Comparing colonial experiences in Northwest Belize: Archaeological evidence from Qualm Hill Camp and Kaxil Uinic Village

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2016-08

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Abstract

This thesis presents the results and interpretations of preliminary investigations at two archaeological sites in northwestern Belize: Qualm Hill camp, which was the seasonal headquarters of British Honduras Company in the mid-1800s; and Kaxil Uinic village, a San Pedro Maya settlement established by Caste War refugees sometime after 1868. Although these sites may be considered two entirely separate entities with distinct histories, inhabitants, and archaeological assemblages, an exploration of the larger historical context surrounding both sites highlights their intricate relationship within a broader historical framework of the British colonization of Belize. Conflicts between the San Pedro Maya and British timber firms arose as a result of the two groups‘ differing uses of the Belizean landscape, as the former saw the land‘s agricultural potential, while the latter valued the region‘s mahogany reserves. Yet both the Maya and the largely Creole labor force employed by logging companies were prohibited from owning land by colonial legislation, becoming dependent upon British corporations for access to resources and jobs. As virtually all knowledge of this time period reflects a politically and socially biased colonial perspective of events and circumstances, this thesis, presented from an archaeological standpoint, challenges the notion that these groups were "incorporated" into the colonial super structure. By better interpreting the nature of the varied social, political, and economic interactions that occurred between these disenfranchised groups based on more contextualized archaeological and archival interpretations, it becomes evident that the loggers and the Maya, though marginalized by the colonial system, actively negotiated their identities to navigate the cultural landscape of British Honduras, sometimes in manners inconsistent with the defacto protocol dictated by the larger social groups of the "colonizers" and the "colonized."


This thesis won 1st Place in the Texas Tech University Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation Award, Social Sciences, 2018.

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Keywords

Anthropology, Archaeology, Belize, Maya

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