lessen the negative impacts of earthly change. This strategy was materialized in terraformed landscapes of mounds, ridges, and rings, as well as cemeteries and ritual objects that were emplaced at locations of ritual gathering. The social networks created and maintained by annual cycles of gathering enabled coastal communities to relocate landward to places of lesser vulnerability when synchronization among earth, water, and sky was disrupted by events, like shoreline retreat, beyond the social memory of generational or century scale experience. Lessons for our own future with rising sea await our attention in the archaeological record of ancient coastal dwelling.

Hellenistic Helmet Safety
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Lost City Revealed Under Centuries of Jungle Growth (National Geographic)
A hundred ancient Maya buildings detected under Guatemala rain forest. 


The following lecture will take place at theBeaches Museum and History Park in Jacksonville Beach [381 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250]

 October 20, 2018  Dr. Kenneth E. Sassaman University of Florida
"Sea-Level Rise Among the Ancients: Results of the First Decade of the Lower Suwannee Archaeological Survey"

Artifacts, hieroglyphs, architecture, and art have allowed archaeologists to reconstruct the lifeways and worldview of the Classic period Maya who inhabited the tropical lowlands of Mesoamerica from AD 250-900.  However, the story of Classic Maya civilization begins almost one thousand years earlier in a shadowy and poorly understood past.  The Preclassic period began around 1000 BC and witnessed the advent of Classic Maya architecture, material culture, writing, and worldview. 


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GUATEMALA: Maya rituals may have literally been weighty affairs for highranking rulers. During these festivities, elite officials adorned themselves with an assortment of jade pendants, mostly worn on the ears or around the neck. Heavier ones, such as a 5-pound carved head from Ucanal, were likely attached to a belt, and would have made customary ritual dancing quite cumbersome. It is theorized that the weight of the assembled stones, which may have totaled as much as 25 pounds, symbolized a leader’s prestige and responsibilities. (Photograph by Christina T. Halperin)


AUSTRALIA: At a campfire in western Australia 20,000 years ago, it appears that kangaroo was on the menu. Bones from the marsupial were found alongside a thick layer of ash with hundreds of ancient artifacts, including small stone chips from the tools that were perhaps used to carve the meat. The scene was uncovered by archaeologists inside a cave in Pilbara’s Hamersley Range that was used by aboriginal humans during the last ice age and is one of the oldest known sites in the region. IMAGE: (Scarp Archaeology Pty Ltd)

Dr. Brigitte Kovacevich in a looters' tunnel inside a pyramid at the Head of Stone site.

Photograph: Michael G. Callaghan, National Geographic