Interpreting Changes in Ancient Maya Society: From Landscape and Architecture to Everything in Between

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

The Maya are notorious for actively manipulating their natural and built environment. As complex cities developed, there was continuous alteration of core centers and surrounding spaces as well as to the material remains found within them. This tradition of constant change has led to theoretical questions of the meaning in addition to practical questions of the function of these spaces and artifacts. This session attempts to identify changes and interpret the meaning and functions of space, built and natural, and material remains found within them through a comparative Mesoamerican lens. At a macro level, some cases look at the changing layout in these organic cities attempting to understand the meaning of complexes. At a micro level, these investigations attempt to understand the meaning of change in material remain patterns. While the material remains archaeologist work with are static this sessions attempts to identify the meaning of these materials in moments in time where they serve as evidence of change.

Other Keywords
MayaArchitectureCaveRitualAncestorshydrologyObsidianIconographyBuilt EnvironmentUrbanism

Geographic Keywords
MesoamericaCentral America

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-14 of 14)

  • Documents (14)

  • An Analysis of Architectural Form and Function at Cahal Pech, Belize: The Case of Structure B7 (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Amber Lopez-Johnson. Jaime Awe.

    Recent archaeological investigations at Cahal Pech, Belize have focused considerable attention on understanding the form and function of monumental architecture in the site’s largest public courtyard. Designated as Plaza B, the courtyard contains an eastern triadic shrine or "E-Group", and three large range-type or palace-like buildings that are located on the north, west and south flanks of the plaza. Our investigations of these buildings, particularly on Structure 7, have revealed important...

  • Architecture and the Subjective Experience (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Victoria Poston.

    Architecture shapes the subjective experience of those living in it as well as those simply interacting with it. The Maya continuously changed their environments to fit their needs and desires, thus these spaces mirror their everyday practices. This paper compares the overall architectural arrangement of Xultun to other Classic Period Lowland Maya urban centers, such as Tikal and Palenque, to determine how the reciprocal relationship between urban populations and their built environments reflect...

  • Conjunto Los Árboles: its use (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Elisa Mencos.

    This paper is about the iconographic analysis of the stucco decoration that is part of the exterior facade of the Joint Trees, which shares certain characteristics with the structure of the site called El Diablo at El Zotz, Guatemala Petén, which is dated to the Early Classic. Likewise Structure 10L-26, whose different layers constitute constructive states within buildings housing royal tombs, shared with El Conjunto Los Árboles iconography and preservation technique by prehispanic Maya. To...

  • The Development and Modification of a Hydraulic Urban Space at the Classic Maya site of Xultun, Guatemla. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jonathan Ruane.

    In order to better understand the use history of the central reservoir at Xultun an investigation was performed during the 2012 and 2014 field seasons. ArcGIS 10.1 was used to model the site’s hydrology and excavations were performed both within the reservoir and on architecture within the catchment area to the north. The reservoir was built from a modified quarry and in use since the late Preclassic. The larger architecture associated with collection and management of this resource was not...

  • Keeping it Natural: Ancient Maya Modifications of the Ritual Landscape Outside of Caves (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Marieka Arksey. Holley Moyes.

    From as early as 1000 B.C., the Maya considered caves to be sacred features of the landscape and used them as ritual spaces. Performances associated with caves served not only the ruling elite in reaffirming their right to rule, but the entire community’s confidence in their rulers. These performances became increasingly important in times of crisis, such as during the Late Classic Maya ‘collapse’ when a series of droughts aggravated the overcrowded, over-farmed, and deforested localities which...

  • Maya Graffiti and Sacred Spaces (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Chip Foarde.

    This paper explores the nature and possible implications of graffiti identified inside presumably abandoned Maya architecture. There exists a wealth of ancient iconographic graffiti scattered throughout the Maya world. It has been argued that such graffiti was, in many cases, created after the spaces in which it is found had ceased to be used for their original purposes. Therefore, graffiti in this context is a possible example of the repurposing of Maya architecture by members of a society with...

  • Preliminary Results of Wood Charcoal analysis for Household groups in San Bartolo (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lauren Santini.

    This paper presents preliminary results of analysis of charcoal remains recovered from well stratified household middens at the Maya archaeological site of San Bartolo located in the Department of the Peten, Guatemala. It presents reconstructed use patterns of local trees for typical San Bartolo residential households, as well as a discussion of how these patterns changed over time, and what factors, cultural and environmental, may have influenced these changes using secondary evidence. SAA...

  • Public or Private: Adaptations in the Use of Public Space During the Maya Late Classic Period (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jennifer Wildt.

    Are all open spaces public spaces? What factors influence how ‘public’ a space is? How did the population increase during the Late Classic period impact the use and design of open spaces in the Maya lowlands? To understand how the Maya adapted their built environment in response to high populations, I examine the architectural features of plazas and patios in a ritual-residential group at Xultun. In the Late Classic period, residents erected additional buildings within patios, reducing the...

  • The Pyramid 12H3 Xultun Archaeological Site, Peten. Transition from the Preclassic to Classic (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only David Ricardo Del Cid Castillo.

    The pyramid 12H3 is located on the east of the B group and is the largest pyramid at the site of Xultun, measuring 50.0m x 20.0 m, and approximately 26.0m tall, with a north south axis orientation. he pyramid has at least 5 construction phases. he early work on the structure and documentation consisted of cleaning reach looting tunnels with the intention of knowing the phases of construction, obtaining relevant data on the early occupation of Xultun. Research conducted within Sub-1, showed...

  • Ritual constructions of the Mesoamerican Underworldview in the Caves and Cavates of the Southern Mexican Highlands: an exploration of changing functions and meanings. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Carlos Rincon Mautner.

    This presentation explores the diachronic significance and variety of ritual uses assigned to caves and cavates by the peoples who lived in what is now Southern Puebla and Northern Oaxaca, Mexico from the Archaic through the Early Colonial Periods. The existence of distinct ritual complexes for different time periods suggests changing functions and meanings, which are inferred from archaeological artifacts, parietal pictograms and petroglyphs for different caves, and documentary sources. These...

  • Ritualized Shatter: An Introduction of Obsidian to La Mipla, Belize (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Joseph Orozco.

    California State University, Los Angeles Archaeological Field Program in Central America conducted an investigation of a sinkhole containing a small grotto at the ancient Maya site of La Milpa, Belize in 2014. Excavation discovered that a rubble-cored platform had been built around the feature, formalizing the space and suggesting that it had functioned as a sacred landmark. During the excavations, a fairly dense concentration of sherds was encountered along with three dozen fragments of...

  • The Role of Offerings in interpreting Architecture: Evaluating Human Remains at Xultun, Peten, Guatemala (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Asia Alsgaard.

    During the 2014 field season at Xultun, Peten, Guatemala, two sets of human offerings and a tomb were identified in the center of "Los Arboles" (XUL12F19); however, the relationship between the different sets of remains and the structure remains unclear. While the Maya are known for placing offerings around tombs and in entryways as closing ceremonies, human offerings are a less-common subset. To date, their role in Maya society is not entirely understood although their presence has been claimed...

  • The Role of the Sweatbath in Classic Maya Ritual Performance (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mary Clarke.

    This paper reviews the scholarship regarding Mesoamerican sweatbaths and their role in performance, specifically choreographing locations for transformation and sympathetic transition in supernatural space. The recently discovered sweatbath at the site of Xultun in Guatemala, known as Los Sapos, will be inserted into this dialogue in conjunction with that regarding plazas and Maya theatricality more broadly. After both contextualizing Los Sapos and presenting interpretations regarding its...

  • Willfully Obscured: Figurines and Caves in the Maya Late Classic Period (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Erin Sears.

    As both space and material are used to create interpretations or infer ancient ritual meanings concerning the Late Classic Maya, the consideration of caves and ceramic figurines provide interesting comparators as they evoke restrictions of intent and imagery within a regional setting. Opportunistic sampling of figurines from cave contexts for compositional analysis has resulted in chemically-based patterns from which one can glimpse directional patterns of movement from resource area to recovery...