The settlement of Nohmul: Development of a prehispanic Maya community in northern Belize.
AuthorPyburn, Karen Anne.
KeywordsNohmul Site (Belize)
Mayas -- Antiquities.
Belize -- Antiquities.
Land settlement patterns, Prehistoric -- Belize.
Excavations (Archaeology) -- Belize.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe study of prehistoric Maya settlements has been hampered by simplistic views of cultural ecology, over generalized ethnographic analogy, and a lack of attention to both natural and cultural site formation processes. As a result, Mayanists have tended to expect very little variety in archaeological features and have assumed cultural uniformity over wide ranges of time and space. Traditional research designs support these assumptions. Current knowledge of Maya social organization suggests that more structural variety may occur in Maya archaeological sites than is ordinarily discovered. Some of this variation is evidenced by features not currently visible on the ground-surface. The Nohmul Settlement pattern project employed a "purposive" sampling design to search for settlement variation over time and space. Several assumptions about surface-subsurface relationships were tested. Surface indications were not found to outline subsurface variety. Excavating at intervals from site center in both visible and "invisible" features, showed that the Nohmul community was affected by both centralizing and decentralizing influences and grouped into residential clusters resembling neighborhoods. The degree of centralization and the location of the clusters, as well as some of their characteristics, changed notably over Nohmul's 2500 year occupation.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Arizona
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Basal platform mounds at Chau Hiix, Belize: Evidence for ancient Maya social structure and cottage industry manufacturingCulbert, T. Patrick; Cook, Patricia Maria, 1965- (The University of Arizona., 1997)Traditional interpretations of ancient Maya social organization formulated more than half a century ago persist in current reconstructions. These proffer an ancient culture dichotomized into two distinct groups, elites and commoners, based on distinct social or economic characteristics. Recent research has shown that this theoretical dichotomy is unrealistic. A continuum in artifact assemblages and quantities, architectural sizes, styles and construction techniques, burial and cache contents, and other data sets indicate that interpretations identifying specific contexts as either elite or commoner are difficult to make. This has led some Mayanists to propose the existence of a middle class in ancient Maya society. This separate class is identifiable in the archaeological record by certain architectural units and limited access to restricted items. A multiple class reconstruction of ancient Maya culture more easily explains the diversity found in the archaeological record, and offers alternative models of Maya social, economic, and political systems. The Basal Platform Mound Project investigated a particular architectural type, the basal platform mound, that was hypothesized to represent the middle class. Excavations were undertaken at the site of Chau Hiix, in northern Belize, between 1993 and 1997. The four goals of the project were: (1) to identify and define a middle class within an ancient Maya community; (2) to determine the economic and social roles of this class within the ancient society at Chau Hiix during the Late Classic through Postclassic periods; (3) to determine the internal variability within this stratum as an indicator of the complexity of social systems among the ancient Maya; and (4) to determine if using the intersection of particular architectural styles and select artifact categories to identify social class is appropriate. This dissertation reports the results of the Basal Platform Mound Project, and offers a reconstruction of ancient Maya social, economic, and political trajectories that incorporates a middle class as a dynamic factor. A model is presented in which the middle class played a crucial role during the transition from the Late and Terminal Classic to the Postclassic periods, participating directly in the economic system as producers and perhaps as distributors. The flexibility and variability documented within this social group may be key to understanding the diverse developmental trajectories exhibited by different sites across the Maya Lowlands.
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