Multiproxy and LiDAR Evidence for Intensive Maya Wetland Agriculture Along the Rio Bravo River


This is an abstract from the "Ancient Maya Landscapes in Northwestern Belize, Part II" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

We present preliminary results from a newly discovered Maya wetland canal and raised field system found along the Rio Bravo River in Northwest Belize using airborne LiDAR. The LiDAR data reveals canals and raised fields in a very rectilinear pattern that suggest planning and organization for many kilometers down the floodplain near the site of Wari Camp. In fact, these fields may be the most rectilinear and extensive known the region. In the summer of 2018, we surveyed the canals on the ground and conducted 3 excavations in the raised fields and canals, an excavation of a platform terrace on a hill in the floodplain, and took soil cores from a main feeder canal that still had water. We found a well-developed paleosol about 1.2m below the surface of the raised field, similar to other systems in the region. High gypsum in the soils likely precipitates from the sulfate rich groundwater, posing a challenge for agriculture without proper management in addition to seasonal variation in water levels. Carbon dates and geochemical evidence constrains the timing of creation and abandonment of the canals in the archaeological context, and possible environmental challenges this ecosystem engineering could overcome for intensive agriculture.

Cite this Record

Multiproxy and LiDAR Evidence for Intensive Maya Wetland Agriculture Along the Rio Bravo River. Colin Doyle, Timothy Beach, Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, Jedidiah Dale. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 452562)

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 26014