Equifinalities and the Limits of Soil, Ecology, and Climate Knowledge in Maya History

Author(s): Timothy Beach; Sheryl Beach; Nicholas Dunning

Year: 2016


We read history to understand the present and possible future worlds, but each situation that arises in time is unique. This paradox of history also fits natural science brought to bear on archaeology because often equifinality prevails, meaning there are several paths to the same ends we see in landscapes. These complicate our interpretations, both delightfully and disturbingly. Here, we address both the agronomic and climatic capriciousness of the variegated Maya puzzle. We consider terrace, wetland, and the other types of agriculture in diachronic and regional unevenness. We know most of these features from slow, exhaustive, small scale archaeology, but the patchy LIDAR we have suggests a much more complicated picture that imagery along will not answer. We also address the limits of climate records both in terms of growing resolution on drought trends and its regional information. For example, scientists have used speleothem records both to show less and more tropical storms and high and low rainfall variability. In both climate and agronomy, we consider the overall limits and possibilities of their implications to the Maya archaeological record.

Cite this Record

Equifinalities and the Limits of Soil, Ecology, and Climate Knowledge in Maya History. Timothy Beach, Sheryl Beach, Nicholas Dunning. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403032)


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Spatial Coverage

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