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About PRAP

PRAP is an international archaeological research project and field school centered around the ancient Maya site of Pacbitun, located in west central Belize, Central America.  Pacbitun was continuously occupied for nearly to 2,000 years beginning in the Middle Preclassic period (~900 B.C.), and was abandoned sometime in the Terminal Classic period (~ A.D. 900).  It began as an egalitarian village that focused on the production of beads made of marine shell, though it may have also controlled access to various resources such as slate, granite, and pine found in the nearby Maya Mountains.  An architectural boom around 300 B.C. suggests that an elite class began emerging around this time, and the surrounding landscape began to be populated.  Populations and building slowly increased until sometime between A.D. 550 to 700 when another large construction boom happened, including the construction of small centers throughout the site’s periphery and at least 3 causeways linking settlements, temples, and caves in the hinterlands directly to the site’s epicenter.   The region was all but abandoned around 900 A.D., and remained largely depopulated until Yukatek Maya refuges of the Caste War (1847-1901) moved into the area and settled the nearby village of San Antonio.  PRAP’s investigations focus on three main facets of Pacbitun’s history, the still poorly understood Middle Preclassic period (and possibly much earlier!) human occupation of the region, the settlement in the periphery, and the karstic landscape upon which it all sits, particularly caves, rock shelters, and bedrock outcroppings.

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