Current Investigations in the Petén Lakes Region, Guatemala

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

The lakes region of Petén, Guatemala, an area stretching from Lake Sacpuy in the west to Lake Sacnab in the east, has been the target of archaeological investigation for the past two decades by a series of projects that began with the Proyecto Maya-Colonial in 1994. For the last six years (2009-2014), research has focused on the sites Nixtun-Ch'ich', Tayasal, Muralla de Leon, and Zacpetén, including both new excavation and laboratory analyses. This session presents some results of this recent work. Survey at Nixtun-Ch'ich' has revealed evidence of complex city planning, while a separate survey project at Muralla de Leon has brought to light new details about the site's defensive system. Analysis of both human and faunal remains recovered from various sites in the region continues to aid in discerning how indigenous traditions changed after the area was conquered by the Spaniards in A.D. 1697. In addition, studies of obsidian and chert are helping us to understand exchange systems, as well as stone tool production and use, and recent ceramic analysis is revealing new details about the Preclassic period in the Petén Lakes region.

Other Keywords
MayaLithicsPotteryFortificationPlanningUrbanizationColonialvaluePetenPostclassic Maya

Geographic Keywords
MesoamericaCentral America

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-7 of 7)

  • Documents (7)

  • Conceptualizing Early Pottery Value in the Petén Lakes of Guatemala (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Katherine South.

    Research projects focused on the Middle Preclassic period (1000-350 BC) in the Maya lowlands continue to enhance our understanding of the social, economic, and political lives of early Maya people. The emergence of status differentiation during this time is recognized through different components of the archaeological record, including the presence of prestige goods. While exotic goods such as jade, marine shell, and pyrite mirrors are typically recognized as indicators of social status, the...

  • The Effect of Missionization on the Itza Maya from Isotopic and Biodistance Evidence (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Carolyn Freiwald. katherine miller. tim pugh.

    The Spanish victory over Itza factions in 1697 initiated a period of significant change in the Petén Lakes region, where the construction of Spanish missions and resettlement of indigenous populations likely altered patterns of population movement. We present trace element and isotopic values for eleven individuals buried in Structure T-31 at San Bernabé, a newly discovered mission near the modern town of San Miguel. Markedly different burial patterns, combined with new material culture, suggest...

  • Muralla de Leon: Exploring the Fortifications (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Justin Bracken.

    The summer of 2014 saw the return of archaeological investigation after a 30-plus year hiatus to Muralla de Leon, located on the shores of Lake Macanché in the Petén of Guatemala. Ringed by a partially-collapsed wall of varying height, the site appears to have been a locus of contestation at various eras of Maya history. A Postclassic temple assemblage within indicates occupation by the Kowoj, who were subsequently driven from the area by the rival Itzá. However, preliminary evidence dates...

  • An Orthogonal Grid at Nixtun-Ch’ich’, Petén, Guatemala (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Timothy Pugh. Prudence Rice. Evelyn Chan.

    Nixtun-Ch’ich’ is a large archaeological site on the western edge of Lake Petén Itza in Petén, Guatemala. Recent remapping of the site revealed that its architecture was largely organized by an orthogonal grid. While most Maya sites exhibit some degree of urban planning, the organization of sakbes (roads) into an orthogonal grid has not been described elsewhere in the Maya world. The grid seems to have developed at Nixtun-Ch’ich’ in the Late Preclassic period. It is not yet known whether it...

  • Postclassic Petén Maya Bow-and-Arrow Use as Revealed by Immunological Analysis (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Nathan Meissner. Prudence Rice.

    The bow-and-arrow has long been recognized as a key component of weaponry in the Postclassic and Contact period (A.D. 1400–1697) Maya Lowlands. Although fragmentary accounts from Spanish sources exist to complement the archaeological record, no current research has reconstructed use patterns of the bow-and-arrow from artifact data. This paper provides the first immunologically-based study of protein residues on small projectile points in the Maya region. A large sample of 108 small points from...

  • Postclassic to Contact period Economic Patterns in the Central Peten- The View from Zacpeten (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Matthew Yacubic.

    The purpose of this paper is to examine how Zacpetén, an important center for the Kowoj, functioned to meet its economic needs while creating and sustaining a communal identity between the Late Postclassic (A.D. 1200 to 1525) and Early Contact (A.D. 1525 to 1700) periods. At this time, a complex political economy existed across the Central Petén. However, these connections varied across the Central Petén according to the degree of political integration. In this paper, it is argued that the...

  • Where is Temple? : Construction and Use of Ceremonial Group at Tayasal (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Yuko Shiratori.

    Since the 1970s, a ceremonial group dating to the Late Postclassic period at the archaeological site of Tayasal has been excavated by several archaeological projects. These efforts have greatly contributed to the understanding of the Late Postclassic period and the Itza Maya communities in the Petén lakes region. The ceremonial group includes a Postclassic "basic ceremonial group" on the west and a probable Late Preclassic E-group on the east. Excavations revealed architectural arrangements and...