Title page for ETD etd-06132007-220514

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Somers, Bretton Michael
Author's Email Address bsomer1@lsu.edu
URN etd-06132007-220514
Title Spatial Analysis of the Preserved Wooden Architectural Remains of Eight Late Classic Maya Salt Works in Punta Ycacos Lagoon, Toledo District, Belize
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Geography & Anthropology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Heather McKillop Committee Chair
Andrew Curtis Committee Member
Andrew Sluyter Committee Member
Patrick Hesp Committee Member
Michael Desmond Dean's Representative
  • Late Classic Maya Wooden Architecture
  • Spatial Analysis in Archaeology
  • Anthrogeography
  • Archeaogeography
  • GIS in Archaeology
Date of Defense 2007-05-08
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation examined the remains of wooden architecture at eight Late Classic Maya sites found beneath the surface of Punta Ycacos Lagoon in southern Belize. The presence of briquetage on the surface and embedded among the clusters of wooden architectural features implies association with salt production activity. This research is significant in that the preservation of wooden structures at the salt works has not previously been reported for the ancient Maya.

This dissertation includes a detailed discussion of documented evidence of salt production throughout Mesoamerica from archaeological, historical and modern examples. The discussion also addressed the evidence of Maya wooden architecture from archaeological, historical and modern examples with attention to wooden features reported at salt production sites. Additional background discussion includes a description of the physical landscape of the region and study area.

The methods used in this dissertation involved specialized strategies adapted from conventional research methods to overcome the challenges of gathering data in the inundated context of Punta Ycacos Lagoon. Additionally, this research involved the post-processing of a large body of survey data to build the project GIS used in the analysis of this study.

The results of the study included the discovery of 372 wooden posts as well as scatters of ceramic and lithic artifacts distributed among the eight sites. Analysis of a sample collection of artifacts recovered revealed the presence of Late Classic Maya ceramic types found in association with salt production sites elsewhere. Stone tools made of non-local materials were also present.

Analysis of the wooden posts recorded in the field survey, used GIS to compare patterns in the distribution of posts to modern and historical distributions of posts in Maya architectural features discussed during the background portion of the text. The comparison included the use of templates, based on the modern and historical examples, to identify similarities in the post distributions.

This research found that there are patterns in post distribution, some of which compare to modern and historical examples of Maya wooden architecture. This study emphasizes that there are rectilinear patterns in the placement of posts. This research demonstrates how GIS analysis offers an effective interactive medium from which to investigate and test patterns in this archaeological dataset. The use of GIS also demonstrated effective in-the-field potential for investigative decision making. The use of GIS in fieldwork may serve to direct efforts in a more effective and efficient manner, maximizing the output of often-limited time in the field.

Like many scholars before me, my research combined archaeological field methods and data, ethnographic and ethnohistoric accounts with geographic spatial analysis methods. My research examined the spatial distribution of wooden posts at Late Classic Maya salt workshops with GIS in an attempt to explain what these posts represent in the ancient Maya relationship with the coastal lagoon environment of Punta Ycacos Lagoon. In this analysis my research uses salt production examples from the pan-Maya lowlands and Mesoamerica to look for similarities with documented sources from the greater region. Following in the footsteps of a long history of anthropogeography in the Department of Geography and Anthropology at LSU my dissertation was intended to continue in this tradition under the recently formalized concentration in anthrogeography.

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