Rescuing our cultural past. Santa Isabel and the archaeological rescue projects in Guatemala City




Paiz Aragon, Lorena

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Since the move of Guatemala´s capital from the Panchoy Valley to the Ermita Valley, the archaeological remains were doomed to be destroyed and 200 years later this could not be more true. Urban development is erasing the traces of a rich cultural past now hidden under modern houses, malls and football fields. Although the Cultural Heritage Law establishes that archaeological remains must be protected, the same law allows sites to be destroyed if they are excavated first. This has lead to an increase of the “Archaeological Rescue Projects”, where time and pressure restrict the scientific nature of the excavation.

In this work I explore the theory behind rescue projects and how ethical issues can play a big role in th way rescue archaeology is been done in Guatemala. Also, i explore the history of the rescue projects in Guatemala to demonstrate how important is to have a strong cultural law but also a strong sense of responsibility towards our profession. I use the example of rescue projects, Santa Isabel, to highlight the importance of scientific oriented investigations but also the common mistakes that can be done in these projects. Finally, a proposed a series of steps that can improve the quality of the rescue projects with hopes that they can be implemented in other parts of Guatemala.



LCSH Subject Headings