The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Excavations of St. George’s Caye Cemetery, Belize


Department of Anthropology, Texas State University, San Marcos

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

St. George’s Caye is remembered in Belizean history not only for the pivotal role it played in securing independence from Spain in the late 1700s, but also because it informally acted as the first capital of the nation. Over 200 years later, very little is known about the small group of buccaneers-turned-logwood cutters that inhabited the caye during the 18th and 19th centuries. The St. George’s Caye Archaeological Project was initiated in 2009 with the goal of uncovering information regarding early settlers’ lives.

St. George’s Caye Cemetery is dated to approximately the 18th century and the 2011 excavations recovered 18 individuals. Thirteen of the burials excavated contained one individual each, while an additional four burials were partially commingled, either by natural forces or human intent. Skeletal preservation of the site was impressive and most burials included elements of both the appendicular and axial skeleton. Sex and age estimates for individuals were based on morphological and metric analyses. Individual age-at-death estimates range from sub-adult to older adult, with middle adults being the most widely represented at 50.0%. Additionally, 46.7% of the adult sample was estimated as male, 13.3% as female, and the remaining 40.0% were indeterminate. The high percentage of indeterminate and male estimations coupled with the low percentage of females could indicate low levels of sexual dimorphism among the sample. Hypoplasia was evident in 92.3% of individuals with adhering dentition. Associated artifacts included coconut-shell buttons, a candle snuffer, a silver coin, and a metal coffin plate containing identifying information.

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