Caracol, an archaeological site of Mayan ruins has been heavily studied by a team of UCF professors. On Oct. 18, in celebration of National Archaeology Day, the team won second place in an international competition hosted by the Archaeology Institute of America.
The leaders of the Caracol site are Arlen and Diane Chase, the associate dean and executive vice provost of UCF's Department of Anthropology, but more important, they are a husband and wife archaeologist team who have been working on the site at Caracol for 30 years.
Their extensive work has reshaped the way archaeologists and historians study Mayan culture and their hard work has not gone unnoticed. They are somewhat of archaeological celebrities having been featured in Newsday, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, USA Today and TIME.
University spokesman Grant Heston was an avid supporter in getting the word out about the competition and trying to help the Chase team because he believes they are some of the best professors that UCF has to offer and have played a huge role in shaping the UCF community.
"Through their dedicated and innovative archaeology work, UCF students have learned how to mine the past for insights about today," Heston said. "At the same time, the world has shared in the knowledge gained from Diane and Arlen's decades of research in the jungles of Belize."
Although it may be minuscule compared to being featured in TIME or the Washington Post, Caracol was placed in a popularity contest where anyone could vote based off the photo and small description provided by the Archaeology Institute of America. The competition, called ArchaeoMadness, mimicked basketball's March Madness brackets and the games began on Sept. 17 and ended on Oct. 17.
Dr. Arlen Chase didn't even know that Caracol was in the competition until he received a call from Melissa Badillo, a Caracol team member from the Institute of Archaeology in Belize. Bedillo was very excited to see the recognition the Belize-based site would get from this battle of the tournament.
"We were very excited with the support Caracol received in the early rounds, which allowed us to move on. The staff here at the Institute of Archaeology was thrilled that Caracol was able to get in to the final four," Bedillo said. "We realized that we could possibly win and that would create some very good publicity for Belize and especially for Caracol."
As Caracol made its way through the brackets, easily defeating almost every other site, the championship round came down to a fierce battle between Caracol and Angkor Wat, a site found in Cambodia.
Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world and has been studied by archaeologists from Europe, Australia and the U.S. The site was a force to be reckoned with in the championship round on Oct. 17 and in the end Caracol lost by only 3 percent of the vote.
"Although in the end we were a bit short, it was an awesome experience for us to see Caracol in the competition and having done so well. That this event allowed international recognition of the importance of Belize and our archaeological sites such as Caracol, is win enough for us at the Belize Institute of Archaeology," Bedillo said.