That’s my garden above. It’s growing. And so am I. But I want to talk about Jerusalem. La Paz is situated on sloping hills that rise up gradually to high mountains from the Comayagua Valley floor. On its upper outskirts, on steep hillsides and arroyos, rock-impregnated dirt streets meander among simple adobe and concrete-block homes of many poor people: what most westerners would call classic third-world conditions. Donkeys, cows, pigs and chickens roam free and few folks own a vehicle. I have been accompanying my friend Celeste on Sunday mornings after church and sitting in as she teaches catechism classes to several children. They’re preparing for their First Communion. I was, however, struck by an epiphany last Sunday. I have volunteered with Sister Edith’s Fundación for at-risk children for the past seven years and helped to raise their level of existence. At Celeste’s side I have melded into the poverty-stricken Barrio Jerusalén at its most basic level. For now, I will devote my energies to these poor children and their families. My heart breaks every time I walk into Jerusalem.
Bureaucratic intransigence in a third-world country is quite like bureaucratic intransigence in a supposedly first-world country. My US archaeology professor resource-person has counseled me to seek Honduran university professors in order to iniciate further study of local ancient sites due to the country’s violence-prone reputation preventing foreign experts from becoming involved. My contact with these local academics, however, reveals a lack of money to pursue the most basic efforts. Instead, officials want me to reveal my sources in order to hunt down illegal possession of artifacts and possibly confiscate the ancient objects. In Honduras, excavating antiquities is prohibited, even on private property. The populace has no confidence in government officials: they avoid them like the plague.
Yesterday I met with the director of the Comayagua regional office of the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología E Historia. I had emailed her Friday with photos of the ancient indigenous ollas recently discovered in the municipality of La Paz. We discussed the possibility of initiating an archaeological survey and possible dig at one of the most promising sites. Perhaps involving university students from Tegucigalpa. The museum has many antiquities, including a replica of the Giant Cave located in the mountains about 40 miles above La Paz. Human occupation has been documented there by archaeologists dating to 9,480 BCE. It is perhaps the oldest site of human habitation in Central America: precursors of the local Lenca culture. I have also included two photos of a recent visit with my friend Celeste to the thermal hot springs a few miles from La Paz. It is a natural hot spring made comfortable with a nice adjacent swimming pool one can jump into from hot to cold. There are many hot springs in surrounding areas of the Comayagua Valley, most undeveloped. That may change with construction of a new international airport.
Time passes quickly when one is having fun and living life to the max. I have been so busy with the children at the Home, with my friend Celeste and her family, and with my gardening that the weeks just slide away and before you know it another month has passed. My work trying to inspire an archaeological interest in the ancient buried indigenous riches is at an impasse. No one from the university in Tegucigalpa has contacted me. The students annual summer solstice journey to the nearby El Chircal pyramids did not materialize. The bureaucratic inertia is maddening but I will not be discouraged. Meanwhile I will continue to enjoy. My motto is: Do what you love with the folks who you love. See the baby corn above? I have squash, tomatoes, green beans, and corn growing. There’s more to come.
On a grassy plateau in the rolling foothills above La Paz lies a 42-acre plot of land where a friend was digging holes on his property to plant banana trees. The Valley of Comayagua is not known as the Valley of Rocks for nothing: the area where Mr X chose to dig, however, has a different type of soil. I reached down to pick up a handful of dark, moist earth similar to compost, loamy and soft. The gentleman thinks this area where he found the 1,500-year-old Lenca ollas was an ancient cemetery because he also unearthed human bones that were buried with the ollas. I have contacted a University of California anthropologist, she who dated the ollas, and she provided me with contact information for a Honduran archaeologist. We have communicated and I hope an arrangement can be made to initiate further government-sanctioned exploration of the site. In the foothills surrounding the plateau can be seen terraces carved into the hillsides indicating a possible ancient human settlement.
A University of California, Berkeley anthropology professor has advised that the four ollas in previous posts are of the Santa Rita class of Ulua Polychrome tradition, 550 – 650 A.D., but never in association with human burials.
A friend excavated these ancient Lenca ollas from his property along with the bones of a long-buried skeleton: his wife made him get rid of the bones. This is the second site in the municipality of La Paz that I know of from which artifacts thousands of years old have been dug out of the ground. I haven’t yet visited the first site from which the other olla pictures which I posted earlier were discovered at a construction project. But tomorrow I will be visiting the excavation site that produced these two excellent pieces of ancient pottery, one completely intact. I will take pictures to help establish provenance.
During my recent journey to Honduras’ North Coast I lunched with my friend Bob at a favorite La Ceiba restaurant of mine on the Caribbean beach. Bob and I and a Honduran engineer rented a large house in La Masica back in 2009 before I was reassigned to La Paz. Bob is a Forestry Engineer who was with Canada’s equivalent of the Peace Corps. A former Canadian university professor he has dedicated his life to humanitarian projects all over the world. He had me laughing at incidents during his recent voluntary assignment to Malaysia. He was in Honduras on a temporary mission but is now based in Guatemala, where I last saw him at Lago de Atitlán in 2012 when I stayed at his house for a week and a half on my way to the Maya ruins at Tikal. Bob is the most selfless and dedicated, hard-working person I know. I am proud to call him a friend and fellow traveler. A true compañero.
On Cinco de Mayo (Viva Mexico!) I left La Paz to visit my goddaughter in La Ceiba. Several months ago when I visited Yelsi the highways were still in bad repair but signs of improvement were evident. A couple of years ago the government began installing toll booths at different points in the country’s highway system. This trip the change is dramatic. The highway that winds from the Comayagua Valley up over the mountains to the coastal plain is being widened to a four-lane modern transport system already crowded with commercial vehicles. Descending onto the coastal plain itself road maintenance crews are everywhere with heavy equipment operators moving tons of earth and raising infrastructucture to eventually extend the four-lane roadway up the coast. It appears the peajes are working wonders. As far as my search for the provenance of the ancient pottery discovered in La Paz is concerned, I have reached an impasse. The fellow who discovered the antiquities mother became ill soon after the discovery and has been hospitalized in Tegucigalpa. One must deal with reality, and wait.
Once the rainy season starts it will be impossible to navigate the long muddy dirt road down to the raging torrent the Umuya River will become. So we enjoy Mother Nature’s fruits while we can. We stand in a huge Mango grove and the kids scamper up like monkeys to harvest the succulent treats and swim in the nearby presently placid river water where we spend Sunday afternoons..