Trent University Archaeologists Find Ancient Jade Spoon in Belize


Significant discovery helps explain purpose of Olmec spoons

Thursday, January 24, 2013, Oshawa

Archaeologists from Trent University have discovered a rare jade artefact, one of the first of its kind to be found in an archaeological dig, while excavating the ancient Maya city of Ka’Kabish in Belize.

The six centimetre jade object, known as an Olmec spoon, was unearthed in June 2012 from a 2,700 year old grave beneath the Ka’Kabish plaza along with 16 other jade artefacts. Similar objects have been recovered in Mesoamerica, but this is one of the first times an Olmec spoon has been found in a secure archaeological site.

“Examples of these objects exist in museums, but they are largely from private collections, meaning they lack the archaeological details necessary for us to understand how and when these pieces were used,” said Dr. Haines, assistant professor of Anthropology at Trent University and Ka’Kabish research project director. “These objects are rare to begin with and this is one of only two of this type that have been found undisturbed.”

Professor Haines said her team’s discovery will help answer questions about how Olmec spoons were used. “We found the object buried with dozens of marine shell beads so, in this case, we know it was worn on a necklace,” she said.

The purpose of Olmec spoons is still unknown. Other researchers have speculated that they were used for snuffing hallucinogens or bloodletting or even weaving. Based on the location of the grave and the number of jade artefacts recovered, Prof. Haines believes the person buried there could be one of the city’s founders. Prof. Haines is writing an article about her team’s findings that she hopes to have published in an academic journal this year.

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For more information, please contact: Dr. Helen Haines, 905-435-5102 ext. 5045