Ancient Maya Land Use: Water Management and Agricultural Production at Actuncan, Belize

Author(s): Theresa Heindel

Year: 2018


Research conducted during the 2015-2017 Actuncan Archaeological Project field seasons revealed several land use strategies utilized during the Late and Terminal Classic periods, including terracing, agricultural plots, and cobble mounds. Excavations conducted in the Northern Neighborhood of Actuncan exposed two terracing methods: 1) terraforming, in which earthen berms created to facilitate water drainage and 2) two small agricultural plot systems filled with a large amount of redeposited domestic trash. Such high levels of redeposited domestic trash, and the arrangement of these plots, suggest that agricultural and water drainage activity took place at an intra-household or larger community level. In addition, a number of linear cobble mounds have been found east of Actuncan along the Mopan River floodplain. Based on soil chemistry and proximity to the river, this area may have been used as a cacao orchard, thus creating an economic opportunity that could have benefitted the entire community. Together, these systems reflect how the ancient Maya at Actuncan managed water and agricultural production, and the scale at which these technologies were administered. These systems would have required collaboration between multiple households, creating community-wide cooperation towards food production (through terracing and agricultural plots) and for economic activity (through cacao orchards).

Cite this Record

Ancient Maya Land Use: Water Management and Agricultural Production at Actuncan, Belize. Theresa Heindel. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443817)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21521