Ancient Maya Sustainability at Caracol, Belize: Implications for Past and Future

Author(s): Arlen Chase; Diane Chase; Adrian Chase

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Advancing Public Perceptions of Sustainability through Archaeology" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Long-term archaeological research at Caracol, Belize has revealed a sizeable city with over 100,000 inhabitants at A.D. 650 that practiced intensive agriculture within its urban boundaries. Over 160 square kilometers of the landscape within Caracol was anthropogenic, having been rebuilt to both provide agricultural sustainability for the city’s inhabitants and to control the flow of rainwater over the karstic environment. Archaeological data shows that their landscape adaptions underlay half a millennium of sustainable occupation (here defined as the ability to feed family units and provide needed quotidian and prestige items to households). Yet, today this landscape is unpopulated and completely covered by jungle canopy. With few exceptions, the subsequent modern-day populations that occupy the country of Belize import much of their food from elsewhere, but new services and technologies provide modern populations with lifestyles that were unavailable to ancient populations. These changes need to be factored into any consideration of applying past sustainability practices to the future. The ancient Maya technologies that promoted sustainable agriculture and habitation in largely rainfed environments that lacked standing and running water have not been replicated by modern people, but hold the potential to significantly improve modern lifeways.

Cite this Record

Ancient Maya Sustainability at Caracol, Belize: Implications for Past and Future. Arlen Chase, Diane Chase, Adrian Chase. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450652)

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): 23167