LAND AND LABOR: CLASSIC MAYA TERRACED AGRICULTURE AT CARACOL, BELIZE

Open Access
Author:
Murtha Jr., Timothy Michael
Graduate Program:
Anthropology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
June 12, 2002
Committee Members:
  • Arlen Chase, Committee Member
  • William Sanders, Committee Member
  • David Lee Webster, Committee Chair
  • George Robert Milner, Committee Member
  • Barry Earl Scheetz, Committee Member
  • Kenneth Gale Hirth, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • Simulation
  • EPIC
  • Belize
  • Caracol
  • Terraces
  • Maya
  • Intensive Agriculture
  • Terracing
  • Classic Maya
  • Agriculture
  • Cultural Ecology
  • Land Use
  • Tropical Ecology
  • GIS
  • Cultural Evolution
  • Labor
  • British Honduras
  • Archaeology
  • Mesoamerica
  • Anthropology
Abstract:
This dissertation addresses one of the central themes facing current research in archaeology, i.e., our recent attempts to compare prehistoric sites and people to modern post-Industrial notions of behavior, site organization and complexity. Our fascination with the past has often led to our rejection of quantitative and process based models and theories. This dissertation illustrates that process in prehistory must be viewed both quantitatively and through the use of evolutionary models. Using the general topic of agricultural intensification, I illustrate that studies of agriculture in prehistory must emphasize process over event, and quantitative over qualitative analysis. The location of my research is the Classic Maya site of Caracol, Belize, which exhibits the clearest evidence for agricultural intensification in the Maya lowlands. But the features have often been misinterpreted as state level or empire building features. In contrast, through diachronic simulation and quantitative analysis I argue here that intensive agriculture in the region and by extension much of the Maya lowlands, was a local response to ecological and demographic considerations. Using a smallholder approach I aimed to refocus archaeological conceptions of agricultural production from the temples and palaces of Maya sites back to the households of Maya farmers, i.e., the majority of their Classic population.