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Ancient Maya Site Planning Principles: A Case Study for the Preclassic/Classic Transition


Research focusing on the spatial planning of Preclassic (c.1000 B.C. - A.D.350) Maya communities is underrepresented in the field of Maya studies, with the majority of studies focusing on later Classic (A.D.350-A.D.900) and Postclassic (A.D.900-A.D.1520) period sites. It has been hypothesized that the ancient Maya used specific and formalized site planning principles at major urban centers of the Classic period as indicated by patterns in the archaeological record. There is also evidence from ethnohistoric and ethnographic accounts that small rural communities used cosmological site planning principles from the Contact period and into the present, suggesting some degree of cultural continuity in the layout of Maya communities. This dissertation research provides a case study exploring models of community structure using settlement pattern data along with archaeological, ethnohistoric and ethnographic data to provide insight into Maya social organization and community structure during the Preclassic/Classic period transition. Research was focused on a site located in the Yalahau Region of the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico with a relatively short occupation period during the Late Preclassic/Early Classic transition, perhaps as short as 100-300 years. This short period of occupation allowed examination of the spatial layout of a Preclassic site without the overburden of subsequent, prolonged construction episodes, and will provided a snapshot of the spatial dimensions of a site occupied during a period in the Maya region that has not been extensively studied to date. Applicability of these models are examined through the analysis of the geographic patterning of architecture, as measured by the distribution of architecture at the site.

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