UVG collaborates with HELPS International at UVG-SAS

April 13th, 2013 | USFUVG

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A partnership has also been developed with HELPS International, a US-based non-profit focused on poverty alleviation. Together, UVG and HELPS have planted a field trial of a corn program with local farmers and community partners. The objective is to improve corn production and enhance farming practices to bring about positive economic change in the region.  Field reports will be forthcoming as the trail proceeds.  Stay tuned!

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USFUVG Board Visits UVG-SAS for Site Visit (March 2013)

March 31st, 2013 | USFUVG

GRADUATESAs part of our spring Board meeting held in Guatemala, USFUVG Directors had the distinct honor of attending UVG's Altiplano graduation. The graduates included 24 from the Engineering program with a concentration in agroforestry, 11 from the Sciences and Humanities program with a concentration in tourism, and 11 with a degree in Education. The teacher training program also graduated 20 students: 10 from the bilingual and multicultural track, 9 from the mathematics and computer track, and one from the primary education track. Forty-five percent of the young men and women graduated with distinction. It was a proud day for all.

After graduation, we visited the UVG-San Andrés Semetabaj site nearby. The property is undeveloped land. The area includes a grouping of Mayan mounds, confirmed to be a Pre-Classic to early Classic age for the site and established it as one of the oldest Mayan sites in the Guatemalan highlands. A joint archeological project between Stanford University and UVG is currently underway. Plans to build a field station, a Center for Rural Development and possibly a Cultural Center are being discussed and developed.

Madelin Yessenia Giron Corzo, a student of ecotourism at UVG-Altiplano and one of two students on scholarship provided by the US Foundation's efforts to fundraise for the UVG-SAS project, spent the afternoon with the group as we all toured the site together.  It was wonderful to learn more about her ambitions for her UVG-experience as she had just begun her studies three months earlier in January at the commence of the semester.

UVG-SAS Student Scholarships awarded for January 2013 term

January 30th, 2013 | USFUVG

Scholarship StudentsScholarship funds raised by USFUVG in association with this project are currently supporting two students at UVG's Altiplano campus, Madelin Yessenia Giron Corzo, a student of ecotourism, and Denis Eli Cumes Mendoza, a student of education (pictured here with USFUVG Board Member John Mack III and USFUVG Executive Director Rachel Bird Anderson).

 

Archeologist Dr. John Rick, of Stanford University, reports from the field

December 12th, 2012 | USFUVG

A snapshot from the dig:  A quick look at the happenings here, high above and overlooking the glorious Lake Atitlán and its volcanic landscape. This is the continuation of years of sporadic fieldwork, preparation, anticipation, and finally, fruition. The site, made up of earthen mounds of predominantly Preclassic age (first millennium B.C.), sits beside the modern Kaqchikel Maya community of the same name, a small, quiet town gradually graduating to the modern world, but not so fast that the women would lose their traditional elegant dress of long wraparound skirts and bright handwoven or embroidered blouses.

An example of the geophysics survey suggestive of important underground spaces.   The December dig found a sculpted bedrock base of one of the pyramids within the mounds towering over the corn fields.

An example of the geophysics survey suggestive of important underground spaces. The December dig found a sculpted bedrock base of one of the pyramids within the mounds towering over the corn fields.

The excavations are lead by my Guatemalan colleagues, who oversaw the paperwork with the government agencies for the permissions, and assembled most of the field kit and bags, trowels, tapes and cords, and so much more.  I arrived with 200 lbs of real heavy metal technology – resistivity equipment – to spend a very brief overnight in Guatemala City.  We whisked efficiently to San Andrés (SAS) to find a bunch of 1x2 meter units going down like elevators – pretty fast excavation, testing the edges of the mounds, the possible plazas, and chasing the ever-driving diagnostic pottery fragments that will someday definitively give us the ages of the site, its relations with other contemporary communities of the highlands and the Pacific coast.  The team consists of Carlos, the Guatemala director, Eduardo advanced student leader and general manager-overseer, and apprentice UVG students Leti, Alejandro and Chandro.

So little is really known about this site that we can’t miss in choosing what to do, but still it’s better to have some idea. My interests get strained between wanting to know if there’s an early Maya village hidden underneath the cornfield between the mounds, yet still wanting to know how these really big projects of monumental construction were put together, and how they served or subtly subjugated those who built them.  Earlier fieldwork in 2005 had hinted that house floor-like surfaces do indeed await us, starting two or three feet below the now-fallow furrows of the milpa cornfields.  But the site is a big space, and since excavation is destruction, it would be great if we could get some information about what lies beneath the surface without actually messing up the place.  That’s where resistivity comes in – one of the techniques in the geophysicist’s tool box.  In this case, it uses a complex series of electrode combinations to measure something very simple – the degree to which the intervening ground resists the passage of electricity.  Many assumptions later, the method can potentially separate out different types of soil, or rock, or especially the very resistant air that lies within underground holes.  The drawbacks?  Well, you have to have a source of strong electricity, string long and somewhat delicate cables, and transport what seems like an elephant’s weight of electrodes, central unit, etc.

In sum, that’s my major contribution to this short season of project renewal.

More to come …