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Assessing Defensibility: Geospatial Analyses of Preclassic to Colonial Highland Maya Settlement Patterns

Author(s): Katharine Johnson ; Guido Pezzarossi

Year: 2017

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Postclassic Maya settlement patterns have long been explained in terms of the increasing defensibility in the transition from Classic period settlement patterns. Drawing on arguments for the increased militancy and conflict that characterized the Maya region in the wake of the Classic "collapse", this narrative has endured despite minimal cross-context, large scale assessment. This paper presents the results of a large-scale, in-progress diachronic geospatial analysis of Maya settlement patterns, defensibility and agrosuitability from Preclassic to Colonial periods. Working from Edwin Shook’s site survey data, we employ geospatial and statistical approaches to determine defensibility and its intersection with historic land use practices in order to provide cross-comparable and quantifiable data on changing site defensibility across multiple time periods and in different regions. While our results address and nuance defensibility and violence narratives, we also provide insight into the variable historical trajectories, experiences and motivations of diverse Maya communities reflected in heterogeneous settlement patterns.

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Assessing Defensibility: Geospatial Analyses of Preclassic to Colonial Highland Maya Settlement Patterns. Katharine Johnson, Guido Pezzarossi. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429953)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17345

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