Using GIS to Explore the Strategic Location of Ancient Maya Centers Within the Vaca Plateau of Western Belize


Settlement patterns studies in archaeology have shown that a myriad of environmental, political, social, and ideological factors influenced where ancient people chose to settle on the landscape. In efforts to better understand these complex behaviors, archaeologists have increasingly turned to GIS-based modeling approaches including viewshed and least cost path analyses. This study draws upon these techniques to explore visibility and movement across the north Vaca Plateau of west-central Belize, where a number of ancient Maya polities emerged over the course of the Classic period (A.D. 250-900). A model has previously been developed that suggests the key center of Minanha was strategically located, with a high degree of network connectivity through intervisibility with other centers, and that it is situated in close proximity to major corridors of movement. This paper expands on this model by integrating high-resolution LiDAR data, which includes a number of previously unrecorded sites, to evaluate settlement strategies within the area to the south surrounding the center of Ixchel. Implications for power, politics, territoriality, communication, and defensibility are examined in conjunction with available archaeological and epigraphic data.

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Using GIS to Explore the Strategic Location of Ancient Maya Centers Within the Vaca Plateau of Western Belize. Jack Barry, Gyles Iannone, James Conolly, Dan Savage. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398309)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -94.702; min lat: 6.665 ; max long: -76.685; max lat: 18.813 ;