Reconsidering "sites," "features," and "landscapes" in the Maya Lowlands with remote sensing and ground-based survey

Author(s): Omar Alcover; Charles Golden; Andrew Scherer

Year: 2017


Etic distinctions between "sites" and "landscape features" and the limits of pedestrian survey have long influenced how scholars in the Maya lowlands model social and political dynamics of the region. The adoption of remote sensing technologies, particularly LiDAR, has improved our ability to identify anthropogenic features over wider areas. Yet remote sensing data collection remains centered on known "sites" and data serving to further expand the mapped boundaries of ancient "cities," generally without challenging the notion of bounded settlements. Too often, research tends to emphasize a synchronic view of "sites," whose edges are often defined not by emic understandings of boundaries but by the limits of archaeological survey. Moreover, the palimpsest of cultural features, including walls, terraces, and dams dispersed on the landscape reveal a complicated history of construction and use. We suggest that only if we revise theoretical conceptions of the relationship between ‘site,’ ‘feature,’ and ‘landscape’ can these technologies be better used to answer new questions concerning landscape adaptation. This paper draws on recently acquired remotely sensed data and over a decade of ground-based survey data from the Usumacinta River valley of Mexico and Guatemala to offer new interpretations of landscape use and change among the Maya.

Cite this Record

Reconsidering "sites," "features," and "landscapes" in the Maya Lowlands with remote sensing and ground-based survey. Omar Alcover, Charles Golden, Andrew Scherer. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431323)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14567