CUNY Students On Mission To Piece Together Ancient Mayan Vase

Mack Rosenberg
September 30, 2019 - 2:43 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — A group of CUNY students have slowly been putting together  the pieces on an ancient artifact discovered in Belize.

In 2017, a rare item came across the desk of Bronx Community College lab director Nicaela Cartagena — 20 dirt-covered fragments of an ancient Mayan vase.

"They just kinda put it one piece in front of me, and I'm like,'Oh my god, what is this?'" Cartagena recalled.

The pieces were found at a burial site in a palace courtyard by a crew led by CUNY chemistry professor Sheldon Skaggs, beginning a years-long mission to complete a 1200-year old vase.

"We were finding pieces of it scattered within nine feet of the burial itself and when we located the main burial going down we were finding pieces throughout the fill as we went down into the burial," Skaggs said. "You can put it together and know it's size, but we're still missing probably 30-40% of the vase."

Skaggs said the marble vase could've been a type of item given as gifts between rulers.

In a statement, Skaggs notes that the work was performed under the Government of Belize, National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) and Institute of Archaeology (IA) permit issued to Dr. Terry Powis of Kennesaw State University in Georgia. Belize students also worked on the project and all artifacts remain in Belize under the control of the IA.

The crew has gone back to the site several times, finding more parts this past summer.

Cartagena said the plan is to go back.

"I'm pretty sure if we continue digging in that area we will find all the pieces to the vessel," she said.