AFAR in Belize
American Foreign Academic Research was founded in 2006 on a simple but powerful idea: to further the field of archaeology and cultural site preservation while making the science accessible to all of those interested. With your participation and support, we’ve have made sizable waves in the field of archaeology by sharing the science with all ages, experience, and zip codes.
Over the short life of AFAR, our successes have been great and numerous. Through a ton of support and the energy of many, AFAR has successfully pioneered pre-collegiate international archaeological field research, conserved roughly half the site core of an ancient Maya city, created two of the world’s premier academic conferences, and developed educational programs for all ages. These are pretty impressive accomplishments considering AFAR runs on a completely volunteer basis.
Today, artifacts recovered at the site of Cahal Pech are washed in the parking lot of a hotel. What more could be accomplished if we had a proper conservation and research center? Could we have supported more research? Could we have conserved two ancient cities? Could we have educated more students? We have an answer to those questions – we can do more. Today, AFAR is embarking on its long-term goal of establishing a research center in Central America.
Douglas M. Weinberg center for Archaeological Research
Doug Weinberg was a highly regarded archeologist and a dear friend of AFAR founder Mat Saunders, going back to their days as anthropology majors at the University of Kentucky in the early 2000s. It was Doug who proposed they attend field school in Belize rather than stateside, for the sake of an adventure. From Doug’s perspective, adventure in Belize wasn’t only about archeology, jungle excursions, and beautiful beaches, but an opportunity to connect with people unlike himself.
By immersing himself in the country’s diversity of race and culture, its beauty and its poverty, he hoped to gain insight into his own place in the world, and what he might do with his life to affect positive change—an education every bit as valuable as the one he was receiving in a traditional classroom. Jungle excursions and beautiful beaches were high on his list as well.
After field school, Doug directed some of the most interesting archeological projects in Belize before the age of thirty, and without a Ph.D. It wasn’t just his scientific intellect but his talent for operational logistics that caught the attention of Dr. Jaime Awe, Director of the Belize Valley Archeological Reconnaissance Project. Doug could manage a team of laborers deep in the jungle over long stretches of time. He could modify the most advanced mapping software to suit his particular needs, build a thatch roof shelter, repair a diesel generator, write scientific reports that would have gone a long way to earning him tenure had he chosen to work within the strictures of academia.
Most impressively, he could find common ground with just about anybody, regardless of race or nationality, due to his unassuming personality, sense of humor, and open-mindedness. His untimely death of a pulmonary embolus, in 2005, was a shattering loss to everyone who knew him. He was so loved and respected by Belizeans and expats alike, people said he could’ve run for Mayor of San Ignacio.
Doug’s legacy will live on at the Douglas M. Weinberg Research Campus, where high school students from all over the world will connect with each other through archaeology.
They’ll develop a sense of adventure and worldliness at a relatively young age. They’ll make enduring, life-changing friendships like the one between Mat and Doug. They’ll learn the same mapping skills Doug used in the restoration of Maya temples at Al Tun Ha for the Belize Tourism Development Project. They’ll learn the same excavation techniques he used in a massive salvage operation of ruins in the pristine rainforest of the Macal River Valley. They’ll train to be like Doug was during some of the most magical years of his life.
Our intent is to create a world-class conservation and research facility in the middle of our primary research area in Western Belize.
The facility will contain the proper labs and storage facilities needed to process the important cultural materials excavated as well as house nearly 100 staff and students at any given time.
To date, AFAR has secured a remote 10 acre site less a mile from the students’ research site, Cahal Pech. Not far from perfect, electricity and water a few poles away, flat land for building, old growth trees, a stream and a sloped area for botanicals. We are currently in the planning stages of developing a design to present to sponsors to help us make this dream a reality. Stay tuned for more information as we move forward.
If you would like to make a donation to help us build this amazing facility, please contact Mat Saunders at email@example.com.
Thank you for your support,
The AFAR students, volunteers and AFAR management team
Overview of Planned Buildings
The educational building will house state of the art wet and dry laboratories, digital illustration and cartography studios, classrooms, offices, and a library. This building will become a hub for artifact analysis in Belize and will serve our project and others within the country. This will provide our students with proper lab space and resources that we desperately need.
The dining champa will serve as the social hub of the campus and will be the site where all meals are prepared and served. It will also serve as an open-air lecture space where lectures and evening group activities will take place.
Each of the eight faculty units will contain two bedrooms, each with a private bathroom, separated by a common living room, kitchenette, and screened patio. The eight units will collectively sleep as many as 24 faculty and staff at any time.
Sixteen student units will be constructed during our first building phase. Every two units mirror each other and will share a roof. All units will have a private entrance and private porch. Each unit will sleep four students comfortably so a total of 64 students can be housed at any given time.
Swimming Pool and more
Western Belize’s sub-tropics are a challenging environment in which to work with summer temperatures reaching the high nineties and high humidity in the mix. The only significant request by our students is for a pool. After a day of supervised excavation, it is a well deserved and needed boost for our students.