We were recently contacted with information about this interesting archaeological project:
"The project’s research focuses on a major, hitherto overlooked, and very long-lived ancient Maya city located in the heart of the seminal Southern Maya Zone (SMZ). At an elevation of from 550-1000 m HAE, Chocolá is located in the upper limits of the piedmont or Bocacosta of southwestern Guatemala. The remains represent an ancient city or of associated communities extending conceivably through 6 by 4 kilometers or more than 9 square miles.
Our research has been motivated to investigate, in general, the origins of Maya civilization and, particularly, the material and social-historical processes we hypothesize underlay early developments at Chocolá and as this city participated in seminal events in the Southern Maya area, including the development of Maya hieroglyphic writing, sacred governance, urbanism, and core Maya ideology. Formal research perspectives include ethnic processes, including Maya or proto-Maya/Mixe-Zoque ("Olmec") interaction, the construction of a Maya identity, core-periphery economic systems, sophisticated hydraulics, and intensive cultivation and long-distance monopoly trade in cacao, a commodity of great importance throughout ancient Mesoamerica.
The project employs approximately 100 local persons, and oversees the advanced study of several graduate students from universities in the United States, Great Britain, France, Australia, and Germany as well as many students from Guatemalan universities. Through three seasons (2003-2005), the project has benefited from the assistance 159 Earthwatch (www.earthwatch.org) volunteers, and is anticipating a substantial number in 2006, to assist with essential tasks of reconnaissance, mapping, screening, washing, and marking. Dissemination of results for the benefit of scholarly colleagues will continue in the form of professional papers published and results presented at major venues for Maya and wider anthropological research, and of popular articles and television documentaries.
A more detailed treatment of the Chocolá Archaeological Project’s 2004 results is available in Spanish on the FAMSI (Fundacion para el Avance de los Estudios Mesoamericanos) web site."