All Roads Lead to the Verapaz: The Northern Highlands as a Nexus of Classic Period Exchange

Author(s): Arthur Demarest

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Art, Archaeology, and Science: Investigations in the Guatemala Highlands" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Prior to the Vanderbilt projects the Alta Verapaz was one of the least explored regions of the highlands with previous research limited to some test pits and cave explorations. With few known impressive constructions or monuments, the Alta Verapaz was assumed to be peripheral to both highland polities and the lowland Classic Maya cities. Vanderbilt excavations and cave explorations along the Verapaz corridors, however, demonstrated that important exchange routes with the Central Highlands, Baja Verapaz, Quiche, and lowlands passed through the Alta Verapaz. Abundant imitation Tzakol ceramics in caves on principal routes suggest lowland cultural, not political, dominance of Early Classic period Verapaz routes. In contrast, 2017-2018 investigations of Verapaz sites revealed that in the Late Classic period Alta Verapaz sites exercised control of the routes, as well as production and interregional distribution of figurines and ceramics and exchange of jade, obsidian, and pyrite with ethnohistorical evidence suggesting probable production and exchange of cotton, cacao and quetzal feathers. These explorations, projects, and compositional analyses show that the southwestern Late Classic lowland Maya border region was culturally in the shadow of the Verapaz highlands. Ongoing investigations in terra incognita are changing models of economic power in the highlands and beyond.

Cite this Record

All Roads Lead to the Verapaz: The Northern Highlands as a Nexus of Classic Period Exchange. Arthur Demarest. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 451217)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -94.197; min lat: 14.009 ; max long: -87.737; max lat: 18.021 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 25745