Agriculture, Land Management and Expressions of Elite Control at the Ancient Maya City of Tikal


While it seems evident that the elites and royal personages at Tikal influenced at least some aspects of day-to-day activities of the Maya inhabitants, it has not been clear how this influence became manifest, particularly in regard to agriculture and other aspects of land management decisions. Recent paleoethnobotanical and archaeological studies at Tikal, however, bring some insight to this cultural black box. Three examples from the paleoethnobotanical record provide empirical evidence that indicate how the Maya elite managed their forests, set aside certain tracts of land for special agricultural projects and constructed an irrigation system to reduce the vagaries of rainfall-dependent agriculture. The first example relates to the enormous beams of sapodilla (Manilkara zapota) wood that were used to construct Temples 1-4 and only could have come from old growth forests, likely in a protected context, as in a pak’-al. The second example is the Inscriptions reservoir, which was not a reservoir at all, but more likely a rejollada where specialty crops, such as cacao (Theobroma cacao) could have been cultivated. The third example is the Perdido reservoir that received drainage water from the Lost World plaza for subsequent use in irrigated maize (Zea mays) agriculture.

Cite this Record

Agriculture, Land Management and Expressions of Elite Control at the Ancient Maya City of Tikal. David L. Lentz, Nicholas Dunning, Vernon Scarborough. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443616)

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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): 21449