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A Bayesian Model-Based Comparison of Radiocarbon Chronologies for the Earliest Complex Societies in the Maya Lowlands

Author(s): Claire Ebert ; Julie Hoggarth ; Brendan Culleton ; Jaime Awe ; Douglas Kennett

Year: 2017

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Sedentary agricultural villages, ceramic technology, and evidence for institutionalized socio-economic inequality first appeared in the Maya lowlands during the Preclassic Period (1200 cal BC – cal AD 300). The chronological details of these significant cultural developments between different regions of the lowlands remain unclear in many cases because of an emphasis on local ceramic typologies that are often difficult to correlate. We use a Bayesian framework to model high-resolution AMS 14C dates from the Belize Valley site of Cahal Pech, one of the earliest known permanently settled communities in the Maya lowlands, to understand the site’s spatial, demographic, and socio-political expansion during the Preclassic Period. We also developed radiocarbon chronologies and summed probability distributions of over 900 published radiocarbon dates from Preclassic sites in other core regions of the Maya lowlands. Comparisons of regional temporal trends to paleoclimate proxy records indicate that stable climatic conditions through the Middle Preclassic promoted the hierarchical development of large regional polities across the lowlands. A severe multi-century drought at the end of the Late Preclassic (~cal AD 100-300) likely contributed to the decline of some major polities in the Petén, though evidence for continuity of populations and site growth exists in other regions.

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A Bayesian Model-Based Comparison of Radiocarbon Chronologies for the Earliest Complex Societies in the Maya Lowlands. Claire Ebert, Julie Hoggarth, Brendan Culleton, Jaime Awe, Douglas Kennett. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430505)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14868

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