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Interdisciplinary Approaches to Studying Human Social Dynamics: A Case Study from Southern Belize

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

From 2008-2011 the NSF-HSD funded project (Development and Resilience of Complex Socioeconomic Systems: A Theoretical Model and Case Study from the Maya Lowlands) employed interdisciplinary approaches to explore the intersections human and ecological dynamics in the development and disintegration of a complex polity during the Maya Classic Period. The goal of this project was to model human behavior in the context of climatic and environmental change over a 2000 year period, drawing on archaeological, paleoclimate, and paleoenvironmental proxies as well as longitudinal ethnographic studies of human decision making in a small agrarian community. Our data suggest multiple scales of interaction between socioeconomic complexity, population growth, and development of anthropogenic landscapes. Papers in this session will present data on land-use, settlement patterns, climate and landscape histories, and polity development and decline, as well as strategies for engaging in cultural and environmental heritage educational programs in descendant communities.


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  • Documents (9)

Documents

  • Comparison of a Community-Scale Classic Maya Political Adaptive Cycle with a Bimonthly-Resolved Paleoclimate Record from Uxbenká, Belize (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 431962] Valorie Aquino. Douglas J. Kennett. Yemane Asmerom. Keith Prufer.

    In studies of human-environment interactions, the conceptual framework of panarchy and its associated resilience theory posit that periods of stability and transformation are inevitable in what has been termed an "adaptive cycle". This presentation discusses the reconstruction of a community-level political adaptive cycle for Uxbenká, an ancient agrarian polity in the Maya hinterlands, and explores its linkages with the broader political ideology of divine kingship and climate stress. Employing...

  • The Development and Resilience of Complex Polity in the Southern Maya Lowlands: A Decade of Research at Uxbenká, Toledo, Belize (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 431968] Keith Prufer.

    The original goals of Uxbenká Archaeological Project were to understand the geopolitical history of the polity in the context of wider regional developments during the Classic Period. Long suspected to be the earliest complex polity in southern Belize had intrigued archaeologists for decades based on its prominent locations between the Petén and the Caribbean Sea as well as its long history of descendant communities farming lands around the archaeological ruins. From 2008-2015 the Human Social...

  • The effects in a Maya community of school enrollment on young adult time allocation to activities dependent on traditional ecological knowledge (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 431969] Bruce Winterhalder. Luis Pacheco-Cobos. Carmen Cortez. Estrella Chevez. Chloe Atwater.

    School enrollment in traditional communities potentially compromises young peoples’ participation in agro-ecological subsistence activities that encourage the development and practice of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). Drawing on data from a Maya community located in Toledo District, Belize, we compared the time allocated to agro-ecological activities for school going (SG) or non-school going (NSG) male and female youth between the ages of 13 and 18 years. We find that SG males spend...

  • Geomorphic and isotopic indicators of anthropogenic change from Holocene-length alluvial deposits in the Rio Blanco watershed (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 431970] Clayton Meredith. Christopher Merriman. Jessica Thompson Jobe. Keith Prufer.

    Recent geoarchaeological investigations in southern Belize have focused on the Paleoindian to Archaic site of Tzib’te Yux located in the Rio Blanco watershed and dating between 3000-12500 BP as well as adjacent river terraces. Landscape-level vegetation changes are apparent within the area in the form of forest clearance by 5000 BP. Evidence of pedogenesis derived from four years of excavations and sedimentation rates established through modeling and high-precision 14C AMS dating have produced...

  • Identifying the drivers of Central American rainfall shifts: implications for past, present, and future human behaviour (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 431966] James Baldini. Keith Prufer. Yemane Asmerom. Franziska Lechleitner. Sebastian Breitenbach.

    Yok Balum Cave’s location at the northernmost extent of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) combined with its abundance of aragonitic stalagmites makes the site an exceptional archive of paleoclimatic information. Additionally, Yok Balum Cave is located at the heart of the Maya Lowlands, and speleothem-based paleoclimate records from the site can provide invaluable information for archaeological research. Although the Yok Balum record and most other regional climate records strongly...

  • Late Classic Ceramic Production and Communities of Practice at Uxbenka, Belize (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 431965] Jillian Jordan.

    Archaeological approaches to ancient Maya communities often assume that spatially distinct architectural groups are tantamount to social groups, but proximity is likely not the only salient organizing principle. Members of prehistoric communities, like modern ones, defined the community in which they belong based on who they choose to interact with, which often lies at the intersection of kin, status, gender, ethic, economic, and spatial affiliations. Employing a communities of practice...

  • Life and death in the southeastern Maya periphery: Bioarchaeological and isotopic analysis of the Uxbenká burial population (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 431967] Willa Trask. Kristin Hoffmeister. J. Alex Canterbury.

    The southern Belize region is typically considered geographically and culturally peripheral to the primary activity areas of the ancient Maya. Although researchers have documented the development of a "southern Belize style" in terms of architecture and material culture, to date very little systematic work has been undertaken to understand health, diet, and mortuary behavior in the region. Ten years of excavations at Uxbenká have yielded rich evidence of a continuous occupation spanning from the...

  • Perceptions of Changing Landscape Mosaics in Southern Belize (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 431963] Rebecca Zarger. Kristina Baines.

    What drives human uncertainty when confronting gradual change versus catastrophic, rapid change? Based on longitudinal ethnographic data that includes household behavioral observations, oral histories and structured survey interviews of land use change, and continuous participant observation data, we describe the ways farming families in southern Belize have responded to changing environments over time, within the context of a mosaic of livelihood strategies. Ethnographic interviews with...

  • Settlement Development and Social Landscapes at the Classic Period Maya center Uxbenká (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 431964] Amy Thompson. Keith M. Prufer. Clayton Meredith. Jillian M. Jordan.

    Using a Human Behavioral Ecology (HBE) framework, the social and environmental factors that influenced community development have been modeled at Uxbenká, a Classic period Maya center located in the southern foothills of the Maya Mountains. This study focuses on settlement decision making dynamics using a chronological assessment of the expansion of settlements based on radiocarbon dating and ceramic typologies in conjunction with statistical analyses to test which factors influenced patch...

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America