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Tom’s Notes 2015

This trip is significant as we formalized the use of archaeologists who have worked in the areas we are visiting. This made the trips relevant and personal. Skip Messenger told me at some point in my personal journeys to visit Alfonso Morales if/when  I visited Palenque.  When I had a chance I went to his home and met Don Alfonso, someone that became a friend and mentor for close to two decades.  Alfonso showed me the Merle Green Robinson library that is located on his property. This is the site of the original Palenque Rountable Discussions where the first Maya glyphs were translated by Western archeaeologists (Note: While the group visited this library, Alfonso brought out a bound volume to show the group. It was the first translation of a Maya glyph (Pakal) that had been developed at the first roundtable. His father had taken the flip charts and had them de-acidified and bound. We among the first non professionals ever to view this Rosetta Stone volume). 
Alfonso also told stories of his childhood wandering through the site. As he grew older he customized his truck to deal with river crossings and muddy forays into early archaeological sites in what were then heavy forested jungle settings.
This is also the first trip where we formalized the importance of visiting off-the-grid sites. First, we visited a site on Ejido property with limited access to anyone outside of their community. Alfonso’s connections allowed us to gain entry into Plan de Ayutla, a severely looted site with two massive pyramids. On top of one there is an unusual building which Alfonso interpreted as possibly an ancient granary used for maize storage. There are only a handful of these buildings identified in the Late classic period. The other site Chinikiha, was on private property. The site had uninvestigated murals and early PreClassic construction, both of which Alfonso noted was worthy of an organized research project(s).
Additionally we traveled the three and a half hour boat ride on the Usumacinta River between Chiapas and Guatemala, to the seldom visited ancient city of Piedras Negras. The boat ride included heavy rapids, jaguar tracks along the shoreline, a small brocket deer, large caymen sunning on the sand bars or tucked away in log debris along the river banks, a boat full of young migrants escaping from the violence in Honduras and the burial site of epigrapher and renowned Mayanist Tatianna Proskuryakova located at the top of the Pedras Negras pyramid complex overlooking the river. We also had a white linen-covered table for our luncheon at the site (nice touch by Willie Fonseca and his staff from Valle Escondido!!).
This tour was also important as it introduced us to Dr. Julia Miller, PhD. Julia was the tour operator that organized the trip. Julia is a Mayanist who has worked at Copan, Xunantunich, Palenque and other areas. Beside her archaeology training/experience, she is an extremely talented tour operator. She is disciplined and detailed in the logists and quality of  preparation for our groups. She has prepared every trip for us since 2014. We are honored and fortunate to have her work with us.