Ancient Tools Unearthed in Belize Highlight Climate Change and Early Immigration

An archaeological dig in Belize recently uncovered some of humankind’s earliest tools – and shows how immigration and climate change have impacted on the Americas long before there were borders or scientists, according to The Lodge at Chaa Creek’s Belize Natural History Centre.

New archaeological discoveries in Belize highlight the impacts of immigration and climate change on the ancient Americas, according to The Lodge at Chaa Creek.

Brion Young, manager of Chaa Creek’s Belize Natural History Centre, said the recent discoveries of some of humankind’s earliest tools have relevance to these two contemporary issues.

“We were interested to hear about the recent discovery of these ancient tools in Belize, and then were fascinated to read the archaeologists’ reports linking those tools to early immigration and climate change.

“When you study ancient history, it sometimes feels like a case of ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same,’” Mr. Young said.

He was referring to recent media attention on a University of New Mexico (UNM) archaeological dig in Belize’s Bladen Nature Reserve after researchers unearthed some of the earliest stone tools ever used in southern Mesoamerica.

For example, a 22 July, 2019 article in the online Science Daily, described “waves of immigrants” coming from North America after the ice age some 13,000 years ago, bringing tool technologies that the earliest Belizean settlers used to adapt to a changing environment.

The September 2019 issue of Popular Archaeologyalso ran the story with the lead paragraph explaining that, “From the perspective of Central and South America, the peopling of the New World was a complex process lasting thousands of years and involving multiple waves of Pleistocene and early Holocene period immigrants entering into the Neotropics”.


Keith Prufer, a UNM Department of Anthropology professor, and lead author of the Bladen dig report, said, “This is an area of research for which we have very poor data regarding early humans, though this UNM-led project is expanding our knowledge of human behavior and relationships between people in North, Central and South America.”

Mr. Young said the discovery of the tools at the Bladen Nature Reserve dig – a collaboration between the University of New Mexico, Belize’s Ya’axche Conservation Trust and local Maya communities, shows what can be accomplished when overseas and local groups work together, and contributes to our understanding of the development of the vast ancient Maya civilization that flourished in Belize and the region.

“Tools helped ancient people evolve from hunter-gatherers to developing farming and other hallmarks of civilization. Here at Chaa Creek’s Belize Natural History Centre we’re continually learning more about the development of the ancient Maya civilization and their amazing advances in mathematics, astronomy, science and medicine.

“An early civilization that developed a written language, papermaking, and vast libraries in these remote rainforests didn’t just spring up out of nowhere.

“And this is another intriguing piece of the fascinating Maya puzzle,” he said.

As Professor Prufer explained, more work is needed “to better understand how knowledge and technologies were shared, and will contribute to our understanding of processes that eventually led to the development of agriculture and sedentary communities.”

Mr. Young added that such discoveries also drive interest in cultural tourism, an area of travel Chaa Creek particularly promotes with tours of ancient Maya temples, cities, ceremonial caves and other archaeological sites. Village visits, specially focused all-inclusive Belize vacation packages, and onsite attractions such as the Belize Natural History Centre’s exhibits, cultural cooking classes at the new Open Hearth representational kitchen, and other activities offered within the eco-resort’s 400-acre private nature reserve explore cultures and make history come alive for visitors.

It’s all part of a commitment to sustainable tourism and responsible travel, he said.

“If visitors can enjoy all the things that make for a great vacation – comfortable accommodations, great food, luxurious amenities and enjoyable activities, and learn something interesting at the same time, travel becomes that much more satisfying.

“Also, with new technologies such as LiDAR, which uses laser pulses to create accurate models of features hidden under dense forest canopies, archaeology in Belize is becoming more and more exciting for everyone, from professional researchers to amateurs and tourists.

“And with so much of our country still unexplored, who knows what else is waiting to be discovered within the vast tracts of protected wilderness and under the Caribbean seas,” Mr. Young said.

The Lodge at Chaa Creek is a multi-award winning eco resort set within a 400-acre private nature reserve along the banks of the Macal River in Belize. It was recognized by National Geographic with first place honors at the 2017 World Legacy Awards held in Berlin.

The ancient Maya temple of Xunantunich surrounded by greenery and blue skies

Belize has a wealth of ancient Maya temples and archaeological sites

It sometimes feels like a case of ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same.’