This past summer the Robert S. Peabody Museum and the Spanish Department led the 3rd annual Bilingual Archaeological Learning Adventure in Mesoamerica (aka BALAM Project). Project directors Donald Slater of the Peabody and Mark Cutler of the Spanish Department, as well as chaperone Elizabeth Slater, guided ten Phillips Academy students on a 2 ½ week trek through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala to study the ancient Maya civilization and contemporary Latin American language and culture. This year's participants were Kevin Zhai '08, Rekha Auguste-Nelson Õ09, W. Eamon Callison '09, Johnny Carmona '09, Margaret Finch '09, Malik Jenkins '09, Mary Krome '09, Victoria Sanchez '09, Greg Hanafan '10 and Jessica Siemer '10.
During the first leg of the excursion the group spent time visiting a number of Colonial cities, ancient Maya ruins, sinkholes and caves and modern Maya villages in the northern Yucatan Peninsula, all while working to hone their Spanish language skills and even trying to learn a bit of Yucatec Mayan. This was followed by several days in the Calakmul Biosphere region where ruins were also explored amidst a backdrop of remote jungle and abundant wildlife. Students observed howler and spider monkeys as well as a great variety of birds, lizards, amphibians and insects.
The project then moved southward where participants assisted the Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance Project in excavations at the ancient Maya site of Baking Pot. The trip concluded with a journey through the Maya underworld at Actun Tunichil Muknal, Belize (Cave of the Stone Sepulcher), exploration at the great Maya ruin of Tikal, Guatemala and a day and a half of rest and relaxation and snorkeling with manatees, turtles and rays at Caye Caulker, a tropical Belizean island. (Land and cave photos by Donald Slater, underwater photos by Mark Cutler).