Francisco Estrada-Belli will use "Maya Hunter," donated by Toyota, on his archaeological digs in the Guatemalan jungle.
by David F. Salisbury
Next summer, when Francisco Estrada-Belli and his students head to
their archeological dig deep in the Guatemalan jungle, they will be
riding in style. On Nov. 3, the assistant professor of anthropology was
presented the keys to a customized “jungle ready” Tacoma pickup, dubbed
“Maya Hunter,” and a Yamaha Rhino two-person all-terrain vehicle at the
Special Equipment Market Association trade show in Las Vegas.
The two vehicles were donated to the university by Toyota Motor Sales
(TMS) and Yamaha Motor Corp., USA, respectively, along with Off-Road Adventures
magazine. The double-cab, 4x4 is customized to make travel through the
deep jungle easier and safer, if not more comfortable. According to
Toyota, the truck’s stock suspension was raised three inches to
maximize ground clearance and make room for the special-purpose mud
tires needed to navigate treacherous Guatemalan jungle roads. Special
teflon-coated wheels keep mud at bay and tubular sidebars and light
guards reduce the chances that encounters with limbs, logs and trees
will do major damage. It also features a custom bumper with a
9,500-pound-capacity electric winch, a plethora of off-road lights,
communications/navigation gear, hand tools and other accessories
designed to aid driving through the jungle safely and efficiently.
Similarly, the ruggedized Yamaha ATV features full undercarriage armor
and skid plates, front and rear bumper, wind deflector and over-fenders
to keep the elements at bay, an aluminum sun top, a 3,000-pound winch
and a set of jungle-ready wheels and tires.
“These vehicles are the very best tools to face the challenging
environment of our expedition,” said Estrada- Belli. “They will
boost our ability to discover the most remote sites, and in case of an
emergency, may well save our lives.”
The donors were attracted to Estrada-Belli after hearing international
news reports on his research on the dawn of the Maya civilization at a
remote site in Guatemala. The coverage of his discoveries included a
segment on a National Geographic
television special that showed the archeologist slogging through muddy
jungle roads in a four-wheel pickup by a different manufacturer.
“We’re privileged to play a role in this important project, which has
more historical significance than anything we’ve ever been involved
with,” said Mark Amstock, TMS national truck and SUV marketing manager.
“It’s another chapter in the continuing story of Toyota’s commitment to
science education in America.”
Estrada-Belli and the editors at Off-Road Adventures
magazine named the truck “Maya Hunter” after Hunahpu, a mythical Maya
hero. The name also suits its intended use: hunting for clues that will
lead to a better understanding of the ancient Mayan civilization. The
magazine will be covering the Tacoma’s modification buildup in several
issues along with reports of its progress on the maiden voyage into the
jungles of Guatemala.