Rio Bravo Archaeology Field School

Applications Open for June 2020!

The Rio Bravo Archaeological Survey (RBAS) is a summer Maya archaeology field school that trains students in archaeological field methods within the context of a state-of-the-art research project. The program is situated in an unexplored, tropical rainforest in northern Belize, Central America, and can be taken for 3 or 6 college credits through the University of Texas at Austin.*

Non-credit volunteers are also welcome!

Students who are interested in joining us for the 2019 season should review the information provided, including the 2019 Info Sheet, and contact us via email or by submitting an application.

To sign up, please fill out an application.

*RBAS operates in Belize under a permit issued from the Institute of Archaeology to Dr. Fred Valdez, Director of the Programme for Belize Archaeological Project (PfBAP). Academic credit from the Community College of Philadelphia is not available for the 2019 season.

Photo -Day trip to Lamanai (2015)

Project Location

The RBAS project takes place in the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area (RBCMA), which is owned and operated as a wildlife and environmental reserve in northwestern Belize by the Programme for Belize, a non-profit conservation organization (full background here).  This now heavily forested region was once thriving with dozens of cities, towns, and villages during the Maya Classic period (A.D. 250-800), supporting hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps more. 

(Interactive Map)


Project participants will stay for the duration of the Project and Field School at the Richard E. W. Adams Research Facility, a remote research camp in the RBCMA that operates under the direction of the University of Texas's Programme for Belize Archaeological Project (PfBAP).  Several research projects, the RBAS among them, use this facility as a base from which they carry out investigations in the largely unexplored forests of the RBCMA.

The principal site of investigation within the RBAS zone is Chawak But’o’ob (Yukatec Mayan for “Long Land” or “Long Terraces”), a densely occupied community of about 400 household structures covering half a square kilometer of the sloping, 200-foot-tall Rio Bravo Escarpment.  This site, which was occupied for the final century or so of the Late Classic period, is composed of several linear kilometers of terracing, dozens of water basins (and at least one reservoir), and clusters of ancient houses.  In Prehispanic times, the houses consisted of stone-walled or wooden-walled domestic buildings placed atop rectangular platforms of stone, earth, and plaster.  To a large degree, we focus on investigating these relic platforms, the majority of which are under 2 meters in elevation.  In these platforms, we find burials, caches of ritual material, and household refuse, all of which we use to define the activities that took place at these buildings and estimate dates of occupation.

The site of Chawak But'o'ob, Belize

The site of Chawak But'o'ob, Belize