Excavations in Footprint Cave, Caves Branch, Belize

Elizabeth Graham
Logan MeNatt
Mark A. Gutehen


The use of caves by the ancient Maya has been previously documented, but the nature of artifact preservation in these caves presents unique problems not encountered in surface sites of the region. The absence of stratigraphy, though it means that we can view objects as they were left by the Maya, also means that perspective can be distorted, for actions that, may have taken place over a long period of time result in an arrangement of objects that appears to us to be synchronic. The nature of artifact preservation in caves presents another, more pressing problem: artifacts are accessible and therefore easily stolen. Although all surface sites in Belize are endangered, cave sites are especially so, and in recent years theft of artifacts and attendant destruction of sites has increased. The following is a report of excavations in a cave that is one of many in an area that has begun to experience the destructive effects of looting within the last decade. We hope that this report will heighten the awareness of archaeologists of the significance of cave sites and stimulate interest in the reconnaissance and recording of such sites before the looters prevail.