Mentors make a difference! I was fortunate enough to collect several of the very best. They were all quite different, yet the qualities they shared had a lasting impact on my work in several fields, including archaeology and scholarship. Their shared traits were high performance expectations, integrity and intellectual honesty, and a problem-solving attitude. They all granted decision-making authority early. These values left a lasting mark on me. The men are my father and good friend, Robert E. Witschey, my professor, business advisor, and good friend, Paul M. Hammaker, and my business partner and good friend, W. Gibson Harris, Esq. My best thanks to them is a continuing sincere effort on my part to pass along these values to younger people.
Three generations of family have supported my doctoral program with their enthusiasm, generosity and hard work. My mother, Elizabeth T. Witschey and my in-laws Virginia and Walter Vincent have been involved participants from the first day. My wife, Joan V. Witschey, has carried far more than half the burden in terms of her emotional and financial support, editorial efforts, policy guidance, and field work — from labor relations to field cook, and sherd-washing to chauffeuring. The threats to marriage by doctoral programs are legion — but our bond has grown stronger. My children have been helpful participants, even when dragooned into support. All traveled to Mexico at various times with me. In the 1987 field season, when I was too new at the game to recruit a field crew of graduate students, daughter Anne Witschey and son Schon Parris (and cousin Will Riley), all undergraduates, trained for and went into the field with me as my survey party. In 1990, Walter Witschey II, then nine, accompanied me in the field for three weeks, serving daily on an excavation crew, screening material for artifacts and making his own unique field notes.
I have acknowledged below my many Mexican associates who contributed to this work, but I owe a special thank you to Elia del Carmen Trejo Alvarado, Archeologist and Investigator for the Centro Regional de Quintana Roo, INAH for her help, guidance, and extraordinary hard work. When I first met Hely in the Cancun office of the Centro Regional, it was a few days before our first Muyil field season began. Our tentative introductions blossomed into a friendship and professional association with Muyil that allowed us to move forward in co-directorship. Hely participated in all three Muyil field seasons and in both of our extended laboratory sessions, as well as expending additional efforts throughout the period of our work at Muyil to date. She brought to our project more than a decade of field experience excavating Maya sites on the east coast of Quintana Roo, and a similarly deep background in the analysis of the ceramics of the area. Much of the work we accomplished, I could not have done myself. More than anyone else, Hely provided me the continuous and extended on-the-job training that archaeology requires.
George S. Stuart of the National Geographic Society provided my first strong impetus to associate with Tulane. We first met in 1982, and in the spring of 1985, when I described my intentions to convert myself from an avid but amateur reader and tourist of the Maya area to an intellectually-informed and serious student of Maya archaeology, George said, "visit Tulane quickly." That led, in days, to my enrolling in Tulane, and uprooting my family from two decades of living in Richmond, Virginia, to move to New Orleans and enter Tulane in the fall of 1985.
At Tulane, I was encouraged by Will Andrews, Ed Edmonson, and Dave Davis to enter the doctoral program, and so together (with George Stuart) these four individuals altered forever my life's path. After meeting with them in May of 1985, my intentions to become a qualified professional archaeologist in the Maya area were irrevocably ignited.
E. Wyllys Andrews V has, since May of 1985, served as my faculty advisor, thesis chairman, and dissertation chairman. He has unselfishly given his time and counsel on all professional matters and guided my past seven years of work. We have examined together the archaeology of the East Coast as well as the trials of raising and educating teenagers. He has assisted my fund-raising efforts at Tulane and elsewhere. After a seven-year association, I delight in adding him to my list of mentors. Further, he has graciously incorporated his entire family into my support network: his wife, Patty, has aided and entertained graciously and frequently, his three children have served as baby-sitters to the Witschey household, his brother Tony of New College of USF has permitted my access to his own library and extensive work on the coast of Yucatan, his sister and brother, Wiggie and David have shared hospitality and photographs, and Joann Andrews was a frequent visitor to the site who warmly supported the laboratory work in Merida during August, 1990 with her help to get settled in Merida and by the loan of an ancient VW minivan to transport sherds.
Dan M. Healan has served on my orals committee as well as on both my thesis and dissertation committees. Dan has particularly aided me in two areas: first, he has significantly raised my understanding of statistical analysis as applied to archaeology, and second, he has relentlessly and tough-mindedly urged me to ask intelligent questions of broad import, and to pursue their answers with scientific diligence. Dan has been a constant and friendly reminder to extract all possible information from the hard data, but to assert not a syllable more than the data supports.
Vicki Bricker, who served on my thesis committee, and Harvey Bricker, who served on my dissertation committee have likewise generously aided me over the past seven years. Both of these transplanted Maya archaeologists, (Vicki from highland Maya cultural anthropology to epigraphy and Harvey from the French Paleolithic to Maya astronomy and calendrics) have been supportive of my work, and have given encouragement and shared expertise far beyond Maya archaeology into the areas of academic policy and administration, and computer analysis.
Ed and Barbara Edmonson have been a steady source of encouragement during the seven years of the dissertation process. Their hospitality and their sincere concern for my success on a day-by-day basis were of irreplacable value. All dissertation writers suffer highs and lows. The Edmonsons made the highs higher and the lows bearable.
My field work and my degree requirements demanded a working knowledge of Spanish. As a West Virginia native, my Spanish vocabulary was limited to "Ole!." At Tulane I met and developed an extraordinary personal friendship with Professor Francis Ferrié in the Department of Spanish. Through his guidance I acquired sufficient proficiency to converse, read, write, and conduct business with my Mexican colleagues in their language. Through his near-daily encouragement, I have labored long hours at my word-processor to bring this dissertation to fruition.
Tulane University is truly filled with people of goodwill who have taken it on their shoulders in one way or another to help me succeed and whom I profusely thank here: Judith Maxwell, Elizabeth Watts, Bill Menery, Dick Greenleaf, Gene Yeager, George Flowers, Anne Bradburn, Tom Niehaus, Ruth Olivera, Martha Robertson, Fran Lawrence, Lou Barrilleaux, Rick Marksbury, Warren Duclos, John Trapany, Harold and Emily Vokes, Ruth Barnes, Jed Diem, Rick Woodruff, and the staff of Tulane Computing Services.
Thanks to Bill Ringle (now of Davidson College) and George Bey (now of Millsaps College) who took me under their wings and into their Ek Balam project during the summer of 1986. It was my first taste of Maya archaeology — any kind of field archaeology — and we went to work with both laser transits and field computers for evening reduction of daily survey data. We carried these practices forward into the three Muyil field seasons. Thanks to Ed Kurjack (who asked, "What is a test pit?") and to Charles Duller for his aerial insights. Thanks to Jackie and Dick Coulon.
The field crews at Muyil included several students in professional capacities whose hard work and intelligent examination of our field data were important contributions: in 1988, Clifford T. Brown (who insisted I pass oral exams and then coached me to success), Craig Hanson (who first spotted the eastern sacbe segments, Rachel Hamilton, and Gordon Archer; and in 1990, Jodi Brandehoff, Brian K. Sullivan and Donna Sullivan, Dave Rote, Tony Thibodeaux, Raymond Granadillo, and Andrea Dorneich.
This thank-you would not be complete without mention of my special friend, Mike Commardelle, who worked with me at Ek Balam, and who introduced me to numerous Indian sites along the crevasses of the Mississippi. Together we surveyed colonial-era house mounds in the Jean Lafitte National Park (Barataria). Mike undertook the major responsibility of transporting our entire field camp to Mexico in 1990; he dealt with ancient equipment, poorly maintained prior to his taking over, a 2200-mile (one-way) expedition, and in an astonishingly short time, established a field operation for us in Muyil with power, water, sewer, gas, and all essential creature comforts.
Thanks also to the industrious men of Chumpom, macheteros extraordinarios, who revealed Muyil to us from under its siege of dense vegetation, and who also brought me a clearer understanding of the Maya world of today and the forces for change sweeping over it now as they did 500 years ago.
The assistance of other professional archaeologists and staff members of the INAH played an important role in our efforts to undertake the work of Proyecto Chunyaxché. First among these is Maria Rocío González de la Mata. In one of our conversations at Ek Balam, it was she who suggested that I dig Muyil, and she who suggested that I try to involve Hely Trejo in the project. Both suggestions bore plentiful fruit.
Fernando Cortés de Brasdefer, as Director of the Centro Regional de Quintana Roo, INAH, in Chetumal, has gone out of his way to provide administrative support, project approvals, staff assistance, and other essentials of modern archaeology. Archaeologists Luis Leira, Enrique Terrones, who have become good friends, and the other archaeologists and staff of the Cancun office of the Centro Regional de Quintana Roo, INAH have lent support and insight in a variety of important ways from artifact identification to restaurant recommendations.
Alfredo Barrera Rubio and his associates of the Centro Regional de Yucatán in Merida generously provided laboratory space and support services as well as assistance identifying ceramics at the Ceramoteca for the month of August, 1990. Our work would have suffered greatly without the ready access they provided to the sherd collections from the peninsula. I especially thank Fernando Robles Castellanos, whose work at Coba so greatly influenced our analyses, Ruben Maldenado, and Beatriz Quintal.
Lastly among my Mexican colleagues, but perhaps most importantly for their distinct contribution, I want to thank Mstrª Lorena Mirabell Silva, Presidenta del Consejo de Arqueología del INAH, who encouraged my professional work and guided my personal efforts, and the other members of the Consejo, plus Arqlgº Angel Garcia Cook, Director de Arqueología del INAH, Dr. César M. Moheno, Coordinador Nacional de Centros Regionales, and Arqlgº Roberto García Moll, Director General del INAH. They extended every personal and professional courtesy to me throughout the five years of this project. Their high standards for archaeology and preservation of Mexico's past serve as an excellent example to the rest of the world.
Modern archaeology is expensive, and I want to thank the organizations and individuals who helped support Proyecto Chunyaxché with operating funds and/or the loan of equipment: the Tinker Foundation; the Mesoamerican Ecology Institute; the Tulane Graduate Student Support Fund; the Center for Archaeology of the Department of Anthropology of Tulane University; my own family; anonymous donors; and especially the Middle American Research Institute. ...Thanks to all of you.
© Copyright 2000-2005 Walter R. T. Witschey Page last updated Wednesday, April 02, 2008