Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Natural Resources and Spatial Structure at Dzehkabtún, Mexico

This projects investigates spatial relations between soils and other resources and the urban layout of a classic Maya center in Campeche, Mexico.

2014 - 2015
Karsten Lambers

Digital Geoarchaeology group, Institute of Archaeology, Heritage Sciences and Art History, University of Bamberg

Ibero-American Institute, Berlin

Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Campeche

Soil sampling at the Maya center of Dzehkabtún, Campeche, Mexico (© Katja Kothieringer)

Classic Maya cities often show a dispersed settlement pattern, in which groups of buildings surrounding a courtyard are loosely scattered around one or several monumental cores, with vast stretches of seemingly open space in-between. This low-density urbanism is known from other tropical regions as well, and has been explained as evidence of intensive agriculture, horticulture and other forms of resource use within the settlements.

At the preclassic to epiclassic (4 th to 11 th century AD) Maya site of Dzehkabtún, Campeche, Mexico, we test this hypothesis by sampling and identifying different types of soils and sediments, analyzing their evolution involving natural and cultural processes, and mapping their spatial distribution across the site. The architectural remains at the site are currently being mapped and partially excavated by our project partners. This will allow spatial patterns of natural resources and urban structures to be compared in order to better understand their relation. A first field season in 2014 showed that the composition of soils and sediments varies greatly within the settlement, and that erosion and sedimentation during and after the site’s occupation have affected its topography. A geophysical survey is expected to reveal hidden architectural remains in future field seasons. This will contribute to the intended spatial analysis of the urban layout of the site.

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