Field School Information


UCLA Maya Archaeological Project in Belize


June 27-July 31, 2010

Investigate the Maya centers of Aguacate, a set of pristine sites in western Belize where ancient pyramids are guarded by bellowing howler monkeys leaping through the canopy. The Belize River Valley is a key location from which to study the Maya and this program does so in collaboration with the Belize Institute of Archaeology.  In 2009 we discovered a second larger city center that greatly expands our understanding of the region.  This summer we will be starting investigations at this new site.  You'll be taking part in a project from the ground up with the initial pedestrian and ground-penetrating radar survey, followed by excavations of the main plaza and temples. This is an excellent and rare opportunity to learn how to be a field archaeologist on an as yet untouched Maya site.

Join us as we embark on this new adventure in Maya archaeology. Learn more from the project Web site. 


Dr. Samuel V. Connell ( is a Research Associate with the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Foothill College.  Prior to his current position, Dr. Connell was an anthropologist with the Central Identification Laboratory leading MIA recoveries. Dr. Connell organized a series of projects in the Maya areas of Honduras and Belize. Connell's research has centered on understanding ancient societies from a community-centered perspective, and has recently focused on applications of Remote Sensing Technologies and Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

Dr. John M. Morris is the Director of Research and Education at the Institute of Archaeology Belize. Dr. Morris has also been the Director of Museums in Belize and is also currently a Lecturer at the national University of Belize where he teaches courses in Anthropology, Archaeology and History. Over the last twenty years he has conducted numerous excavations and field projects in Belize. Dr. Morris research focuses on the organization of complex societies, socio-political dynamics in ancient societies and the formation of ethnic identity both ancient and modern. He is the senior editor on Research Reports In Belizean Archaeology, an yearly publication.


Students will enroll through the UCLA Field Program site and will be accepted based on first come-first served basis.



Our laboratory and living quarters will be based in the town of San Ignacio, which is a popular tourist destination in the foothills of western Belize.  The team will stay at the Midas Resort on the Macal River in San Ignacio (, where students will be encouraged to take part in the daily lives of Belizeans in town.  Activities range from swimming in the river, shopping at the market, playing sports with others and just generally enjoying the carefree life of living in Belize.  Our living arrangements will provide a perfect balance of serious opportunities to learn via lectures and laboratory work and integrating with the local townspeople. 

UCLA Summer Sessions reserves the right to change the housing location. Should this become necessary, we will arrange comparable accommodations elsewhere.



Monday through Friday, breakfast, lunch and dinner is provided by the program. Students are responsible for their weekend meals.

Please let us know when you apply for this program if you have special dietary needs, as well as any medical or physical conditions. We will advise you accordingly.



Required field trips to local important Maya sites will be conducted on weekends, usually on Saturdays.  Sites that the team will visit include Xunantunich, Caracol, Cahal Pech, and various sites in Southern Belize, with an optional trip to Tikal being offered (for an extra fee).



You are responsible for making your own travel arrangements. Please plan to arrive to Belize by June 27th (Sunday) as classes will begin on Monday at 9:00am.

Students will be met at the Belize City International Airport (BZE) and transferred to the project’s hotel.  A number of airlines fly to Belize City with connections from major national and international hubs but there are no direct flights between the West Coast of US and Belize.

English is the official language in Belize but the country is truly multicultural.  Spanish and Maya are also widely spoken as well as Arabic (large Lebanese community) and low German (large Mennonite community).  


For specific information regarding travel health issues pertinent to Belize, please read the Centers for Disease Control Website 



Please note that all visitors must pay a $36 fee exit fee when departing Belize. There are no special Visa Requirements for US Passport holders. For more information, please consult the US State Department relevant page



“Taking part in this field school was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I learned so much about archaeology and was able to apply the skills immediately in the field. I was surrounded by amazing people and formed lifelong friendships that span states and countries. The jungle was better than any movie could make it seem and the weekend trips to local Maya sites helped put everything we were doing into perspective. It was hard not to fall in love with the country and the people who live there. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Is it July yet?”

-Stephanie Ballejo, West Valley College, 2009

“Studying abroad allows for amazing insight into the world around us, and the UMAP program is an unparalleled way to see an extremely popular destination for ecotourism firsthand. Exploring beautiful jungles, excavating a pristine Maya ruin and meeting countless new friends are just a few of the things in store for those who capitalize on this life-changing experience.”

- Aaron Coons, University of Regina, 2009