Saturday, 02 March 2013 13:44
By Tommy Vawter
The headlines in the small Central American country of Belize this week read “No More Mayan Artifacts Thefts - U.S. and Belize Sign MOU”. Finally we can rest at night knowing that our governments have put an end to this problem for once and all.
In September of 2011, the Government of Belize, concerned that its cultural heritage was in jeopardy from pillage, made a request to the Government of the United States under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Belize's request sought U.S. import restrictions on archaeological material from Belize representing its Pre-Colombian heritage dating from (9000 B.C.) through the Spanish Colonial period (A.D. 1798).
On Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 The Honorable Jose Manuel Heredia, Belize Minister of Tourism and Culture, signed into effect the bilateral agreement between the governments of the United States and Belize under the 1970 UNESCO convention. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) places import restrictions on Pre-Columbian archaeological and Colonial-period artifacts from Belize entering the US. Similar bilateral agreements have already been in place between the US and Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Belize was the last unwilling loophole for illegal antiquities smuggling in the Maya region, for many years small time smugglers involved in the illicit trade of Mayan Artifacts have used this small nation on the Caribbean as a way point in the movement of artifacts from the rest of Central America and Mexico simply because they knew that they could escape prosecution in the US if they were caught.
So all is now well with the world and there will be no more theft of artifacts and destruction of archaeological sites in the Maya world. While government officials and archaeologists are sipping Champagne, eating Caviar and congratulating themselves on a job well done, some are standing in the corner of the room having intense discussions on the next step of confiscation and repatriation of artifacts from museums and private collections from around the globe.
Meanwhile, in the dark of night at clandestine airstrips throughout Central America, small aircraft either owned or stolen by drug cartels from South America and Mexico are quietly slipping into archaeological rich locations. The aircraft, many already loaded with Cocaine from Columbia are being met by trucks filled with Mayan artifacts, also headed for the hungry markets of Europe and the United States.
The cartels and their agents are able to pay top dollar, between $100 and $500 per artifact depending on the quality and the demand for that particular item. In turn, they are able to collect between $10,000 and $100,000 for these artifacts on the international black market.
Sunday, 26 February 2012 04:22
by Caren Abdela
For years, Lucky and Erin Ivy say, they were living proof of the phrase “you can’t see the forest for the trees.”
“We were living in Texas and both working high-pressure, 10- to 12-hour days, six days a week,” says Erin. “I worked in property management and Lucky ran a division of a multi-million-dollar lightweight concrete company. He was overweight and needed medication for high blood pressure.”
Then in 2004—the day after returning from a sailing adventure in Placencia, Belize—Lucky made a routine trip to the doctor’s office. “His blood pressure was normal. The doctor was shocked,” says Erin. Belize was the reason.
That helped focus the couple on a permanent move. They sat down and made out a five-year plan, developed a strict budget, and began downsizing.
A healthier life wasn’t the only reason to move to Belize. “Placencia is a quaint seaside village at the end of a peninsula with the most loving population of locals and expats you will ever meet,” says Erin.
“After just a few days everyone knows your name and remembers it six months later, even if you are only there part-time at first.
“Plus, Belize is English-speaking and has a wonderful QRP (Qualified Retired Persons) program, or you can become a resident. Its currency, the Belizean dollar, is two to one with the U.S. dollar, making it an easy transition.”
Over the next four years, Lucky and Erin stuck to their plan, took several vacations to Belize, mixing pleasure with research.
They bought a house in Placencia…then sold it…and in 2008, they bought a small resort business with a $500,000 down payment. It’s just a few minutes’ walk from the Caribbean Sea.
“What a relief it was to leave five-lane, bumper-to-bumper traffic and adopt a bicycle as our primary means of transportation,” says Erin. “Culture shock? You bet…and we loved it.”
“Instead of grabbing a Starbucks rushing out at 5:30 a.m., we now linger over our coffee while gazing out at the exquisite Caribbean sea, palm trees, and white-sand beaches—scenery so beautiful that we used to fawn over it in magazines and postcards. We still wonder if life this relaxing and enjoyable might be a dream from which we have yet to awaken.
“It’s like being on vacation all of the time. Home to the longest barrier reef on this side of the world, Placencia has some of the best snorkeling, sailing, and fishing anywhere. There are hundreds of islands to explore. Forget that fancy expensive fishing equipment; just tie a hook and weight to the end of a hand line and you will be rewarded with the next dinner entrée. Between the walking, biking, and a healthier diet, Lucky lost all of his extra weight, without even trying.”
If you eat local, food is very reasonably priced here. You can buy lobster tails from local fishermen for $8 per pound and all kinds of fish fillets for $3.50 per pound, although it is even less expensive and more fun to catch your own.
Whole chickens are about $1 per pound. Locally grown fruits and vegetables are also cheap, like pineapples for $1 each; mangos and papayas for 50 cents each; tomatoes, potatoes, and cucumbers for 50 cents a pound, and everything is grown organically.
Imported foods are expensive; for example, potato chips are $7 a bag. At that price one quickly stops eating junk food. “We have a clinic in the village that is free for residents. Erin and I obtained our residency three months ago, thereby qualifying,” says Lucky.
Major medical is handled in Belize City, a short 20-minute flight or easy three-hour drive. The local clinic is available for non-residents as well at a low cost.
Expensive wardrobes and even shoes have almost become a thing of the past for the couple. Lucky prefers to go barefoot in his new Caribbean home and saves his shoes for special occasions and visits home.
“We truly believed that our Western lifestyle was going to send us to an early grave, so other than wishing our extended families were with us, too, we have never looked back,” says Erin.
Editor’s note: Come to International Living’s Ultimate Event next month and get a complete soup-to-nuts action plan for every country on our radar—including Belize. Find out more here.
Courtesy International Living
Sunday, 18 August 2013 10:06
Fishermen in the central province of Quang Ngai have found another old sunken boat near the shore, the third old shipwreck spotted in the waters recently and only 100 meters from the second one found last September.
Though it was near midnight on Thursday, around 30 fishing boats had rushed over for a treasure hunt upon hearing of the discovery, which happened around 100 meters off Chau Thuan Bien Village of Binh Son District, and around 1.5 meters under water.
They were jostling around above the boat’s location, around 100 meters to the west of one that was salvaged last July, when more than 4,000 intact antiques were recovered and some were believed to come from the 13th century.
Boats also dredged the sea bed around the area in hopes it would stir up some antiques.
Many people used axes and crowbars to take the antiques quickly, only to break many pottery plates and bowls.
Nguyen Van Thinh, a more gentle hunter, said: “There are many antiques in the boat, but people fought so much for them, smashing them… What a waste!”
Tuesday, 13 August 2013 05:16
Submitted by Gillian Finklea
Sarasota, Florida -- State and county staff will host a public input session 3-5 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 15 at Twin Lakes Park, 6700 Clark Road, Sarasota on the proposed Florida's Statewide Comprehensive Historic Preservation Plan. The plan has been developed by the Florida Department of State's Division of Historical Resources.
Participants will discuss how the plan can guide efforts to work together to preserve Florida's history and historical, archaeological, and cultural resources. Full color copies and an executive summary will be available. "We are pleased to partner with the State Division of Historical Resources to offer the community the opportunity to review this important plan," said Lorrie Muldowney, manager, Sarasota County Historical Resources. "Sarasota County is a virtual treasure trove of historical sites so we are encouraging the community to share their priorities about protecting our irreplaceable cultural resources."
The Mission of the Florida Division of Historical Resources is to inspire a love of history through preservation and education. Departments in the Division of Historical Resources include the Bureau of Historic Preservation which conducts programs aimed at identifying, evaluating, preserving and interpreting the historic and folklife resources of the state. The Bureau also manages one of the largest state supported grants-in-aid programs in the country, providing funds to help preserve and maintain the state's historic buildings and archaeological sites.
The Bureau of Archaeological Research is responsible for the state's archaeology program. The bureau's archaeologists carry out archaeological surveys and excavations throughout the state, mostly on state-owned lands. They maintain records on historical resources that have been recorded, and assist consultants and planners in protecting sites. The state's underwater archaeology program includes not only historic shipwreck sites but also pre-Columbian sites in underwater contexts.
For more information, contact the Sarasota County Call Center at 941-861-5000, or visit www.scgov.net.
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Sunday, 17 February 2013 10:55
By Tommy Vawter
In the US where a handful of elite academic archaeologist and state legislatures are slowly eroding our rights to treasure hunt and metal detect by making it a crime to recover anything over 50 years old. Many parts of the world seem to be a little more realistic.
I have long been a proponent of treasure hunters and archaeologist working together when it comes to sites that may or may not be of archaeological significance. I even created this website in part to help facilitate the concept of cooperation between our two communities. However, the elitest academic world of archaeology will have none of that.
On the other hand, there is much support for cooperation among the rank and file archaeological community, and there are even some of them that are members here at TreasureWorks. Unfortunately, I have been told privately that they fear going public because they know that they would never be allowed to work in their chosen profession.
Let’s face it; most archaeologists are just treasure hunters with a degree in archaeology. They fund there expeditions through research grants generated by universities, and by publishing their successes in the form of papers and books.
Most treasure hunters are hobbyists who enjoy the outdoors and the thrill of the hunt. These are the folks who often make significant find mostly by chance. We see many cases of this happening in the UK, where there is a system in place to profit from their discoveries, and that also allows archaeologists to further excavate the sites, creating a win, win situation for all parties. Yet in states like Florida and Texas this can land you in jail.
Saturday, 25 February 2012 14:35
“You’re out of your mind!” This was one of the milder things people said when I announced that after 30 years of living in the paradise of Maui, Hawaii, I was moving to South America. And at 80 years of age. Alone. Without speaking a word of Spanish.
It wasn’t as if I woke up one morning and said: “I think I’ll move to the Andes of Ecuador and live happily ever after.”
Actually, I’d spent the previous four years traveling to some 12 different countries in search of my eventual retirement “Shangri-La.”
So what was I looking for in that multi-country exploration? An entrepreneurial haven without undue governmental intrusion in my life, where taxes and the cost of living were not as onerous as in Hawaii (which boasts one of the highest tax rates in the U.S. and basic living costs that are a minimum of 30% higher than in the rest of the country).
Perhaps most important of all, it would be somewhere that had the kind of healthy environment that would nurture mind, body, and soul. These were the factors that ended up making me ignore most of the world.
Why Ecuador and why the tiny village of Vilcabamba, hidden away in a valley deep in the Southern Andes? Simple answer: Sweet-natured, welcoming people and a place that is said to be a “living laboratory of longevity.”
Vilcabamba reportedly has one of the four healthiest populations on earth. As an octogenarian, that was the clincher for me.
Vilcabamba satisfies almost everything I had on my list of “druthers.” The climate is almost equal to that of Hawaii, and the people are just as friendly and hard-working as those I left. Most important, my living expenses are around a quarter of what they were back in the U.S. Okay, not having a shopping mall or a Walmart in the village helps with that statistic. It’s amazing how much one does not need when stuff and things simply aren’t available.
What would I have done differently? I would not have had a container-load of household goods shipped from Hawaii to Ecuador. I could have literally replaced everything at half the cost of shipping.
My biggest challenge in moving to South America has been learning the language, which is an absolute must if you wish to fit into the culture. There is great beauty and a pleasant formality to the Spanish language. It’s worth taking the time to learn. My full-time Ecuadorian cook/housekeeper ($250 a month…less than I paid for electricity in Hawaii) helps me with my daily Spanish lessons.
Moving clear across the world to a new home need not be a daunting task. But it is not something to jump into blindly. I took the time to seek out the perfect place for me, which is what I would advise others to do also. It takes “boots on the ground” to check out the people and place of a prospective new home in making a decision like this.
After reading about it in International Living, I visited Vilcabamba three separate times before making my final decision. It turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever made.
My advice? It is never too late in life to take on a new adventure. You just need to find a place that helps you add life to your years and years to your life.
Editor’s Note: You could be in with a chance of winning a dream test-drive retirement to Ecuador–all expenses paid, including your round-trip flights. Find out how you can enter here.
Courtesy International Living
Wednesday, 31 July 2013 06:38
By Robert Nolin, Sun Sentinel
Veiled in myth, it's said to be forged of Incan gold by Peru's Spanish overlords nearly 400 years ago: a life-size statue of the Madonna and Christ child.
And the fabled Golden Madonna lies just off the Palm Beach County coast, at the site of a Spanish shipwreck from 1659.
That's what Robert Bouchlas, treasure hunter and leader of a West Palm Beach church, believes.
But experts strongly doubt the solid gold statue is real. And Bouchlas' federal claim for salvage rights to the wreck has drawn attention from Florida and Spanish officials.
"Does the Golden Madonna exist? It's a story which has circulated for some period of time," said Terry Armstrong, a treasure hunter from Merritt Island who publishes books on shipwrecks. "I don't put any credence into it whatsoever."
Bouchlas, 82, declined to discuss the statue upon the advice of lawyers. But he authorized longtime associate Anne Mary Vesey to speak about his "quest for the impossible dream."
"He's not really after money, he's really after this religious relic," Vesey said. "His plans are to place it in the Vatican."
Treasure hunters familiar with the legend can't pinpoint its origin. But according to Bouchlas, the Golden Madonna was created in 1655 when Spain's King Phillip IV ordered an unknown Peruvian artist to cast a life-size gold statue of the Madonna and child, each with double crowns encrusted with gems.
The king ordered it shipped home via a Spanish treasure armada. It was supposedly secured in an 8-foot locked iron box, crown jewels wrapped in lambswool.
"No one is to know of the gold casting or the cargo but those appointed by my hand," Bouchlas quoted from a "secret order" of Phillip IV. "Let the imbeciles who cast the statue be destroyed forever."
Wednesday, 31 July 2013 06:25
Maya hieroglyphs on Stela 44, a monument at the El Peru-Waka archaeological site in Guatemala, refer to a Maya Snake queen known as Lady Ikoom. The queen is thought to have played a role in a multigenerational story of power shifts in the Maya world.
A stone slab dated 564 A.D., which tells a story of a struggle between Royalty in the Mayan Empire has been discovered. It reveals the turmoil of an ancient power struggle lasting for seven years.
Archaeologists are calling it a “dark period.” The slab was found beneath the main temple of El Peru-Waka’, an ancient Maya city in northern Guatemala. The hieroglyphics tell the story of a princess whose family survived a struggle between two royal dynasties. The slab reveals that the battles were often extremely bloody.
David Freidel, PhD, a professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL), said “great rulers took pleasure in describing adversity as a prelude to ultimate success.” In this case, Lady Ikoom, known as the Snake queen, “prevailed in the end.”
The slab also revealed the names of two rulers who were previously unknown.
The kingdom of the Mayans flourished for nearly 600 years, and then they seem to have disappeared around 900 A.D. Among the Mayans many accomplishments was the construction of the massive city of Tikal, developing a hieroglyphic writing system, and a calendar, which famously ended in 2012. Very little of their writings remain, because they were mostly on paper instead of stone.
Saturday, 16 February 2013 16:28
Tommy Vawter in the Acropolis at the Kaminaljuyú Archaeological Park (Photo by TreasureWorks)
By Tommy Vawter
Last month the 32” flat screen TV that I use to edit my videos went on the blink, and about two weeks ago I decided that I needed to get it fixed while the warrantee was still good. As luck would have it, I soon found myself on the west side of Guatemala City dropping the TV at the local service department.
That day I had decided to take a back way to avoid the heavy traffic on Roosevelt Avenue and look for more evidence of the once thriving Mayan civilization that once occupied this part of the valley. This part of the city is built over the old Mayan ruins of Kaminaljuyu, and it is not unheard of to find a small pyramid mounds still covered in grass and trees.
I finally arrived at the main store at about noon. I pulled the TV out of the back of my Chevy Blazer; I heard a loud volley of gun fire just behind me. As I turned to look in the direction of the gun fire I witnessed a shootout between the local National Civil Police (PNC) and some criminals who had been involved in an attempted assassination earlier that morning that resulted in the murder of two police officers and a prison guard.
Tuesday, 07 February 2012 07:08
By Jim Haug
Herald Staff Writer
CORTEZ, COLORADO – Like the ancient cliff dwellers of Mesa Verde, Native Americans once lived in pueblos around the base of the Castle Rock butte in McElmo Canyon.
Though not nearly so well known as their Mesa Verde brethren, the history of these pueblo people is becoming better known since Castle Rock and the contiguous Sand Canyon Trail were declared part of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument about 10 years ago.
There’s so much foot traffic now that visitors are asked to stay off ruins that were accessible to the public less than two years ago.
Still, Canyons of the Ancients receives only a fraction of the visitors compared to Mesa Verde National Park – about 20,000 annually for Sand Canyon compared with 700,0000-plus for Mesa Verde – but it’s also a very different experience.
To compare it with skiing, Mesa Verde is like taking a lift to the top of a commercial slope, whereas Canyons of the Ancients is more like trekking uphill in the backcountry.
The Sand Canyon Trail might be home to thousands of archaeological sites, but there are no interpretative signs, restrooms or pavement. Visitors are asked to leave the area as they found it.
Victoria Atkins, supervisor for interpretation at Canyons of the Ancients, thinks less is more, especially for the imagination.
“I think it’s a little bit easier to time-travel, to close my eyes and think about what this place might have looked like 800 years ago,” Atkins said. “To me, that’s easier to do with fewer people. I like the subtle, the less-visited and the opportunity to use my imagination a little bit.”
This is not a knock against Mesa Verde, which is a World Heritage site after all. Visitors there can see preserved palace-style structures against the breathtaking backdrop of cliffs.
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- Swiss watch discovered in ancient tomb
- History underfoot with metal detectors
- Florida Treasure Hunters Unite to Help a Friend in Need
- Panama: Most Business-Friendly Country in the Americas
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