Osteoarchaeological investigations of mortuary deposits in caves and rockshelters in the river valleys of west-central Belize have yielded one of the larger and more complex regional skeletal assemblages in the Maya area, providing insights into the lives and deaths of people living in the nearby communities between 900 BCE to 900 CE. However, archaeologists often disagree about the nature of human remains found deep within some of these caves. Some argue that they are sacrificial victims while others suggest that the caves were used for funerary purposes. This talk will highlight recent osteoarchaeological research at these sites, and will discuss how and why researchers often disagree over their interpretations. 

About the presenter

Gabriel Wrobel is an associate professor at Michigan State University whose primary research specialty is osteoarchaeology. Most of his research is carried out in the small country of Belize in Central America,  where he directs the Central Belize Archaeological Survey project. Excavations focus on a variety of sites, including ritual rockshelters and caves, several large urban ceremonial centers, and surrounding settlement zones dating to approximately 900 BCE to 900 CE. His work has demonstrated how changes over time in the rituals performed at the rockshelters and caves closely parallel sociopolitical transitions identified at the nearby urban centers, as well as at other sites found throughout the rest of the Maya region. Gabe is currently on sabbatical and is spending the semester as a visiting researcher at UQ working in collaboration with Dr. Michael Westaway on questions related to the peopling of Papua New Guinea. Gabe’s contribution to this project focuses on building a large regional database of 3D photogrammetric models of crania and carrying out comparative analyses of morphometric and non metric variability.


About Archaeology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Archaeology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of archaeological research and ideas amongst UQ archaeology students and staff. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment. It is hoped that anyone interested in current archaeological directions, both within and outside the School and University, will be able to attend and contribute to the series.