Students visit Yucatan, take voyage into ancient city

By Abbey Swank U-WIRE

KENT – On his last trip to Northern Yucatan to study Mayan ruins, assistant professor of anthropology T. Kam Manahan discovered a small, common household structure. But further digging revealed five rich burial sites that yielded many valuable artifacts.

This February, Manahan and a team of anthropologists and archaeologists will return to Yucatan with the hope of discovering more.

“We will be visiting remains of a Maya city,” he said. “We are investigating and trying to understand when it was occupied.”

Manahan said he will be joined this summer by co-director Tracy Arden from the University of Miami in Florida. Kent State University and the National Science Foundation funded the trip, and it will also include graduate students from the University of Texas, Northwestern, Indiana and Tulane universities.

Elizabeth Konwest, a recent Kent State graduate, is heading down at the end of March for a six-week stay at the site.

Konwest, who studies anthropology with an archaeological specialty, said she wants to study Mezo-American archeology after graduate school.

The trips to Yucatan began out of a lack of understanding of how the city of Chichen Itza, near Yucatan, was founded, Manahan said.

Once research in Chichen Itza was started, a lot of early history of Maya civilization was found in Northern Yucatan, he said.

“Up until now, our main focus has been looking at a lot of simple households,” Manahan said. “We are trying to get a range of how all of that society lived, so this time we are going into the palace structure.”

All artifacts found in the ruins are property of the Mexican government and must stay in Mexico.

The researchers are given time to study them, but then the artifacts are turned over to Mexico to be curated, Manahan said.

“We have planned another four years of visiting Yucatan,” Manahan said. “When those four years are up, we will see how many of our original goals have been met. If we have met enough of those goals, we will move on to other areas.”

Manahan said the areas near Yucatan are rich in ruins, but they haven’t received much research. He said the only thing anyone has done was to report the ruins existed.

“I hope while I’m down there we uncover something really interesting,” Konwest said. “But that doesn’t always happen. I guess I really hope I learn a lot and that the experience will let me see if this is really what I want to do with my life.”