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Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726-2398
Phone: (608) 231-9200
Fax: (608) 231-9592


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Maya Gouge Made of Honduran Rosewood

Ek Way Nal jadeite gouge with rosewood handle. Heather McKillop, Louisiana State University
Ek Way Nal jadeite gouge with rosewood handle. Heather McKillop, Louisiana State University
Snapshot: Handles for wooden tools belonging to Maya elite were crafted from high-quality rosewood.

High-quality jadeite artifacts found at classic Maya sites in Belize were used by the elite in their rituals and ceremonies. The unexpected finding of a jadeite gouge with a rosewood handle, in a submerged salt working site, provides information about the utilitarian use of the tool. The gouge is crafted from high-quality stone, and the wood used for its handle, Dalbergia stevensonii, is used for quality tools even now.

Excavations of the wooden salt kitchens at the site in 2020 (funded by a National Science Foundation grant "Labor Relations in a Traditional Complex Society" to colleagues Heather McKillop and Cory Sills) will address how some small, family-run businesses are organized and why some succeed, while others fail-factors important in the American economy today.

The recognition that rosewood is a superior material for high-quality implements has persisted for thousands of years. Sea-level rise has kept artifacts hidden, but also preserved them. Our hope is that forest preservation policies will continue to preserve the resource for generations to come, although illegal trade in rosewood in neighboring Guatemala and Honduras are critically endangering this species.
Princpal Investigator(s):
 Wiemann, Michael C.

Research Location:
  • Belize

External Partners:
  • American Museum of Natural History April Sievert
  • Heather McKillop
  • Indiana University C. Wayne Smith
  • Louisiana State University (Principal Investigator) George Harlow
  • Texas A&M

Fiscal Year: 2019
Highlight ID: 1322
Related Research Emphasis Areas: