University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

El Paraíso Region Archaeological Project (PAREP)

Fellow Ellen E. Bell is co-director of the El Paraíso Region Archaeological Project, which was established in 2002. The El Paraíso Valley is located in northwestern Honduras, and was part of the Classic Maya Kingdom of Copan. In the Classic period (AD 400–900), the valley included two large centers, now known as El Paraíso and El Cafetal, which are separated by a distance of only 1.5 km. Archaeological evidence suggests that the inhabitants of each site had ties of varying closeness with neighboring centers: the residents of El Paraíso were more closely affiliated with the Maya centers of Copan (27 km to the southwest) and Quirigua (30 km to the north), while residents of El Cafetal had closer ties to the site of El Puente (20 km to the east). The close proximity of two large, contemporaneous centers in the region allows for an investigation into contact among disparate groups in the surrounding area, shifting alliances, and conflict.

PAREP explores questions of administrative strategies and other issues through an integrated program of archaeological reconnaissance, mapping, excavation, and analysis. PAREP includes a cultural anthropology program, which is currently focused on the compilation of oral histories. In addition, a community outreach program engages local residents in the investigation, protection, and development of the archaeological sites in the region. The staff at PAREP is composed of researchers from the U.S., Honduras, and Europe, including professional archaeologists, undergraduate and graduate students from colleges and universities in Honduras and the U.S., and local residents.

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