Issues Reconstructing the Ancient Population of El Mirador, Guatemala


El Mirador, in the northern Peten, has redefined our ideas about the Maya Preclassic. Its massive architecture and its complex system of sacbes compare to the largest Classic period centers. Unlike many of its smaller Preclassic neighbors, El Mirador collapsed at the dawn of the Classic. Understanding El Mirador’s organization, economy, and relationship to its environment requires detailed knowledge of the site’s population trajectory. Reconstructing El Mirador’s population trajectory, we face a series of issues: definition of site boundaries, visibility of above-ground structures, identification and counting of residential groups, the presence of hidden or invisible structures, dating residential groups, and populating residential groups. LiDAR images are analyzed to identify groups and define the sample universe. A sample of residential groups is defined for ground truthing a testing in the field, based on ecological factors, local settlement patterns, and socioeconomic estimates based on surface remains. We discuss sampling issues, the use of LiDAR, issues of accounting for hidden structures, and the combined use of ethnographic analogues and modeling to populate ancient structures, and how each affects population estimates for El Mirador.

Cite this Record

Issues Reconstructing the Ancient Population of El Mirador, Guatemala. Richard Paine, Richard Hansen, Carlos Morales-Aguilar, Kevin Johnston. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443115)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -94.197; min lat: 16.004 ; max long: -86.682; max lat: 21.984 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22681