Vegetative Agency and Social Memory in Houselots of Ancient Cobá

Author(s): Harper Dine; Traci Ardren; Chelsea Fisher

Year: 2018


It is difficult to pin down the objective definition of a weed; rather, the idea of a weed is constructed through a set of characteristics that are, for the most part, dependent on context and relative interactions. Doody et al (2014) use Judith Butler’s (1990) concept of performativity to describe this dynamic, ongoing construction as a product of the agency of both people and plants. Here we interpret studies on ancient Maya agricultural techniques through the lens of plant agency and human-plant relations. We aim to investigate the place-making of agricultural landscapes through an analysis of both helpful and destructive ‘weed’ agencies in traditional planting, weeding, and medicinal practices. Using new LiDAR data from Cobá, we examine the liminal spaces around houselots, sometimes called ‘toft zones,’ to look at time management and place-making at different temporal scales. This shifting social practice and place-making factor into the performativity of weeds, and vice versa. A result of this exercise is the problematization of what it means for a plant to be ‘out of place’ in the ancient Maya agricultural landscape (Head et al 2014) as well as a new appreciation of how certain plants impacted daily time management schemas.

Cite this Record

Vegetative Agency and Social Memory in Houselots of Ancient Cobá. Harper Dine, Traci Ardren, Chelsea Fisher. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444446)

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): 20545