The Dynamics of the Preclassic in the Heart of the Maya Lowlands

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

Understanding the Preclassic period (900 BCE - 150 CE), and in particular the Middle Preclassic (900 – 300 BCE), is essential for grasping the dynamics of Maya society. However, while our knowledge regarding the development of early communities in the tropical lowlands of the Maya region has advanced greatly in the past decade, important questions still remain. Since 2011, a multidisciplinary project at the site of Yaxnohcah, located in southern Campeche, has focused on the early processes that led to the emergence of massive, archaic city-states during the Late Preclassic (300 BCE – 150 CE) and Classic (150 CE – 850 CE) periods in the Central Karstic Uplands. How did early settlers adapt to the environment, which was dominated by seasonally inundated wetlands? How did inhabitants manage early infrastructure projects involving extensive landscape modification? What forces served to integrate dispersed communities? What processes led to the emergence of political centralization? What factors led to the development of a unique form of urbanism in the Maya area? The papers in this session address these and other questions, and situate Yaxnohcah in a network of Preclassic cities, including Calakmul, Nakbe, El Mirador, and Tintal, within the Central Karstic Uplands.

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  • Documents (14)

  • Archaeobotanical Realities at Yaxnohkah: A Pollen Grain of Truth on Preclassic Land Use (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only John G. Jones. Nicholas Dunning.

    Examination of sediments from several reservoirs at the Preclassic site of Yaxnohkah Campeche, Mexico reveals less that stellar pollen preservation, but still useful botanical data. Thus far, pollen grains show varying degrees of degradation, requiring the use of exacting extraction methods. Cultigens and economic taxa are abundant in the samples demonstrating that we are sampling in the right place, but cyclic wetting and drying has resulted in the loss of fragile taxa, skewing the botanical...

  • The Baalche’ Group: An Investigation of a Preclassic Maya Palace at Yaxnohcah, Campeche, Mexico (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sarah Bednar.

    As part of the on-going research into the development of socio-political complexity at the Maya site of Yaxnohcah, the Proyecto Arqueológico Yaxnohcah has been conducting investigations in the Baalche’ Group, a large courtyard group located at the center of the site. The group sits adjacent to many prominent architectural features, including a Preclassic period E-Group assemblage, a ball court, and a water reservoir. Radiocarbon dating and ceramic analysis has revealed that the Baalche’ Group...

  • Creating the Center, Interaction in the Central Karstic Uplands during the Preclassic (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kathryn Reese-Taylor. Armando Anaya.

    From roughly 800 BCE, evidence supports the development of a widespread regional interaction sphere centered in the Central Karstic Uplands. This paper discusses specific data regarding the origins of this network and the subsequent integration of the Central Karstic Uplands as an economic force in the Maya lowlands. Scholars have long recognized the strong affiliations among the major cities that comprise this network during the Preclassic. Recently artifacts recovered from sites point to...

  • Investigations of Peri-Urban Settlement and Domestic Reservoirs: Research from Yaxnohcah, Campeche, Mexico (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alyssa Haggard. Jeffrey Brewer. Meaghan Peuramaki-Brown.

    Peri-urban zones of settlement are unique localities among the urban-rural continuum that form due to dispersed urban growth, creating hybrid landscapes of fragmented urban and rural characteristics. Within these zones, domestic-scale reservoirs that the ancient Maya modified and maintained to manage their seasonally-scarce water resources are an important component. This study focuses on processes of multiple nuclei urban development and associated peri-urban formation at the site of Yaxnohcah...

  • New Perspectives from the Late Preclassic Period in the Mirador-Calakmul Basin (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only AnaBeatriz Balcarcel. Edgar Suyuc-Ley. Richard Hansen. Francisco López. Josué García.

    The Late Preclassic period (350 B.C.-A.D. 150) in the Mirador-Calakmul Basin is characterized by innovations in various aspects of ancient Maya society which are the reflections of an complex ideological, socio-,political, and economic power. These ingredients were responsible for the conception and creation of large and diverse works of architecture and engineering achievements. This paper will discuss the importance of the Late Preclassic period in El Mirador and contemporary cities within...

  • The Origins of Complex Maya Societies: The Middle Preclassic Period in the Mirador-Calakmul Basin (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Richard Hansen. David Wahl. Thomas Schreiner. Donald W. Forsyth. Edgar Ortega.

    Recent multidisciplinary investigations in the Mirador-Calakmul Basin have provided evidence of human sedentary occupation by about 2600 B.C. Data from coring of shallow lakes and from small residential structures with postholes in bedrock below Middle Preclassic platforms show evidence of corn pollen, isotopes, and human presence by this early period. Archaeological investigations at sites such as Nakbe, El Mirador, Xulnal, Wakna and El Pesquero, among others, have identified architectural...

  • Preclassic Complexity in the Central Karstic Uplands: Yaxnohcah and its Neighbors (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Armando Anaya Hernandez. Kathryn Reese-Taylor.

    The Preclassic (900 BCE – 150 CE) was the period during which the earliest sedentary communities in the Maya lowlands were founded. Acts that initiated these early civic charters, such as the construction of E-groups and communal platforms, were followed quickly by rapid expansion of communities throughout the landscape, involving population growth, monumental architecture, massive waterworks, and a high degree of sociopolitical complexity. It was also during this period when ideologies and...

  • Preclassic Platforms at Yaxnohcah: Central Eminences for a multinucleated site. (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Fernando C. Atasta Flores Esquivel. Alejandro Uriarte.

    Yaxnohcah is an important Maya settlement in the southern Campeche lowlands, which, according to what present evidence suggests, had its main civic development during the Middle and Late Preclassic periods. The city’s layout includes some features that are specific to Yaxnohcah, as well as others shared with nearby and distant centres. One of central features of the Yaxnohcah settlement, which it shares with other sites, has been described as "clustered nucleation" or "dismembered" pattern for...

  • Preclassic Reservoirs and Urbanism at Yaxnohcah, Campeche, Mexico (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Nicholas Dunning. Armando Anaya Hernández. Christopher Carr. Deborah Walker. Helga Geovannini Acuña.

    The need to collect and store rain water has been proposed as an important urbanizing force during the development of Maya civilization in the Elevated Interior Region on the Maya Lowlands, where surface water is naturally scarce and the dry season lengthy. We present data from Yaxnohcah, Campeche, Mexico indicating that the construction of large reservoirs was an integral part of the development of this urban center in the Middle and Late Preclassic periods. Data collected to date indicate that...

  • Results of Recent Investigations at El Tintal, Petén, Guatemala (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Varinia Matute. Mary Jane Acuña. Francisco Castañeda. Boris Beltran.

    El Tintal, located in northern Petén, is part of a group of ancient Maya cities that emerged during the Preclassic period in the central karstic uplands. The El Tintal Archaeological Project is interested in understanding the historical development of the population that inhabited the settlement from the beginning to its abandonment. This paper will focus on the results of our recent investigations at El Tintal that yield information on the origins of the city and its regional interactions,...

  • Ritual activity at the Grazia Complex, Yaxnohcah (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Verónica Vázquez López.

    Yaxnohcah is located in southern Campeche, Mexico and had an important occupation from the Middle Preclassic to the Late Classic period (c. 600 b.c.e.-800 c.e.). The focus of this paper is the Grazia complex, one of the ten major civic-ceremonial groups. Grazia consists of two monumental platforms featuring a triadic group and a ball court. The complex is located about 2 km southwest of the center of the site. Excavations began in 2016, revealing the presence of several constructive phases,...

  • The Search for Sierra Red: Discerning Ceramic Diversity at Late Preclassic Yaxnohcah (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Debra Walker.

    The principal ceramic type for the Petén Late Preclassic period, first identified by Edith Ricketson in the 1930s, and dubbed Sierra Red three decades later, has just about the widest distribution of any ceramic type in the Maya lowlands. In particular, the omnipresent simple flaring walled bowl form is virtually synonymous with the period, yet, after five years of excavation at Preclassic Yaxnohcah, Sierra Red remains an elusive minor type. Middle Preclassic Um Phase is well represented as is...

  • The Symbolic Centre: The Pre-Classic Legacy of Yaxnohcah’s E-Group (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Shawn Morton.

    For nearly two thousand years, the E-Group at Yaxnohcah served as this city’s spiritual and administrative heart. From the early facet of the middle Pre-Classic through the Terminal Classic, as the rest of the site grew, morphed, and ultimately fell into disuse, this group continued to be remodelled, refurbished, and rededicated. Further, in a stunning testimony to social memory, and after a period of clear abandonment, it became the focus of Post-Classic activity that included the erection of...

  • Using Lidar to Locate and Classify Ancient Maya Water Storage Features at Yaxnohcah, Campeche, Mexico (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Christopher Carr. Jeffrey Brewer. Nicholas Dunning. Kathryn Reese-Taylor. Armando Anaya Hernández.

    Airborne lidar presents a valuable tool to investigate water management in a water-scarce region of the Maya lowlands. We analyze 25 sq-km of lidar elevation data for the ancient Maya site of Yaxnohcah in Campeche, Mexico. Using the hydrologic tools in the GIS software ArcMap we identified hundreds of closed depressions (many extremely small). These features may have a natural origin (e.g. a sink hole) or may be anthropogenic (e.g. from quarrying), or may be data artifacts. We used a series of...