The View from Above: The Semi-Autonomous Elite Maya Hilltop Complex of Escalera al Cielo


Escalera al Cielo (EaC) is a Terminal Classic Period Maya elite hilltop complex located 1.5 km to the west of the site of Kiuic in the Puuc Region of the Northern Lowlands. Previous research on the hilltop focused largely on investigating the organization and day-to-day activities associated with the northern residential architectural group. The southern group, located atop the highest spur of the hill and consisting of four vaulted masonry structures accessed by a grand staircase, was believed to be the civic-ceremonial center of the complex. Excavation data from the 2008 and 2016 field seasons suggest that the southern group served a residential function in addition to a civic-ceremonial one. The presence of at least two distinct residential areas with vaulted architecture atop EaC suggests the presence of multiple elite families. The impressive architecture of these landholding families, their reverence for a distinct patron god combined with other factors suggest that the residents of EaC maintained a degree of semi-autonomy from the political center of Kiuic. This paper presents findings from the 2016 excavations in combination with preliminary excavations from 2008 to discuss the implications of semi-autonomous elite groups for the sociopolitical and economic organization the Terminal Classic Kiuic polity.

Cite this Record

The View from Above: The Semi-Autonomous Elite Maya Hilltop Complex of Escalera al Cielo. Ken Seligson, George J. Bey III, Betsy M. Kohut, Tomás Gallareta Negrón. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430536)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14932