January 13, 2019 Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan, Mexico
So how would I evaluate this trip? Well first off, Scott Hutson was an excellent archaeologist. His presentations covered the basics for those new to archaeology and offered plenty of details for those familiar with the material. He took all questions seriously, and was at the sites rattling off dates, and kings, and history of excavations, and details of site features all without notes. I admit to wandering off quite a bit, because for me the importance of the sites was in how it photographed and what if felt like rather than who built it and when. Being a certified archaeologist, I ask myself if I could could do something like this. The answer is well, yes I could, but not without a lot more crib sheets in the field.
Jim Walker was also a good facilitator. He got us into the best hotels available in the region, and all the busses, hotels, boats, and meals were ready for us. I would travel with him again.
So let’s go over my trip objectives. Yes, I can offer my personal opinions about more archaeological sites and have experienced more archaeology. One issue though is after seeing hundreds of archaeological features at eight major sites in nine days, they tend to run together. Some people have a photographic memory. I have a memory enhanced by photography. My pictures helped me re-visualize what I saw on the ground.
This is good, because as an artist my work here shows very mixed results. I feel that my photographs from Altun Ha are rather uninspired, while I have some rather magical images from Tikal. OK, why? Is it the lighting? It it that some sites are more photogenic? Or is it the photographer? I think that it is a bit of all three, but especially the photographer.
At Altun Ha, I was basically just documenting the site. Here are some photos that I can use for reference in my talks and lectures. At Tikal, the images called me. Over here. Over here. Now just back up and frame it with these trees.
I did get to see some birds that I have never seen before. The toucans are absurd looking creatures that really exist in the wild, and even thought it was in a zoo, seeing a harpy eagle face to face was quite a wonderful experience.
And then there is the sense of wonder. I have to admit that staying in first class hotels and being surrounded by gringos, is comfortable, (and indeed, luxury has its own flavor of wonder) but it not the best way to become absorbed in a different culture. I chatted some with the locals, but most of my knowledge here is not very first hand. Then again the archaeological sites and jungles are quite magical. Tikal is still a special place to meander. The trip was time, money, and energy well spent.