In 1983 archaeologists from the Museum of Anthropology in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, recovered a large stone shaft from the river bed at La Mojarra in southern Veracruz Mexico. Known today as La Mojarra Stela 1, the monument's face features a striking human figure and a very long hieroglyphic text in an unknown script. Dates expressed in ancient Mesoamerica's Long Count calendric system included in the text place its carving in the 2nd century of our era, what archaeologists call the Terminal Formative period. However, the language of the text and its decipherment remain contentious issues even today.
In 1995 I led a joint University of Alabama-University of Veracruz archaeological project at La Mojarra with the financial support of the National Geographic Society and both universities. Our goals were to learn about the site and above all to discover additional monuments with texts in what is now called the Isthmian or Epi-Olmec Script. This web page relates the history and results of that project, its successes and high points as well as its failures and disappointments. I hope to give the reader insights into what we did as well as why and how we did it. In addition, I want share the daily experiences of our project as an example of what happens on an "average" archaeological field project in Mexico or anywhere else. Our project was unique, as all archaeological projects are, and yet most follow certain very similar trajectories. Accompany me then as I reconstruct a five month episode in my fifty year career as an archaeologist. Although it occurred fifteen years ago, the Proyecto La Mojarra remains as fresh in my mind as this morning's breakfast, and as pleasant to think and write about as it was to experience it first hand. I only wish we could do it all over again!
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The La Mojarra Chronicle: An Illustrated Account of an Archaeological Investigation in Veracruz, Mexico (9.96 MB)
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