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Non-mounded Architecture, Invisible Housemounds, and the Problem of Settlement Identification and Demographics in the Mirador Basin

Author(s): Richard Hansen ; Kevin Johnston ; Carlos Morales-Aguilar ; Beatriz Balcarcel

Year: 2015

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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, their search for settlement and demographic estimates has consisted almost entirely of the identification of mounded structures. Yet discoveries at numerous sites indicate that many Maya buildings and cultural activities are not represented by mounded remains. As illustrated by research undertaken in the Mirador Basin, a more productive approach re-conceptualizes the problem of Maya settlement and demographic identification in terms of prepared "surfaces," or sub-surface architecture whose discovery requires new and varied sampling techniques. The evidence of ancient behaviors, activities, and forms of organization that archaeologists seek are present primarily on these surfaces. Some such surfaces are mounded, but many of them are not. To obtain representative samples of Maya settlement, surveys must include intensive subsurface sampling—a practice too infrequently undertaken in the Maya Lowlands.

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Non-mounded Architecture, Invisible Housemounds, and the Problem of Settlement Identification and Demographics in the Mirador Basin. Kevin Johnston, Richard Hansen, Beatriz Balcarcel, Carlos Morales-Aguilar. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397293)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

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