Students Learn Materials Science in Mayan Mesoamerica
This summer, a new Dialogue of Civilizations is being run with a focus on Archaeological and Ceramic Materials Science. In it, students went back in time to 1000 BC, to the height of the Mayan Empire. They ventured all over Belize, exploring Maya temples including Altun Ha, an important manufacturing center of flint tools, and Xunantunich, where the visit included meeting with site archaeologists in their lab. The students also trekked across the border into Guatemala to camp in the shadows of Tikal, the largest Maya city. Associate teaching professor Joshua Hertz weaved together classroom sessions on ceramic materials science with hands on demonstrations on raw material procurement, fabrication, and analysis of those materials. While learning ceramic science in the classroom, the students worked hands on with the materials-visiting a clay kiln, making pottery with a Maya Women’s Cooperative (a group that is reviving Yucatec Mayan culture), and witnessing the different stages of turning limestone into lime in St. Margaret’s village. They also enjoyed nature in Belize, taking time for jungle hikes, cave tubing, and snorkeling in Belize’s famous coral reefs.