Current Lab Members

Lisa Lucero
Lisa Lucero

Filming of Looter's Trench 1 at Yalbac Acropolis. Photo by Bil Phillips.

Lucero CV

Lisa J. Lucero, PI, VOPA, obtained her Ph.D. in 1994 from UCLA and currently is a Professor in the Anthropology Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her interests focus on the emergence and demise of political power, ritual, water management, climate change and civilization, and the Classic Maya. She has been conducting archaeology projects in Belize for over 20 years; her most recent project involves heading diving expeditions into cenotes looking for ancient Maya offerings and evidence for climate and landscape histories (supported by National Geographic Society and National Science Foundation). She serves on the American Anthropological Association Task Force on Climate Change (2011-2014). Lucero has been working since 2008 with Roland Fletcher (Director, Greater Angkor Project; professor, University of Sydney) on a comparative project on low-density urbanism, water management, and sustainability in the Tropics.

Andrew Kinkella

Dr. Andrew Kinkella is all wet after a dive to look for artifacts in Cara Blanca's Pool 1, with the National Geographic sponsored team in 2010.

Kinkella CV

My time with VOPA began in 1997, when Lisa and I drove her 1979 Ford Bronco into the Valley of Peace for the first time. As the field director for the project, I have worked at Saturday Creek and Yalbac over the years, but my specialty has always been settlement survey and cenote research conducted at the Cara Blanca Pools. Because we have 25 cenotes in our research area, I am able to focus on cenotes and their relationship to the surrounding settlement. I conducted my dissertation research from 2002-2008, where I mapped an 11-kilometer-long transect beginning at Yalbac and running along the first 16 of the 25 pools, and experienced the underwater world of the Maya as I dove several pools. In 2009, I received my PhD from the University of California, Riverside, with my dissertation entitled "Draw of the Sacred Water: An Archaeological Survey of the Ancient Maya Settlement at the Cara Blanca Pools, Belize." In my post-PhD world, I have continued my research at the Cara Blanca Pools, mapping in settlement at the remaining pools and joining new dive teams as they explore the depths. Since 2004, I have been a full-time faculty member at Moorpark College in Southern California. If you are still curious about my experiences in VOPA archaeology, feel free to visit my blog.

Colleen Lindsay

Collecting botanical specimens with Cleofo Choc, my field assistant

Lindsay CV

I have been a member of the VOPA project since my arrival at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2008. I finished two Master's degrees (Anthropology and Plant Biology) in Fall 2011 and am currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology. I am interested in discovering if the Maya around Yalbac were modifying their environment into "forest gardens". These forest gardens are important in determining the environmental footprint left by the Maya as well as a key to how the forest restructured itself after the Classic Maya abandoned their centers. To test this, I am comparing living plant samples from around Yalbac and pollen composition differences in cenote core layers from Cara Blanca. I am also sampling modern Maya home gardens to determine if the same techniques employed by the Maya of Yalbac are still in use today. The study of Classic Maya (250-900 A.D.) forest management, through botanical surveys of flora adjacent to and surrounding the secondary Maya center of Yalbac located in north-central Belize, can be used to address issues of sustainability and forest resilience.

Jessica Harrison
Jessica Harrison

Excavating a housemound at Baking Pot, a Classic Period site in the Belize River Valley.

Harrison CV

I joined the VOPA project in August 2011 as a first year graduate student in the Anthropology PhD program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. My interest in household archaeology and human-environment interaction will be explored in my future dissertation research assessing how local farming communities administered the use of the regionally ritually important Cara Blanca pools, which form an important landscape where sacred and mundane resources intersect. My dissertation project will evaluate the history of the Classic Period (A.D. 250-900) occupation of the sacred, resource-rich landscape of Cara Blanca, central Belize through an analysis of the features and artifacts recovered from excavating several houses at Pool 7. My dissertation will contribute a new perspective to the broad, interdisciplinary VOPA research endeavor by exploring of the daily lives and regional interactions of the prehispanic Maya who constructed and inhabited Cara Blanca.

In Memoriam

Mr. Scott

Mr. Scott in 2005

Don Luna

Don Luna in 2004

We lost two of our VOPA friends in 2011. Don Luna (Isabel Ascencio) August 6, 2011 and Mr. Scott (Zedikiah Scott) on October 12, 2011. They both will be sorely missed, Don Luna for his sage advice and smile, and Mr. Scott for his Creole sayings and great stories.