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Jon Spenard

I am an anthropological archaeologist whose work focuses on the intersection of religion, landscape, community identity, memory, politics, and worldview in Mesoamerica, particularly, among Classic Period (AD 250-900) Maya people. Since 1998, I have worked at numerous Maya sites in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico, studying the ritual use of geographic landmarks (caves, rock shelters, and other cave-like places). I earned my M.A. in Anthropology from Florida State University in 2006, and my Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of California, Riverside in 2014. For my dissertation research, I investigated the social significance of ritual interactions Maya people from Pacbitun, Belize, had with caves and a hill-top bedrock outcrop near the site.

With permission from the Belize Institute of Archaeology and Forest Department granted in 2018, I initiated the Rio Frio Regional Archaeological Project, or RiFRAP for short. This project is the first long-term archaeological study of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve in the Cayo District, Belize. Currently, we are conducting regional surveys to locate and investigate previously unrecorded sites (caves, settlements, shrines, quarries, hunting camps, etc.), and relocating, documenting, and investigating previously recorded cave and shrine sites to contemporary standards. As part of these studies, my team and I employ digital technologies such as 3D photography and modeling, virtual site tours, ground penetrating radar, and digital data collection to make our research more accessible and to collect more and better data. Future goals for this project include studying the peopling of the Americas and investigating recently documented settlements in the region. CSUSM students have accompanied me on these research trips, and I look forward to that continuing as this research continues.

In addition to my research in Mesoamerica, I have worked as a contract archaeologist for several private companies, and in archeological and museum positions for the Federal Government (National Park Service and Forest Service). This work has taken me throughout the US, including most of the Southeast, from caves in northern Georgia, to massive artificial shell islands near the Everglades in Florida, to surveying pre-Columbian and historic sites in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, and California. I have also worked with, studied, and taught classes on Ancestral Puebloan peoples of New Mexico and the greater Southwest, and state societies in the pre-Hispanic Andes in South America.

Select recent publications include:

Spenard, Jon

2017     A Jaunt Through the Constructed Wilderness: The Nohoch Tunich Ritual Bedrock Outcrop and Late Classic Period Urbanism at Pacbitun, Cayo District, Belize. Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology 14:339-352.

Spenard, Jon, and Christophe G. Helmke

2020     A Terminal Classic Period Molded-carved Ceramic Production Mold from Actun Xtuyul, Pacbitun, Belize. Mexicon XLII(2):32-37.

Spenard, Jon, Michael Mirro, and C.L. Kieffer

2020     The Ceremonial Karstscape of Pacbitun. In An Archaeological Reconstruction of Ancient Maya Life at Pacbitun, Belize, edited by Terry G. Powis, Sheldon Skaggs, and George Micheletti, pp. 115-132. Archaeology of the Maya, Elizabeth A. Graham, David M. Pendergast, and Genner Llanes Ortiz, general editor. BAR International Series 2970, BAR Publishing Series, Oxford.

Spenard, Jon, Adam King, Terry G. Powis, and Nilesh Gaikwad

2020     A Toast to the Earth: The Social Role of Beverages in Pre-Hispanic Maya Cave Ritual at Pacbitun, Belize. In ‘Her Sweet Cup for Cacao’: The Social Uses of Food in Ancient Maya Society, edited by Traci Ardren, pp. 47-80. University of Texas Press, Austin.

Spenard, Jon, Michael J.  Mirro, George Micheletti, and Terry G. Powis

2018     From Photogs to Models: Digital Archaeology of Pre-Hispanic Pacbitun, Belize. Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology 15:207-217.