Fortified Capitals: Understanding Defensive Systems at Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan


Prior reconnaissance efforts in the Middle Usumacinta River region have identified a series of low walls associated with Tecolote, La Pasadita, and other border sites in the Yaxchilan kingdom. Similar defensive features have also been identified at the Piedras Negras secondary center of La Mar. These walls are interpreted as the foundations for wooden palisades, and served to protect not only immediate communities, but also the kingdom at large. However, this paper presents the first evidence that Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan, the polity capitals, were fortified as well. Walls near both sites have been identified through survey, and defensive features at Piedras Negras have been excavated to better understand their chronology, construction, and function. Moreover, recent work at the Late Preclassic site of Macabilero, located in the southern reaches of the Piedras Negras kingdom, highlights the deep temporal depth of fortifications in the region. These findings suggest a broader, regional tradition among Maya communities of using the landscape as an instrument in political interactions, and encourage incorporation of the natural environment into studies of Classic Maya politics.

Cite this Record

Fortified Capitals: Understanding Defensive Systems at Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan. Mallory Matsumoto, Andrew Scherer, Omar Alcover Firpi. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444301)

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): 20040