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Settlement and population at Piedras Negras, Guatemala

by Nelson, Zachary Nathan.

Abstract (Summary)
My dissertation examines the relationship between settlement and population at Piedras Negras, Guatemala. This Classic Maya center developed from a small village into a major polity over the course of a thousand years. Excavations from within the site conducted by the University of Pennsylvania (1931-1937) and the Projecto Piedras Negras (1997-2000, 2004) have greatly expanded our knowledge of the center and its surrounding areas. Mapping crews have discovered over 500 structures in the site core, and an additional 250 structures within two kilometers of the center. Numerous test pits were placed throughout epicentral Piedras Negras to define the chronology of the center and to better understand its change and development over time. In addition, several patio groups were completely excavated to understand their development through time. A model of population change and center development can be derived from the information collected via excavations. Epicentral Piedras Negras had a very low population during most of its existence which only peaked to a maximum of 2600 inhabitants during the Chacalhaaz ceramic phase (AD 750-825). During this same period, the polity of Piedras Negras had a maximum population of 50,000 people with a density of 15 people per square kilometer. Agricultural practices based on a medium fallow system could have supported the inhabitants of Piedras Negras (the center) without the use of any intensive agricultural features due to its low population. The lack of agricultural terracing generally supports this conclusion. A study of the remains of patio groups indicates that there are differences in the material culture between epicentral patio groups (or the remains of households) and differences between rural patio groups and epicentral patio groups. These differences suggest that differential access to material goods occurred within the social structure of the ancient center. iii
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School:Pennsylvania State University

School Location:USA - Pennsylvania

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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