Analyzing ancient Maya settlement spaces : integrating existing data and geophysical survey to understand creation of space in ancient Maya spatial patterns

Neuhoff-Malorzo, Patricia Ann
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Creation of space is complex and multilayered. When societies or groups make or construct space it can represent or reflect a variable host of characteristics of a given culture or people including but not limited to political, symbolic, ritual, social, practical, functional, and traditional aspects. All of these attributes create patterns that are observable across the landscape and in the archaeological record in both the visible and invisible remains. This dissertation examines and compares the aspects of the built and the buried environment that create those settlement and spatial patterns. Where previously discussed, with regard to ancient Maya site comparison, the research focus has been on small, individual sites and their relationships to their respective larger centers. This dissertation employs the novel approach of comparing the smaller sites of Las Abejas, Medicinal Trail, and Tzak Naab in northwest Belize to one another. I also scrutinize the reflection of social organization status disparities, and social traditions as they present in the spatial patterns. In order to do this, I identified and defined the relevant site planning approaches and aspects and then analyzed each site by incorporating new geophysical survey data with years’ worth of existing datasets, and both new and existing survey and mapping data. Evaluation and comparison of the datasets garnered both expected and unexpected information. Each site, while unique, was similar. Comparisons were recognized in terms of layout and organizational characteristics, resource availability and access, structural design, groupings, and shape, visible and invisible signs of social disparity, and visible and invisible indications of shared traditions which were then connected to modern populations through ethnographic correlates. This type of information is available not only from the sites chosen for this research endeavor, but also from a number of sites across the realm of the ancient Maya. The utilization of such datasets shows how minimal investigation and limited information can be used to analyze, contextualize, and compare sites, and allow for comparisons and connections to be made across regions and time periods connecting the past and the present through the identification and analysis of the visible and the invisible patterns.