Updated October 25, 2013
going December 5-6-7, 2013. "Site Q", "La Corona", which, in
it's heyday was called Sak Nikte' ("White Flower"), with 36
people. An exclusive trip. All 36 have been filled.
We are at it again. At El Mirador in 2011,
we were just 20 people interested in exploring faraway Maya
sites. At Tak'alik Ab'aj, in 2012, we were now 43 of
"Mr Cernikovsky's Friends of Archaeology", as Christa
Schieber, the director of that site called us after she and
Marion Popenoe Hatch were able to determine, with our donation
for radio carbon dating tests, that indeed they discovered the
oldest Maya burial in Mesoamerica found to date.
After all, we have all been to Tikal, Copan, Uaxactun, Yaxha,
Palenque, Chichen Itza and all the accessible sites. But
now we want to go deeper, further away from the routine trips and
not like tourists. We want
to do it with friends, in luxury, and guided by archeaologists
who actually work on the site. We want to learn and we want to
contribute a little bit. At El Mirador, the director,
Richard Hansen, sent with us one of his seasoned archaeologists,
Enrique Hernandez, to guide us around. See:
http://www.cernikovsky.com/Mirador.htm. On our
Tak'alik Ab'aj tour, we had a detailed presentation about the
site by the expert, Marion Popenoe, see:
has been excavated since 2008 by Tomas Barrientos, of the
Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (Marion Popenoe's student and
the Director of the Archaeology Department that she founded) and
Marcelo Canuto, of Tulane University. See:
http://mari.tulane.edu/PRALC/ for many details of the site.
They, and the project Director, Analy Montenegro, will be our
guides at la Corona. Scroll down the page for more.
This page will give you information about the
trip and it will be updated as the plans firm up, with details
and the list of people going.
This trip will be
over three days, with TACA (now AVIANCA) and three helicopters. It costs a bit more than El
Mirador, but is a longer trip. A visit to the lab in
Guatemala City where some of the best pieces from the dig are
kept, and a presentation in an UVG auditorium by the leading
archaeologists. Two days in a hotel in Flores with all
meals included, and , for everyone, 6 hours at the La Corona
site. The thrill of a first class helicopter flight from
Helicopters do Guatemala, the best local heli company. It costs $995 per person.
The maximum is 36 people, but in
that includes the two main archaeologists and the site's
director. All 36 seats have already been
Cernikovsky's Friends of Archaeology" third
trip. I quite like the
name, so let's stick with it for now.
The price of
the trip again includes a donation to the site and the dig.
In this case, they already have a wishlist: a couple of Radio
Carbon tests in a Miami lab! They are in the middle of nowhere,
about 85 kilometers northwest of Flores, as the crow flies, in the jungle, toward
Mexico. A totally unique experience. When we go,
there will not be excavations going on ... they bring 85
people to work in April and May, but the jefes y expertos
will guide us through the site. It will be done in total
luxury, with a nice hotel and meals included ... there is a list
below of details.
HASA is arranging our flights and you can use them, too, for your travel
Click to visit them to learn of their services.
Thursday December 5
09:30 - Meet at our house, for a
briefing in the VIP Departure Area
10:00 - Two buses leave for Guatemala City
11:30 - Presentation in a UVG auditorium. "Brown bag lunch".
Introduction of the site directors, Tomas Barrientos & Jocelyne Ponce.
Tomas is the Director of the UVG Deapartment of Archaeology which marion
Hatch Popenoe founded. Jocelyn is an UVG archaeologist who discoverd,
in 2012, the decorated stairway at la Corona with the longest Maya text ever
found in Mesoamerica. They will be going with us to the site.
13:30 - Visit the UVG La Corona Project Lab, near the UVG
campus, where some of the more valuable pieces found at La Corona are being
14:30 - one bus leaves for the heliport, with 15 people,
the other, with 20, for the Museo de Arqueologia, near the airport.
15:00 - three helicopters leave from
Helicopteros de Guatemala, for Flores, E.T.A. 16:45 at the Hotel Maya
International heliport. The heliopters stay at the heliport overnight.
15:00 - 20 people visit the Museo de Arqueologia,
where the team of La Corona recently donated one of the most valuable pieces
found at the site.
16:00 - bus leaves the Museum for the airport,
21 people check it at TACA
18:20 - TACA 7978
arrives Flores 19:30, transfer to the nearby Hotel Maya Internacional
20:15 - Dinner at the hotel
Friday December 6
06:14 - Sunrise
06:30-- 7:30 Breakfast
- three helicopters leave Hotel Maya heliport for La Corona, 85 km
northwest, with 18 people and drinks for lunch. The site is at N 17°
31' 42.2" and W 90° 22' 46.1" E.T.A. 08:30 The
helicopters return empty to Flores.
The first group, if they like,
can make a hike to a watchtower some 30 minutes away, which rises above the
canopy and return to meet the second group. The second group can make
the same hike in the afternoon, while the first group has left for Flores.
The archaeologists will have a 4WD vehicle available if someone does not
want to walk.
09:00 - helicopters return to Maya International heliport
09:15 - helicopters leave with the other 18 people plus sandwiches
09:45 - we now have 36 people at La Corona. The
helicopters stay all day at La Corona heliport. The heliport is about
1,500 meters from the site and 1,000 from the site camp.
10:30 - 13:00 tour of Sak Nikte' ... La Corona, with Tomas Barrrientos,
Marcelo canuto and Analy Montenegro
13:00 - 14:00 lunch, at the
La Corona Camp.
Grilled Chicken or pork chops, rice or potatoes, fresh salad, hand made
hot tortillas, portion of fresh fruit, cold beverages (soda, juice or
beer), pure water
14:00 - 15:00
free time on your own, sightsee, ask questions, relax, have a beer,
whatever. People in the second group will now have plenty of time to
walk, if they want, to the lookout tower nearby.
- first group of 18 makes it to the heliport
- three helicopters leave la Corona heliport for Maya International
with 18 people, E.T.A. 15:45. The helicopters return
empty to La Corona.
helicopters return with the second group of 18, for Hotel Maya
International, E.T.A. 17:00. The helicopters stay at
the heliport overnight.
Free time, have a swim in the pool, relax, have a drink, go
for a short trip to the island of Flores
17:32 - sunset
19:00 - dinner
at the hotel
go back to the top ^
Flight from Flores to Sak Nikte' - La Corona, 85 km. Click to see
a much larger image
Saturday December 7
06:30-- transfer to the Mundo Maya airport, near the hotel, for 20
people travelling on TACA 7979 to Guatemala City. Grab a breakfast at
06:30 - 7:30 breakfast
08:05 - TACA 7979 leaves for Guatemala City with 20
people, three helicopters leave for Guatemala with 15
09:10 - TACA arrives in Guatemala. One bus will meet 20
people and take them home to Antigua
09:45 - helicopters return to the Helicopteros de Guatemala hangar,
where a second bus will wait for the 15 people and take them home to Antigua
When you get home, you can go on Facebook and post your photos of the
La Corona panel, click to see a larger image.
What is Site Q ?
Why should you join the tour ?
First of all, the La
Corona site is so remote and inaccessible, that if you don't come with us,
you will never again have the opportunity to see it unless someone repeats
the recipe on this page and assembles another group to make it an economical
Second, La Corona is rapidly being excavated and more
and more fascinating pieces are being discovered. Below are some links
to articles of interest.
Why is called "Site Q" ? In the
1960's, a number of valuable items, several of them depicting ball players,
were sold by a dealer into collections in Paris, Zurich, New York and a
beautiful piece was acquired by the Chicago Art Institute. See
details here. A Yale graduate student, Peter Matthews, spotted
that they were all so similar, they must have been robbed from the same
site. But which one ? "Site Que ?"
Read more here. (It is now known that some of the pieces came from
another site, not far away, called Peru - Waáá, which may well be the
subject of Mr. Cernikovsky's Friends of Archaeology trip in 2014.)
For years, the Site Q was known only from looted archaeological material on
sale on the art market, but its location was unknown. In 2005, a team
of archaeologists led by Marcelo Canuto, then at Yale, found confirmation of
Site Q, during a mission to the norhwest Peten. He was just mapping
the site for 5 days. On their last full day, he was setting up a GPS
device, but it takes 10-15 minutes to lock onto satellites, so he left it
for a walk. He found a trench, dug by robbers, the trench narrowed
into a tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, the evidence included
an in-situ panel carved with over 140 hieroglyphs that fill in a key 30 year
chapter in classic Maya history.
Read more on that here. Marcello Canuto, now with Tulane
University, divides his life between New Orleans and Antigua.
Since 2008, Canuto and
Tomas Barrientos, head of the Archaeology Department at the Universidad
del Valle de Guatemala, have led excavations at la Corona.
2012, they found a 1,300-year-old-year Maya text that provides only the
second known reference to the so-called “end date” of the Maya calendar,
December 21, 2012. The discovery, one of the most significant hieroglyphic
finds in decades,
announced last June.
“This text talks about ancient
political history rather than prophecy,” says Canuto. What Canuto and
Barrientos found was the longest text ever discovered in Guatemala. Carved
on staircase steps, it records 200 years of La Corona history ... we are
going to see this before our trip to the site and their workshop at the
Universidad del Valle de Guatemala.
La Corona history
the history in a good
Prensa Libre article from August 2012, which quotes Tomas Barrientos
throughout. The site rivalled Calakmul and Tikal in its day.
Between 300-600 A.D., Period "Ek", the whole main plaza was constructed.
In 520 arrived Ix Naah Ek, the first lady of the Ek kingdom, the wife of the
king Tuun K'aa' Hix and her daughter married a prince. 600-700 A.D.,
Period Yuknoom, the golden age of Sak Nikte' ("White flower") as the site
was called in its day. The kings of Calakmul wove a network of
alliances through much of the Peten and because the rulers on Sak Nikte'
were related to them, in this period, there was much construction,
especially the group "Las Coronitas", explains Barrientos. The last period,
700-800 A.D., the city grown slows down and it begins to disintegrate.
However, even then another important queen arrived from Calakmul. The
last date on any construction at the site is 805 A.D.
consists of 67 structures so far identified, 7 panels, 2 stelas, five altars
and seven monuments.
Links of interest:
The main website of the
Archaeological Project with lots of news and links to additional
Site Q ...
how was it found a fascinating story ...
BBC report 2012
REVUE March 2013 ...
Dra. Marion Popenoe and Tomas Barientos
Prensa Libre history of La Corona
go back to the top ^
La Corona team ... Tomas Barrientos on the left, Marcello Canuto on the
right, in the San Nikte' camp. Analy Montenegro, project director, in
white shirt, fifth from right in the front row.
They will all be
travelling with us and will be our guides on December 6, 2013.
December 5 - 6 - 7, 2013
... What does the trip cost and what does it include ?
cost is $995 per person and it includes
- bus from Antigua to Universidad del Valle de Guatemala for a visit
to La Corona lab and a presentation about the site, its history, and the
excavations, with a sandwich lunch
- bus to the airport
- entry to the Museo de Arqueologia for people travelling on TACA to
see one of La Corona's best pieces
- helicopter transportation for 15 people Guatemala - Flores -
- TACA/Avianca flights Guatemala for 21 - Flores - Guatemala, with airport taxes
- airport transfer from Mundo Maya for TACA passengers to hotel
- dinner at Hotel Maya International on arrival, with two drinks,
water, soda, beer or wine included
- 2 nights in Hotel Maya International in single or double or triple
- breakfast in Flores
- helicopter trasportation Flores - La Corona - Flores
- tour of La Corona site with the experts who manage and operate the
site and direct the project
- a superb lunch with drinks on site
- dinner in Hotel Maya International second night, with two drinks,
water, soda, beer or wine included
- airport transfer to Mundo Maya airport for TACA passengers
- buses from the airport and heliport back to Guatemala
- $50 per person donation to the PRALC, Proyecto Regional Arqueologico
La Corona. This will pay for IRIDIUM Satellite telephones to be
used at the site. If any money is left over after final
accounting, that, too will go to the project as an additional donation
- access to a private web page (this one), protected by password until
after the trip
- updates about the trip and news about La Corona throughout 2013
- membership in the exclusive elite of "Mr.Cernikovsky's Friends of
- a fun, interesting trip, totally unique in the company of
Guatemala's top archaeologists and lots of friends
go back to the top ^
When do I have to pay ?
The "Site Q Travel Agency" is not in this for a profit. This is a
service for friends.
50% deposit was paid in
May. In May, I already paid for all the TACA tickets
(they booked us 21 seats on planes that usually sell out) and a $5,000
deposit to the
Please note that I must know your
weight, even if you gave it to me a couple of years ago for El Mirador.
I must finely balance the loads on the helicopters, same as last time.
I will not tell anyone, but the helicopter company how much weight each
flight is carrying.
50% is due now, late October 2013.
I know this is a committment ... but it is similar with your other
travel plans. Once you pay an airline for your Christmas travel, it is
not easy to cancel. In our case, I think that if you need to cancel
between the time you pay your 50% deposit and the time the final payment is
due in October, I won't be able to give you your money back, because I will
have paid it out, however, it is probable that we could find another person
to go and they will pay and I will be able to give you a refund that way.
Maybe it will be so wildly popular that we will have a waitlist. In
the case of the Tak'alik Ab'aj, the trip just grew and grew and we
accommodated everyone on the waitlist. This time, the three
helicopters can lift only 36 people to La Corona and as of June 17, all are
booked. I will accept more on a waitlist only.
We have do this before!
Mr. Cernikovsky's Friends of Archaeology previous trips:
January 2011 -
Mirador with 20
December 2012 -
Tak'alik Ab'aj with 43
To find out more:
to the top ^
June 2013 ... just spotted among Boston Fine Arts Museum's Maya
collection, a ballgame at La Corona. It struck me that many of the
fabulous pieces in that collection may be looted, because they do not show
sites of origin, just "Guatemala or Belize or Honduras" etc.
La Corona staircase riser. Click to see a larger image.