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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Geochemical Analysis of Construction Materials from Las Cuevas, Belize

  • Author(s): Ray, Erin Elizabeth
  • Advisor(s): Moyes, Holley
  • et al.

The ancient Maya site of Las Cuevas, in Western Belize features a cave system that runs beneath the main plaza. Investigations by the Las Cuevas Archaeological Reconnaissance project suggest that the site functioned as a Late Classic ritual pilgrimage venue and that the cave was used for large public centrally-organized performances. The cathedral-like cave entrance contains monumental architecture consisting of at least 76 plastered platforms. I hypothesize that the level of managerial oversight should be correlated with the consistency of building materials employed in their construction.

Plasters from both cave and surface contexts were analyzed using geochemical methods including XRF (pXRF), XRD, SEM, EDS and FTIR to examine their chemical make-up. Results demonstrate considerable variation in plaster recipes in the cave and on the surface. In this thesis, I discuss these findings and their implications.

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