Field Guide

Student Guide to Life at Caracol

Archaeological work at Caracol is a unique lifetime experience, one well worth the time and effort. It must be stressed, however, that participation in the project will require a far different kind of lifestyle than most of us have become used to.

Travel Arrangements, Passports, and Visas: Project members will be met at the airport (if you have made advance arrangements with the directors). All members should have in their possession a valid passport. Visas may be obtained for Mexico and Guatemala multiple entry visas are available for side trips to Guatemala. The Belize immigration officials will issue you a 30-day visa. Additionally, immigration often requires proof that one has enough money to leave the country – often this proof need only be a round trip ticket, but sometimes the authorities have been known to ask to see at least $200.00 in cash. It is recommended that any funds you may require be carried in a combination of traveler’s checks and U.S. cash. Please bring some funds in cash, as you will likely not be able to go to the bank prior to going to Caracol.

How to get to Caracol: Caracol is located deep in the jungle of the Central American country of Belize on the western edge of the Maya Mountains; it is not advisable that you try to reach the site on your own. If for some reason you should become separated from the project, it is recommended that you contact the Department of Archaeology in Belmopan (08-22106) and ask them to help you contact the project. Most project members will be flying to Belize City via Taca, American, or Continental Airlines, and will be met by project staff at the Belize International Airport. Depending upon the time and date of your arrival, you may be driven directly to Caracol that day. Consult with the Project and the Field Directors well in advance on all travel arrangements.


Housing: Camp consists of approximately 8 buildings. All facilities are primitive and housing will be in jungle huts with thatched roofs and dirt floors. Additionally, please note that there will be no amenities such as running water, flush toilets, and accessibility to town. The presence of a photovoltaic system at Caracol does, however, mean that, assuming the system is functioning correctly, there is electricity for reading light in 3 of the buildings and for recharging batteries. It is recommended that all project members bring sleeping bags and functional inflatable (non electric) mattresses (see bedding). You will also need a mosquito “tent” to complete your sleeping accommodations; these can usually be found in army-navy stores. Please consult with the directors for information. Conditions at Caracol may be somewhat crowded with 4 or more individuals housed in each hut.


Food: We hire a Belizean cook. Breakfast generally consists of homemade tortillas with beans and eggs or, if you prefer peanut butter and jelly is always available. Lunch will often be a relatively light meal such as sandwiches made with canned meat, tuna fish, canned cheese, etc. Dinner is the main meal of the day and consists primarily of rice, beans, and canned or fresh meat with cabbage salad. There will be absolutely no provisions for any specialized diet.


Recreation: Bring your own “junk” fiction and other paperback books, cassettes and VHS tapes, guitars, board games, playing cards, and other legal forms of entertainment are encouraged; the more the better off we all are. In general, however, please remember that we are in the middle of a pristine jungle environment. Please note that it is not that it is not advisable to go hiking on one’s own in this environment. Jaguars, snakes, and things that go bump in the shadows are likely to surprise you. You will probably want to travel at the end of the field season so bring adequate cash for this. Buses are available in Belmopan, Belize City, or San Ignacio daily.


Currency: The rate of exchange is 2 (actually 1.9725) Belizean dollars for 1 U.S. dollar and the U.S. dollar is accepted by almost all merchants.


Medical Information: In cases of emergency illness, accidental or non-work related, you must be prepared to pay for your medical expenses; make sure that your medical coverage applies during your stay in Belize.

You should have the following inoculations:

  1. Tetanus
  2. Typhoid
  3. Hepatitis A

You should also bring the following “over the counter” medications:

  1. Pepto-Bismol for any stomach upsets
  2. Lomotil for the “touristas”
  3. Malaria tablets (Aralen P04 recommended) – Remember you must start these before going to the field.
  4. A 3-month supply of insect repellent (Cutters or stronger)
  5. A 3-month supply of suntan lotion, sunscreen, and/or Solarcaine. The sun is very intense in Belize.
  6. Salt tablets (if you require these)
  7. Aspirin, Band-Aids and antiseptics for any minor injuries
  8. Benadryl for insect bites
  9. And, any other medication that you typically use (do not assume that it is available in Belize)

If you have any medical problems or conditions that could be significant in a field situation, you probably should not be at Caracol. Please see the Project Directors well in advance of departure if you have any medical concerns. A medical kit containing most material for minor problems is maintained at the site. However, there are no doctors or nurses in residence. Professional medical care can be hours away. Please also note that malaria, beef worm, and chiclero’s ulcer occur within the vicinity of Caracol and that any project member has the possibility of “acquiring” such an illness. All are treatable but are painful and costly to treat. Simple precautions will help keep these illnesses from becoming a problem.

*Note: It is very important for each student to obtain travelers insurance. You can find this at


Field Equipment: Most field equipment is provided but it is suggested that each project member bring his or her own kit including the following:

  1. one or two Marshalltown4-inch drop-forged pointing trowel
  2. 3-meter or 5-meter pocket tape
  3. one or two line levels line level string
  4. one or two folding metric rule
  5. 2 1-inch China bristle paint brushes
  6. several good pencil sharpeners
  7. plumb bob
  8. If your dentist has any hand dental tools (worn out or broken) available, you will undoubtedly find them useful during excavation.

Pens, pencils, graph paper, and field notebooks will be provided. You are also encouraged to keep your own personal separate field journal, so bring one along. If you bring pens, black ink is best. If you have an excavation kit with other favorite items bring them along rather than assume we will have them on hand. Please be sure to mark all your personal equipment, we can not be held responsible for lost or stolen equipment.


Clothing: We have a laundress at Caracol. Remember that if it rains it may take several days for laundry to dry. It is suggested, therefore, that each project member bring at least the following:

  1. 7 pairs of socks
  2. 7 pairs of undergarments
  3. 4 pairs of pants
  4. 5 long-sleeved shirts as well as cotton shirts Cotton long-sleeved shirts are recommended as protection from sunburn, insects, and thorns.
  5. 1 “good” pair of clothes should be worn into and out of border crossings
  6. a light-weight poncho is needed as raingear since it can cover you and your belongings in the field
  7. bathing suit
  8. 2 towels
  9. jacket or an old sweater- in the mornings and evenings it can get pretty chilly in the springtime up in the Maya Mountains
  10. SunShower shower bag

In general, your clothing will be stored in your pack or suitcase so plan accordingly. If you bring a trunk with you on the plane to store your belongings, be prepared to pay over-weight luggage fees to and from Belize (as much as $200.00 U.S.). You will also need appropriate clothing for traveling after the season. You may also wish to bring shorts or cut-offs; HOWEVER, be warned that due to insects and brush they are not the best clothing for most excavation locales. All laundry should be marked with your initials.

Shoes:Boots are the recommended footwear because of the ankle and arch support offered as well as protection from thorns and snakebite. You will want at least one other pair of shoes (sneakers or tennis shoes are the usual choice) with you as well as a pair of sandals or “flip-flops”.



Bedding: It will be necessary for you to bring 2-3 full size sheets for bedding purposes (i.e. flat sheets large enough to wrap yourself in them). Blankets are essential in the vicinity of Caracol so bring at least 2 blankets or a good sleeping bag. Self inflating or non electric inflatable mattresses are required for sleeping purposes. What you decide to bring depends on your own comfort level. The best mosquito “tents”, (which are also necessary in the tropics when sleeping outdoors) are those produced by suppliers of army/navy surplus stores in the U.S. (ca.$25.00 U.S.) It may take some searching to locate these.


Other Equipment Which You Need:

  1. A light colored hat with brim – the mid-day sun is strong
  2. Good flashlight and extra batteries (alkaline or rechargeable if you bring a battery charger)
  3. At least 2 two-quart canteens (check for leaks)
  4. A good pocket knife with a can opener
  5. Dark sunglasses
  6. Toilet articles
  7. Pocket mirror
  8. Portable alarm clock
  9. Needle and thread
  10. A small pack for carrying field items
  11. Matches or a lighter for emergency (preferably not for smoking)
  12. Plastic, covered soap dish
  13. Paperback books to read and, if you wish, add to our camp library so others may enjoy
  14. Camera and film- film is expensive in Belize and specialty film (i.e. Advantax) is not available
  15. Machetes and file (will be provided upon arrival in Belize)
  16. Walkman or other portable tape/CD player, tapesCDs, and alkaline batteries
  17. Playing Cards, Frisbees, musical instruments, etc.
  18. A sturdy wrist-watch for field use
  19. Umbrella for walking around camp in the rain
  20. A compass for and when you are “disoriented” (ask which kind) and be sure you know how to use it
  21. Your own identifiable coffee mug and drinking cup (made of a durable material)
  22. A small folding beach chair, if desired (popular in past seasons)
  23. mats for floor

Any additional questions you may have should be directed to the Project or Field Director.


Project Mailing Address:
Name of person
Caracol Archaeological Project
San Ignacio, Cayo
Central America
*Be sure to label “Air Mail”

Please remember that the mail is extremely slow, sometimes getting lost; any packages that are sent will also have to have DUTY paid on them (often expensive), so make sure that things in packages are not extremely valuable.

In Emergency: contact Ms. Jordana Labson, Administrative Assistant, Dept. of Anthropology, UCF, Phone: 407-823-2227 and an attempt will be made to relay a message A.S.A.P. She will know the best way to make communications with the project.


Work Hours (tentative):

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
06:15 – 06:45 Free Day Breakfast
07:00 – 10:00 Excavation/Lab Excavation/Lab
10:00 – 10:10 Break Break
10:10 – 12:00 Excavation/Lab Excavation/Lab
12:00 – 01:00 Lunch
01:00 – 04:00 Excavation/Lab
06:00 – 07:00 Dinner

Most evenings will be spent doing laboratory work and/or catching up on lot cards; Wednesday and Saturday nights are reserved for movies. Each Project Member will be required to work in the lab on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7:00PM – 9:00PM.

Saturday afternoons are used by Project staff to “catch up” with lab work or field recording.


Data Required from each Project Member:

  1. Curriculum Vitae
  2. Covenant Agreement Form
  3. Health/Personnel Form
  4. Statement of Intent

Each Project Memer should have all of the above forms to the Project Directors by January 1st.

Caracol Project Catch 22:

“Catch 22 A”
Each Project Member is expected to perform his/her duties as assigned by the Project or Field Director during working hours. At other times each individual is free to do as he/she chooses, so long as his/her activities do not adversely affect others or cause harm to the project. Please remember that we are foreign guests in Belize; every member of the Project is expected to act accordingly.


“Catch 22 B”
While at Caracol, each member is a participant in an ongoing archaeological field project which, by its very nature, must be recorded and published. As is standard archaeological procedure, Project members are free to photograph excavations and finds during their stay at Caracol to be shown to friends, family, and in classroom situations upon their return. However, such photographs and/or other records may not be reproduced, published, used in film/video, or any other type of media without the specific written consent of the Project Directors. All rights are reserved by the University of Central Florida and Drs. Arlen and Diane Chase.


Caracol Project Research Rules:

  1. Each Project Member is responsible for the archaeological objectives his/her excavations or analysis are designed to meet. Accordingly, each Project Member/Supervisor should direct excavations/assistants under his/her control in keeping with the said objections.
  2. Project Members/Supervisors are expected to insure that their excavators/assistants are engaged in fruitful labor throughout the working day.
  3. Excavation Supervisors should keep the safety of their excavators/assistants in mind at all times, but especially when working in any “dangerous situations”.
  4. Al matters concerning adherence to Project or Belizean labor rules, special requests such as sick leave, travel, permission to depart early for personal or vacations reasons, or complaints must be referenced to the Project or Field Director for action.
  5. Project members MUST discourage requests by visitors to enter any excavation area for reasons of safety and as Project policy. Should visitors be present at an excavation area, the field supervisor/assistant will be responsible for warning visitors to remain away from trench edges, or any other area that could be potentially dangerous or cause injury. The field supervisor/assistant is also responsible for making sure that nothing is removed or disturbed from the excavation area or areas.
  6. Project members are also responsible for ensuring that photographs by visitors are not taken when and if any excavation locale is not clean of debris and leaves.
  7. Each Project member is responsible for assuring that all material and information necessary for his/her day’s work are in his/her possession or available prior to 7:00am of each working day; this includes but not limited to notes, paper, bags, trowels, heavy equipment, pens, ink, toothbrushes, buckets, etc.
  8. No smoking in or around excavations, laboratories, dining facilities, or Staff kitchen.
  9. There is NO camping at Caracol for the outside public. Should questions arise, please immediately inform all visitors of this policy. Any overnight visitation is at the formal invitation of the Project Directors or the Belize Department of Archaeology only. There will be no exceptions to this policy.
  10. Please be courteous to all visitors. While we realize that tourists may sometimes by wearing, it is imperative that you do not convey such an attitude to them- even if they have done something to overly annoy you.