The Mirador Basin: New Investigations and Conservation Programs

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

Major research programs in the Mirador Basin of northern Guatemala and southern Campeche, Mexico, have provided new data relevant to the origins, dynamics, and collapse of complex societies in the Maya Lowlands. Data suggests that the origins of sedentary societies began earlier than previously thought, and that the dynamics of complexity included complex agricultural sophistication, elaborate communication and trade systems, logistics development, and vast political, economic, and social dominance within the circumscribed region primarily in the Middle and Late Preclassic periods of Maya civilization. Furthermore, the factors that gave rise to socio-political complexity were damaged by a multitude of issues, including climate change, inept leadership, and a conspicuous consumption of resources resulting in the collapse of the major centers of the Basin near the end of the Late Preclassic period (ca. A.D. 150). Subsequent research has demonstrated the roles and activities of subsequent inhabitants in the monumental sites within the Basin and clarify the settlement distribution and formation of Maya societies living within the ruins of the ancient Kan kingdom. New conservation strategies for art and architecture at several major sites within the Basin have also provided protective measures and consolidation practices that have proven useful and productive.

Geographic Keywords
MesoamericaCentral America

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  • Documents (13)

  • Arquitectura Preclásica en el Grupo Balam Acrópolis Central de El Mirador, Peten (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only AnaBeatriz Balcarcel.

    La Gran Acrópolis Central es el corazón del sitio arqueológico El Mirador, el cual presenta diferentes grupos de edificaciones de variada complejidad. Uno de ellos es el Grupo Balam con arquitectura del Preclásico Tardío. Se investigó los aspectos físicos, espaciales, funcionales, sociales e ideológicos a través de una secuencia arquitectónica minuciosa. El estudio permitió conocer no solamente los materiales y sistemas constructivos, las remodelaciones arquitectónicas, el arte en estuco...

  • A Bioarchaeological Analysis of Human Remains on the Summit of Tigre Pyramid, El Mirador, Guatemala (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jordan Krummel.

    On the platform between the triadic group on the Tigre pyramid at the site of El Mirador, Guatemala, the Mirador Basin Project discovered human remains scattered over the upper platform of this pyramid associated with hundreds of projectile points, in both local chert and obsidian from Central Mexico. Additional artifacts included shell, bone, and large quantities of Early Classic ceramics. This presentation will focus on the osteological remains from this deposit. Skeletal analyses of the...

  • Central Plaza Excavations at El Mirador (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Glenna Nielsen-Grimm. Greg Farley. Edgar Ortega. Richard D. Hansen.

    The Great Central Plaza of the West Complex at El Mirador lies on an early and important alignment for the entire city. Excavations of two small altar platforms, and test units of structures on the boundaries of the plaza and the Leon Plaza suggest that this was probably among the earliest areas of the city, and continued to have symbolic and ritual importance throughout the Middle and Late Preclassic periods at El Mirador. The Central Acropolis creates the southern boundary, the east and west...

  • The Ceramics of the El Mirador Region: An Update (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Donald Forsyth.

    Investigations in the Mirador Basin over the last thirty or so years have demonstrated that the region was one of intense occupation over a long period of time, particularly during the period that has come to be known as Preclassic. This period was marked by evidence of changes in the complexity and increasing uniformity in various cultural characteristics such as architecture, sculpture and iconography. In a similar manner the development of the ceramic industry provides evidence of a process...


    The ancient city of El Mirador is surrounded by subsidiary centers forming a state level organization indicated by a strong sociopolitical organization with developed during the Preclassic periods. This paper illustrates the results of Total Station mapping, Remote Sensing, Global Positioning Systems, and GIS applications in archaeological investigations at El Mirador conducted by the Mirador Basin Project over a 12 year period and covering approximately 50 km2. This program initiated a...

  • Las cabezas de estuco, recuperadas en el Grupo Casa del Coral, El Mirador, Peten (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Douglas Mauricio.

    Reconocimientos e investigaciones recientes llevadas a cabo en las últimas dos temporadas de campo en la periferia este del gran centro de El Mirador han dado a conocer lo majestuoso en cuanto al arte de esculpir y tallar el estuco por pobladores clásicos de este sitio. Dando como resultado el descubrimiento de más de 20 piezas de estuco de incalculable valor cultural por ser piezas únicas en el área maya, todas estas piezas consideramos que representaron escenas de la vida diaria de los...

  • The Mirador Basin: A Synthesis of Research and Conservation Programs in northern Guatemala (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Richard Hansen. Edgar O. Suyuc.

    Major research programs in the Mirador Basin of northern Guatemala and southern Campeche, Mexico, have provided new data relevant to the origins, dynamics, and collapse of complex societies in the Maya Lowlands. Data suggests that the origins of sedentary societies began earlier than previously thought, and that the dynamics of complexity included complex agricultural sophistication, elaborate communication and trade systems, logistics development, and vast political, economic, and social...

  • Non-mounded Architecture, Invisible Housemounds, and the Problem of Settlement Identification and Demographics in the Mirador Basin (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kevin Johnston. Richard Hansen. Beatriz Balcarcel. Carlos Morales-Aguilar.

    In a landscape distinguished archaeologically by elite-dominated, often massive architecture, the small and unobtrusive is easily overlooked. Since its inception as a discipline, Maya archaeology’s principal focus has been cities and the buildings that comprise them. These buildings, often of extraordinary scale, are typically represented in the archaeological record by mounds. This phenomenon of architectural "moundedness" has conditioned Mayanists’ perception of settlement as a whole. Indeed,...

  • Patrons and Artists: New Information on the Producers of Codex-Style Ceramics of the Mirador Basin (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Oscar Lopez. Stanley Guenter.

    Codex-style ceramics are a distinctive product of the Late Classic Mirador Basin of north-central Peten, Guatemala. Through the archaeological work of the Mirador Basin Project and the chemical analyses of affiliated scholars we now have a considerable amount of information on the physical production of these vessels. In this presentation we present new evidence on the artists who produced these vessels, as well as the nobles for whom they were painting. These data provide much needed new...

  • Preclassic Causeways of the Mirador Basin, Guatemala (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Thomas Schreiner. Enrique Hernandez. David Wahl. Richard Hansen.

    A vast system of inter-site highways (sacbes or sacbeob) traversed an inhabited countryside between the major urban centers of the Kan kingdom in the Mirador Basin. Development of this system began during the Middle Preclassic period and continued throughout the Late Preclassic period (ca. 600 B.C.– A.D. 150). Over time, these transportation routes branched and transformed within densely populated centers to become a network of elevated causeways, processional boulevards with ritual and...

  • Records of Holocene Biomass Burning, Environmental Change, and Human Occupation in the Southern Maya Lowlands (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lysanna Anderson. David Wahl.

    Fire was arguably the primary tool used by the Maya to alter the landscape and extract resources. Opening of forest for agriculture, building, and extraction/production of construction material necessitated burning. While we understand the fundamental role of fire in Maya land use, there are very few records of prehispanic biomass burning from the Maya lowlands. Consequently, a limited understanding exists of natural fire regimes and patterns of anthropogenic burning in the tropical seasonally...

  • Tintal, a Late Preclassic Maya City in the Mirador Basin, Peten, Guatemala (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Enrique Hernandez. Richard Hansen. Francisco Lopez. Thomas Schreiner. Marvin Prado.

    Tintal is an ancient lowland Maya city of the Kan kingdom located 28 km southwest of El Mirador in the north central Peten, Guatemala. Preliminary data from fieldwork conducted by the Mirador Basin Project establish that Tintal was a major urban center contemporaneous with similar large centers within the Mirador Basin such as El Mirador and Nakbe. These and other cities of the Basin were linked by a system of wide elevated causeways during the Middle and Late Preclassic Periods (ca. 600 B.C.–...

  • Virtual Graphic Representation and Urban Analysis Architectural Grand Central Acropolis: Main Access and Structure 4D1-20 El Mirador, Petén; Guatemala (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Josué R. García García.

    This paper develops Maya urbanism and architecture this complex acropolis type of El Mirador site. In order to perform an analysis of this building, proposing a graphical representation allowing their virtual and theatrical reconstruction of the same. This hypothetical proposal is modeled based on historical information and recent archaeological evidence in this sector. The Grand Central Acropolis is located southwest of the nucleus of the settlement and as its name suggest, It is a great...