Circulation of People, Things & Ideas: Practices of Mobility in the Upper Usumacinta Basin

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Several lines of research in the Upper Usumacinta Basin have recently expanded what we know about its kingdoms and the changing relations with their surrounding regions in pre-Hispanic times. What has emerged from these studies is a highly geographical and politically fragmented landscape in which circulation of people, things and ideas was a highly politicized practice too. Furthermore, different historic periods witnessed different practices of mobility due to seasonality, regional alliances or conflicts, and boundaries which left traces in the archaeological and epigraphic record. The idea for this symposium originated from the need to address these practices from anthropological and archaeological perspectives bridging the divide between transport and social research. Specifically, what this symposium wants to discuss is how people, things and ideas circulated through this fragmented landscape and dissect the issue of transportation into three main questions: 1) How can archaeology ground the experience of moving through this landscape from a phenomenological, geographical and political perspective? 2) How did people organize movement in the Upper Usumacinta basin in terms of transport technologies and social organization? 3) What is the evidence for materials and ideas circulating in the Upper Usumacinta basin?

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  • Documents (12)

  • Any Port in a Storm: Identifying Port Infrastructure and Architecture in the Upper Usumacinta (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Nicoletta Maestri. Arianna Campiani.

    For the Classic period, recent regional studies in the Usumacinta basin have proposed a mixed system of communication involving both waterborne and inland routes. Circulation of people and things along these routes depended on physiographic features as well as political boundaries. Several settlements located on strategic points along these itineraries could have controlled and/or facilitated the transit. Some of these sites, due to their proximity to the river course, might have been ports and...

  • Captives, Messengers, Pilgrims, Refugees, Wives: Classic Maya Written Accounts on Travel in the Upper Usumacinta (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Dmitry Belyaev. Alexander Safronov. Alexandre Tokovinine.

    This presentation reviews references to travel in Classic Maya inscriptions at the archaeological sites of the Upper Usumacinta region. Although direct accounts of going to or coming from specific places are few, many texts and captioned images mention non-local individuals or describe events at other sites. The vast majority of such contexts involve warfare, but there are also references to visiting dignitaries, exiles, artisans, messengers, pilgrims, and, above all, brides from other royal...

  • El paisaje natural de la Cuenca del Alto Usumacinta (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mario Aliphat.

    Los estudios de las relaciones entre la Cultura y la Naturaleza son un aspecto importante en las relaciones espaciales entre recursos naturales y asentamientos humanos. En investigaciones sobre la distribución espacial de recursos y sitios arqueológicos es primordial definir los parámetros del mundo natural que establecen el potencial para que las comunidades humanas logren florecer. Esto se alcanza mediante la construcción, al nivel del paisaje natural, de unidades espaciales básicas de...

  • Los señoríos del Usumacinta y de las Tierrras Bajas Noroccidentales: guerras y alianzas (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Guillermo Bernal. Sara Isabel García Juárez.

    Esta ponencia describe las interacciones bélicas y vínculos políticos de las unidades políticas mayas del área occidental durante el periodo Clásico. La fuente esencial de información son las inscripciones jeroglíficas. En términos generales, señala la correlación amplia de tensiones políticas y militares en el cuadrángulo geopolítico cuyas puntas son la región de Palenque, el Bajo Usumacinta (Moral Reforma, Pomoná, Piedras Negras), el Usumacinta Medio (Sak Tz´i, Yaxchilán, Bonampak y Lakamha) y...

  • The Materiality and Mobility of Jade in the Upper Usumacinta Basin (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Brigitte Kovacevich.

    Distributions of jade in the Upper Usumacinta basin suggest that the movement of jade followed political connections and were not purely instances of down-the-line trade motivated by economic gain. Jade objects were likely gifted between elites to solidify political relationships. Some sites along the Usumacinta River received a wealth of jade, while others were relatively impoverished and turned to replicas or other forms of symbolic capital. The materiality of jade during the Classic period...

  • Regional distribution of mortuary domestic rituals in the upper Usumacinta Basin: a burial practice comparison from the Palenque region and its neighboring areas during the Late Classic (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Luis Nuñez.

    From a macro regional perspective, ancient Maya mortuary practices seem to be highly variable in many features, like skeletal position, head orientation, type of grave, offerings and successive reentering events. But, from a closer view, micro-regional similarities can be found suggesting the use of common burial rituals, practices and believes. The Palenque region is an interesting example of this. The available burial data from Palenque, El Lacandón and Chinikihá are discussed to show the...

  • Show me what you have and I’ll tell you who you stick around with: A model of economical-political interaction in the Upper Usumacinta (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Armando Anaya Hernandez. Pascual Izquierdo Egea.

    Walking, although commonly seen as a simple activity, represents in fact, a very important aspect of the relationship that develops between human groups and the physical environment on which they live. In this way, the nature of this environment will bestow the singularities of the political, social and economic organization of societies. We can approach human mobility through the application of GIS in terms of the estimation of cost of movement. Various algorithms have been developed that allow...

  • Stop and Go Traffic: Power, Movement, and Emplacement in the Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan Kingdoms (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jeffrey Dobereiner. Andrew K. Scherer. Charles Golden. Whittaker Schroder.

    This paper explores the many sides of the natural and supernatural landscape surrounding the Classic period Maya kingdoms of Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan with a particular focus on how the rulers of these polities struggled with one another for control of movement across the broken terrain of hills, cliffs, valleys, swamps, and rivers that define the Middle Usumacinta River basin. The standard image of a rather homogenous landscape in the Maya lowlands is quickly dispensed with in the Middle...

  • Territorial attachments and border formation in the Upper Usumacinta river Basin. Discussing ceramic mobility within a fractured political and geographical landscape. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Rodrigo Liendo. Esteban Miron.

    To date, archaeologists working in the Northwestern Maya Lowlands, specifically in the Upper Usumacinta region have focused their attention to ceramic variability and regional distributions trying to "picture" the degree of variability in the role of local centers in regional ceramic exchange systems. Nevertheless, little attention has been paid to territorial variability-for example, the distinction between contiguous and non contiguous territorial formations highlighted by recent regional...

  • Understanding the local communities through the study of lithics and communication routes in the Northwestern Maya Lowlands during the Classic Maya: recent studies in the region. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Flavio Silva De La Mora. Rodrigo Liendo.

    The region known as the Northwestern Maya Lowlands encloses a large geographic and cultural area that included and was part of a large system of exchange of goods, people and ideas. Archaeological evidence recovered in the region serve as evidence of the complex system of communication routes and local settlements that were part of local communities and practices. The communication routes and archaeological sites localized between the Usumacinta River and Tulija River serve as a case study of...

  • The Upper Usumacinta Travel Corridor, A Game of Chutes and Ladders (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ronald Canter.

    Like other major rivers the Usumacinta had parallel land routes. Unlike most rivers the Usumacinta lies bound within whitewater canyons below Yaxchilan, cut off from its flanking trails except at gaps dictated by the geography. In the Classic Period, the river and its trails formed a ladder-like grid offering great mobility, but requiring tradeoffs between speed and safety. For both the ancient Maya and modern boatmen the Usu’ was a fast, efficient, and dangerous route to the lowlands. Two...

  • Volcanic ash in the ceramics of the greater Palenque Region and Usumacinta Drainage, Chiapas and Tabasco, Mexico (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ronald Bishop. Socorro Jiménez. Erin Sears.

    Knowledge about the movement of pottery with volcanic constituents throughout the northwestern Maya Lowlands, from Preclassic through Postclassic times is closely tied to sub-regionally specific resources of the Usumacinta Drainage—from its origin in the highland to the Gulf delta. Following pioneering work in the region by Blom, Berlin, Ochoa, and Rands, we focus on sites in the greater Palenque subregion and their links to sites along the Usumacinta and in the Chiapas Sierras. Although Karl...