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Interested in finding out more about our research?  Below is a list of our upcoming lectures and papers, as well as our past presentations.  Check back regularly for updates, and be sure to look over our bibliography to find out more information about Pacbitun publications.


We will be posting soon information about our participation in the 2017 SAA meetings in Vancouver.



Micheletti, George J.
2016 The Fluidity of Ideology: A Late Classic Architectural Transformation at the Ancient Maya Site of Pacbitun, Belize. Paper presented at the 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida

Powis, Terry G., George J. Micheletti, Sheldon Skaggs, and Kaitlin Crow
2016 From Top to Bottom: Site Planning and the Social Use of Space at Pacbitun, Belize. Paper presented at the 14th Annual Meeting of the Belize Archaeological and Anthropological Symposium, San Ignacio, Belize.

Spenard, Jon
2016 Building Nature: An Analysis of Landscape Modifications in the Classic Period Maya Polity of Pacbitun, Cayo District, Belize. Paper presented at the 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, FL.

Spenard, Jon
2016 Understanding Maya Urbanism at Classic Period Pacbitun: A View from the Constructed Wilderness. Paper presented at the 14th Annual Meeting of the Belize Archaeological and Anthropological Symposium, San Ignacio, Belize.


Powis, Terry G., Sheldon Skaggs, Norbert Stanchly, and George J. Micheletti
2015 Early Maya Temple Building in the Belize Valley: Recent Archaeological Investigations of El Quemado at Pacbitun, Belize. Paper presented at the 13th Annual Meeting of the Belize Archaeological and Anthropological Symposium, San Ignacio, Belize.


Micheletti, George J. and Terry G. Powis
2014 Early Maya Communal Functions: Preclassic Public Architecture at the Site of Pacbitun, Belize. Invited Paper Presented in the “Recreating Mesoamerica: Exploration in Experimentation, Innovation, and Interdisciplinary Research” session at the 47th Annual Chacmool Archaeological Conference, Calgary, Alberta.

Micheletti, George J. and Terry G. Powis
2014 Origins of the Block Party: Investigations of Preclassic Public Architecture Over and Under Plaza A at Pacbitun, Belize. Paper presented at the 12th Annual Meeting of the Belize Archaeological and Anthropological Symposium, San Ignacio, Belize.

Powis, Terry G., Norbert Stanchly, and George J. Micheletti
2014 Creating Formal Space Where There was None: Middle Preclassic Development of the Main Plaza at the Ancient Maya Site of Pacbitun, Belize. Paper presented at the 79th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Austin, Texas.

Spenard, Jon
2014 Constructed Natural Spaces: An Architectural Study of the Modified Karst Landscape in the Classic Period Maya Polity of Pacbitun, Cayo District, Belize. Paper presented at the 113th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Washington, D.C.


Spenard, Jon
2013 Just How Far Do We Go in “Cave” Archaeology?: A Discussion of the Modified Karst Landscapes around Pacbitun, Belize, Paper presented at the 78th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. Honolulu.

Spenard, Jon
2013 Get Out and See the World: An Overview of “Cave” Archaeology Investigations Near the Ancient Maya Site of Pacbitun, Belize, Paper presented at the Winter 2013 Southern California Mesoamerican Network Conference, Los Angeles.


Memphis, TN
APRIL 18-22 2012

Defining Preclassic Space in the Main Plaza at Pacbitun, Belize
Terry G. Powis, and Paul F. Healy (Trent University)
Archaeological investigations conducted at the Maya center of Pacbitun, Belize, have revealed a long stratigraphic sequence of occupation extending from Cunil times to the Late Classic. Fieldwork undertaken since the 1980s has focused on gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the Formative period occupation at the site. Excavations of sub-plaza deposits in Plaza A of the central precinct have revealed considerable architectural and artifactual remains dating to this early time. This paper reports on the investigations of Plaza A and provides new information that may be compared with other areas in the region to identify general patterns in Preclassic period development.

TITLE: Exploring Preclassic Maya Diet: Exploitation of Animal Resources at Pacbitun, Belize.
Presenter: Arianne Boileau
Abstract: This paper examines the exploitation of animal resources at the Maya site of Pacbitun, Belize, during the Middle to Late Preclassic. The faunal remains analyzed were recovered from various domestic structures associated with the production of shell artifacts. To analyze the remains, the diet breadth model and the central-place foraging prey choice model, used in conjunction with an analysis of the ecozones available to the ancient population of the area, were used to reconstruct the foraging behaviors at the site. These behaviors are interpreted in the context of broader subsistence strategies during the Preclassic period in the southern Maya lowlands.

TITLE:  Stable Oxygen Isotope Analysis of the Freshwater Gastropod Pachychilus sp. and Its Use for Seasonality Studies at Pacbitun, Belize
Presenters:  Kelley Whatley Rich (Department of Geological Sciences, The University of Alabama), and Terry G. Powis
Abstract:  The freshwater gastropod Pachychilus sp. (jute) is commonly found in lowland Maya archaeological sites and may be a source of information pertaining to human subsistence behavior.  In the Maya lowlands, δ18O variation observed in the shell carbonate of jute shells may reflect seasonal fluctuations in rainfall and evaporation.  This paper will present a study of modern jute and their aqueous environments from the Cayo District of Belize to test the capability of the species to be used in seasonality studies.  A seasonality study of Middle Preclassic jute from Plaza B in the site core of Pacbitun will also be discussed.

TITLE: Peripheral Vision: The Role of Chaan Hol Rock shelter in Pacbitun’s Periphery
: Stephany L. Valdez, and Jason B. Lee
: As part of the Pacbitun Regional Archaeological Project’s 2011 field season, the ancient Maya site of Chaan Hol was excavated in the periphery of Pacbitun. Research focused on determining who had access to the rock shelter, the purpose and temporal extent of utilization by the ancient Maya, and the site’s relationship to the core of Pacbitun. During the investigation, alteration of the natural environment was noticed and a range of artifacts was uncovered including freshwater snails (jute), ceramic sherds, and lithic material.

TITLE: High in the Sky: Excavations During the 2011 Field Season at Sak Pol Pak
Bryan Reece and Jon Spenard
The ancient Maya site of Sak Pol Pak is located approximately 3 km southwest of Pacbitun, a medium-sized ancient Maya ceremonial center on the outskirts of the contemporary town of San Antonio, Belize. It is situated atop the highest mountain within Pacbitun’s periphery suggesting a likely affiliation between the two sites.  The goals of our 2011 investigations of this hilltop center were to establish a chronology for the site, its occupational history, and to search for evidence that would directly link it with Pacbitun.  We focused this work on the area in front of an 11 m tall pyramid in the main plaza, the dominant building at the site, and a midden behind the main residential complex.  This paper presents the results of these investigations and offers an initial interpretation of the site and its role in the greater Pacbitun region.

TITLE: Maya Music at Pacbitun (Belize): Archaeological Investigations of the North Group.
Kong Cheong
Recent investigations of the North Group at Pacbitun have produced new evidence of ancient Maya musical instruments. Analysis of the architecture indicates that the first platform was constructed during the Early Classic period (AD 300-550) and expanded, to a total of seven structures composing a restricted access plazuela, before abandonment by the end of the Terminal Classic period (AD 700-900).The presence of burials, exotic goods, caches, musical instruments, as well as the spatial layout of the plazuela, suggest that the inhabitants of the North Group were sub-elites with special ties to the royal court of Pacbitun in the Classic period.

TITLE: Making Place: An Analysis of the Classic Period Maya Use and Modification of the Karst Landscape in the Pacbitun Region, Cayo District, Belize.
Jon Spenard
This paper offers a discussion and interpretation of the Classic Period Maya use of the karstic landscape that surrounds the Ancient Maya site of Pacbitun.  It focuses on a large hill containing several caves, rock shelters, bedrock outcroppings, and boulders all of which were the foci of past activities.  The argument presented in this paper is that the construction of features such as terraces, rock walls, blocked passages, etc. transformed the landscape into a series of meaningful places, which in turn were used as stages for various ritual activities that formed and reinforced community identity on local and polity levels.

TITLE: Ancient Maya Shell Use at Pacbitun: The Late Preclassic and Classic Periods.
Presenters: Teresa Wagner (Trent University) and Paul F. Healy (Trent University)
Abstract: Mollusks were important to the ancient Maya. Some species were employed as sources of food, while others were highly prized for their hard, durable shell used in the manufacture of elite goods. This paper focuses on the shell remains at Pacbitun dating from the Late Preclassic to the Terminal Classic periods. The assemblage for this 1200 year time span is large and diverse. An examination is made of the site contexts and uses of these mollusks and how this exploitation by the Maya changed over time at Pacbitun. Examples of carved shell artifacts are also provided.

TITLE: Commentary and Discussion
Presenter: Dr. Jaime Awe (Director of the Belize Institute of Archaeology)



Title: The Sacred Landscapes of Pacbitun, Cayo District, Belize
: Jon Spenard and Terry G. Powis
: Maya at the Playa
: Palm Coast, Florida
: October 5-9
Conference website: and “The 5th Annual Maya at the Playa Conference” on facebook
: The site of Pacbitun, Belize is once again under archaeological investigation after a nearly 15-year research hiatus at the site.  These new studies by the Pacbitun Regional Archaeological Project (PRAP) are focused mainly on the surrounding landscape, and the peripheral settlements and features in Pacbitun’s hinterlands.  This presentation highlights some of our findings to date.  Specifically we show how the Maya were manipulating, and using and incorporating the surrounding landscape into their daily and ritual lives, focusing particularly on mountains, caves, and water.  Among the questions that we will address include: to what extent did landscape features determine settlement location?; what kinds of rituals were being performed in caves?; and what constitutes a “cave” in Ancient Maya thought?


TITLE: A Window into the Pacbitun Periphery: Excavations at Chaan Hol Rockshelter
: Jason B. Lee, Stephany L. Valdez, and Terry G. Powis
: 2nd Annual South-Central Conference on Mesoamerica
: San Antonio, Texas
Conference Dates
: November 4-6, 2011
Conference website:
: During the 2011 field season of the Pacbitun Regional Archaeological Project, excavations at the Chaan Hol Rockshelter site were undertaken as part of an ongoing investigation into the periphery of Pacbitun. Pacbitun is a medium-sized ancient Maya site located along the southern rim of the Upper Belize River Valley. The research carried out at Chaan Hol focused on determining the temporal extent of occupation within the rockshelter as well as understanding what it might have been utilized for by the Pacbitun Maya. The Chaan Hol excavations have revealed cultural alteration of the natural environment inside the rockshelter and identified ritually significant material culture including many freshwater snails (jute), ceramic sherds, and lithics.


TITLE: The Ch’eenob of Pacbitun, Cayo District, Belize: A Study of Karst Use and Community Organization among the Classic Period Maya
: Jon Spenard and Terry Powis
: 2011 Chacmool Conference
: November 9-13
: MacEwan Conference and Events Centre, Calgary, Canada
Conference website
: This paper presents the results of the landscape archaeological research performed in the Pacbitun region in the Cayo District, Belize during the 2010 field season, and provides some initial interpretations of the material.  Specifically, this paper focuses on the ritual use of the karst landscape upon which the polity of Pacbitun was built.  Our investigations focused on two loci, Actun Lak cave, and the Nohooch Tunich rock shelter complex.  Both of these locations contain evidence of intensive ritual utilization but also, unexpectedly, modifications such as terraces, buried floors, rock alignments and retaining walls.  Collectively, these artifacts and constructions are analyzed using contemporary thinking on community building and maintenance through the process of creating social memories on the local and polity levels.  We argue that rituals performed in Actun Lak were polity-reinforcing, while those at Nohooch Tunich reinforced local bonds.


Title: Shelling Out: Shell Ornamentation and Ancient Maya Social Status.
Presenter: Teresa B. Wagner
Conference:  41st Annual Chacmool Archaeological Conference, Calgary, Alberta

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