The Palenque mapping project: settlement and urbanism at an ancient Maya city

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Barnhart, Edwin Lawrence

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The Palenque Mapping Project (1998-2000) intensively surveyed the ancient Maya ruins of Palenque, in Chiapas, Mexico. The project covered 2.2 square kilometers of the city’s jungle shrouded plateau, documenting 1481 structures and over 16 linear kilometers of terracing. After a brief summary of Palenque’s mapping history, this dissertation presents the site’s new map. Each group within the city’s boundaries is discussed individually and illustrated with a detailed map. These new maps, combined with selected data from the last 100 years of excavation, are then used to present a preliminary evaluation of Palenque’s settlement pattern. Aspects including settlement density, population estimates and land use strategies are the primary topics of discussion. The degree of urbanism achieved at Palenque is also evaluated. Through comparison to other well-documented ancient Mesoamerican cities, Palenque is shown to have had an extremely high settlement density and one of the most extensive public works systems ever built by the Maya. The conclusion of this study provides a low-impact excavation plan, one not possible before the new map, designed to clarify three still poorly understood aspects of Palenque; chronological development, subsistence strategies and social organization.




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