The Petexbatun Intersite Settlement Pattern Survey: Shifting Settlement Strategies in the Ancient Maya World
Settlement pattern research – the study of the spatial distribution of settlement across a landscape – is a fundamental aspect of archaeological investigations. This dissertation is a study of ancient Maya settlement on a regional scale in the Petexbatun region of Guatemala. The Petexbatun is located in the southwestern part of the Department of Petén and contains a number of significant archaeological sites, including Dos Pilas, Aguateca, and Tamarindito. These sites and the region as a whole were almost completely abandoned in the late eighth and early ninth centuries A.D., marking the beginning of the changes that swept the Maya world more than a millennium ago – an event often referred to as “The Classic Maya Collapse.” For this reason a large scale, multidisciplinary project, the Vanderbilt University Petexbatun Regional Archaeological Project (VUPRAP), intensively and extensively investigated the region. The research presented here is part of that project. Focusing on intersite areas rather than major centers, a sampling strategy was employed to test the 30 square kilometer zone. Four transects were mapped covering an area of approximately 1.5 square kilometers, or 5%, of the region. Within each transect a minimum of 10% of all structures, walls, and features were excavated. Through this research and in conjunction with the other VUPRAP subprojects, particularly the ecology, epigraphy, and ceramics subprojects, this dissertation examines the relationship between rural settlement strategies, ecology, and social and political events over the 3000 year history of the region (approximately 2000 BC to AD 830). These changes over time are then integrated into broader processual issues in Maya and Mesoamerican archaeology.