Pyramids, Plazas, and Walls: Hilltop Settlements at the Periphery of El Zotz, Guatemala

Author(s): Omar Alcover; Thomas Garrison

Year: 2016


Landscape studies provide new insights into the ways communities manipulated and used their environments. Among the ancient Maya, settlements at the outskirts of important centers varied greatly in design, elevation, and function, pointing to a unique and complementary form of urbanism. Among these, hilltop groups are key to understanding some of the social and political dynamics taking place in the Maya lowlands. Serving as strategic locales in the landscape, hilltop settlements served varying roles for the nearby community. Recent research at the site of El Zotz draws attention to the importance of hilltop groups at the periphery of civic-ceremonial centers, evidencing clustering of Early Classic (AD 250- AD 600) settlements at hilltops with subsequent Late Classic (AD 600- AD 900) architectural groups dispersed on ridges and valleys. The design and material culture associated with these structures suggest that they were unique, yet complementary architectural groups, serving particular social and political roles in the Buena Vista valley. Drawing on GIS analysis, landscape studies, and ethnographic research, this paper seeks to understand changes in the use and manipulation of the landscape in light of varying political dynamics taking place in the Maya lowlands during the Early Classic to Late Classic transition.

Cite this Record

Pyramids, Plazas, and Walls: Hilltop Settlements at the Periphery of El Zotz, Guatemala. Omar Alcover, Thomas Garrison. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403950)


Hilltops Landscape Maya

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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