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Understanding Environmental Thresholds through Geoarchaeology: Case Studies from the Maya Lowlands

Author(s): Samantha Krause ; Timothy Beach ; Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach ; Thomas Guderjan

Year: 2016

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All depositional environments can leave complex records of environmental change over time. We consider floodplains, alluvial fans, and wetlands of the Maya lowlands at present day Neundorf, Belize. We have documented a rich history of sedimentation, water chemistry, and archaeological data that show a measurable environmental and archaeological signature that date back over 4,000 years in this region. This research uses soil geomorphology to study the chronology and processes of wetland formation. It also seeks to characterize human manipulation of these environments and understand different types of environmental change. We base this work on a suite of techniques: AMS dating, LOI, magnetic susceptibility, XRF/XRD, Pb-210, and micromorphology. We present new findings from our 2015 field season in two major excavations. The first through an ancient Maya canal and field system exposed the underlying natural floodplain. The second through an adjacent alluvial fan also exposed the buried floodplain. These represent abrupt transitions 30 m apart: the first from an Archaic floodplain to a human engineered wetland field, and the second a facies change from the karst and alluvial floodplain to the colluvial fan. We compare these facies changes with a range of other abrupt and gradual transitions in the geomorphic record.

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Understanding Environmental Thresholds through Geoarchaeology: Case Studies from the Maya Lowlands. Samantha Krause, Timothy Beach, Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, Thomas Guderjan. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403897)


Geographic Keywords
Central America

Spatial Coverage

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

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