Skip to main content
×
×
Home

The Use of LiDAR in Understanding the Ancient Maya Landscape: Caracol and Western Belize

  • Arlen F. Chase (a1), Diane Z. Chase (a2), Jaime J. Awe (a3), John F. Weishampel (a4), Gyles Iannone (a5), Holley Moyes (a6), Jason Yaeger (a7) and M. Kathryn Brown (a8)...
Abstract

The use of airborne LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) in western Belize, Central America, has revolutionized our understanding of the spatial dynamics of the ancient Maya. This technology has enabled researchers to successfully demonstrate the large-scale human modifications made to the ancient tropical landscape, providing insight on broader regional settlement. Before the advent of this laser-based technology, heavily forested cover prevented full coverage and documentation of Maya sites. Mayanists could not fully recover or document the extent of ancient occupation and could never be sure how representative their mapped and excavated samples were relative to ancient settlement. Employing LiDAR in tropical and subtropical environments, like that of the Maya, effectively provides ground, as well as forest cover information, leading to a much fuller documentation of the complexities involved in the ancient human-nature interface. Airborne LiDAR was first flown over a 200 km2 area of the archaeological site of Caracol, Belize, in April 2009. In April and May 2013 an additional 1,057 km2 were flown with LiDAR, permitting the contextualization of the city of Caracol within its broader region and polity. The use of this technology has transformed our understanding of regional archaeology in the Maya area.

El uso de LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) instalado en un avión y sobrevolando el oeste de Belice en América Central, ha revolucionado nuestra comprensión de la din·mica espacial de los antiguos mayas y ha ayudado significativamente a establecer comparaciones con otras civilizaciones tropicales. Esta tecnologÌa ha permitido a investigadores demostrar con éxito las modificaciones humanas a gran escala realizadas en el antiguo paisaje tropical, revelando información sobre los patrones de asentamiento de una amplia región. La densidad y la extensión de la ocupación documentada por el LiDAR tienen implicaciones para los modelos sociales y polÌticos de la época cl·sica maya (550-900 d.C.). Antes de la llegada de esta tecnologÌa basada en l·ser, la densa cubierta forestal impedÌa la cobertura completa y la documentación de los lugares arqueológicos mayas. Mayanistas no podÌan recuperar plenamente o documentar el grado de ocupación antigua y nunca podÌan estar seguros de cu·n representativas eran sus muestras mapeadas y excavadas en relación al antiguo asentamiento. El empleo de LiDAR en ambientes tropicales y subtropicales, como el de los mayas, nos ofrece de manera efectiva información del terreno, tanto como la de la cubierta forestal, lo que lleva a una documentación mucho m·s completa de las complejidades involucradas en la antigua interfaz hombre-naturaleza. El LiDAR aerotransportado sobrevoló por primera vez en abril de 2009 un ·rea de 200 kilómetros cuadrados de la zona arqueológica de Caracol, Belice. Estos datos revitalizaron la arqueologÌa del paisaje del ·rea maya, proporcionando una imagen completa de una antigua ciudad—sus asentamientos, centros administrativos y rituales, caminos y terrazas agrÌcolas. En abril y mayo del 2013 una sección adicional de 1.057 kilómetros cuadrados fueron sobrevolados con LiDAR, asi permitiendo la contextualización de la ciudad de Caracol dentro de su región general fÌsica y polÌtica. Cuando se combina esta información con datos detallados de la excavación arqueológica, LiDAR proporciona un recurso sin precedentes para el an·lisis de las din·micas a largo plazo de la relación hombre-naturaleza en relación al aumento, el mantenimiento, y la caÌda de la antigua sociedad maya.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Adams, Richard E.W. 1974 A Trial Estimation of Classic Maya Palace Populations at Uaxactun. In Mesoamerican Archaeology: New Approaches, edited by Hammond, Norman, pp. 285296. Duckworth, London.
Alcock, Susan E., and Cherry, John F. (editors) 2004 Side-by-Side Survey: Comparative Regional Studies in the Mediterranean World. Oxbow Books, Oxford, England.
Ashmore, Wendy (editor) 1981 Lowland Maya Settlement Patterns. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Ashmore, Wendy (editor) 2007 Settlement Archaeology at Quirigu·, Guatemala. Quirigu· Reports Volume 4. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia.
Awe, Jaime J. 1985 Archaeological Investigations at Caledonia, Cayo District, Belize. M.A. Thesis, Department of Anthropology, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario.
Awe, Jaime J. 2005 Salvage Excavations in the Areas Impacted by the Challilo Dam. Manuscript on file at Institute of Archaeology, Belize.
Balkansky, Andrew K. 2006 Surveys and Mesoamerican Archaeology: The Emerging Macroregional Paradigm. Journal of Archaeological Research 14:5395.
Baudez, Claude 1983 Introduccion a la arqueologia de Copan, Honduras. 3 vols. Secretaria de Estado en el Despacho de Cultura y Turismo, Honduras.
Becker, Marshall J. 1979 Priests, Peasants, and Ceremonial Centers: The Intellectual History of a Model. In Maya Archaeology and Ethnohistory, edited by Hammond, Norman and Willey, Gordon, pp. 320. University of Texas Press, Austin.
Becker, Marshall J., and Jones, Christopher 1999 Excavations in Residential Areas at Tikal: Groups with Shrines. Tikal Report 21. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia.
Blanton, Richard E. 2004 Settlement Pattern and Population Change in Mesoamerican and Mediterranean Civilizations: A Comparative Perspective. In Side-by-Side Survey: Comparative Regional Studies in the Mediterranean World, edited by Alcock, Susan and Cherry, John F., pp. 206240. Oxbow Books, Oxford, England.
Blanton, Richard E., Feinman, Gary M., Kowladewski, Stephen A., and Nichols, Linda M. 1999 Ancient Oaxaca: The Monte Alban State. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.
Blanton, Richard E., Kowalewski, Stephen E., Feinman, Gary M., and Finsten, Laura M. 1993 A Comparison of Change in Three Regions. 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.
Carr, Robert F., and Hazard, James E. 1961 Map of the Ruins of Tikal, El Peten, Guatemala. Tikal Report 11. University Museum Monograph. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia.
Chase, Adrian S.Z. 2012 Beyond Elite Control: Water Management at Caracol, Belize. Bachelors thesis, Department of Archaeology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Chase, Adrian S.Z., and Weishampel, John F. 2014 Water Capture and Agricultural Terracing at Caracol, Belize as Revealed Through LiDAR. Remote Sensing 6, in press.
Chase, Arlen F., and Chase, Diane Z. 1990 Los Sistemas Mayas de Subsistencia y Patron de Asentamiento: Pasado y Futuro. In Los Mayas: El Esplendor de Una Civilizacion, edited by Yanez-Barnuevo Garcia, L. and Ruiz, Andres Ciudad, pp. 3848. Sociedad Estatal Quinto Centenario, Turner Libros, S.A., Madrid.
Chase, Arlen F., and Chase, Diane Z. 1995 External Impetus, Internal Synthesis, and Standardization: E Group Assemblages and the Crystalization of Classic Maya Society in the Southern Lowlands. Acta Mesoamericana 8:87101. Markt Schwaben Verlag A. Surwein, Germany.
Chase, Arlen F., and Diane Z., Chase 1996 A Mighty Maya Nation: How Caracol Built an Empire by Cultivating Its “Middle Class.” Archaeology 49(5):6672.
Chase, Arlen F., and Chase, Diane Z. 1998 Scale and Intensity in Classic Period Maya Agriculture: Terracing and Settlement at the “Garden City” of Caracol, Belize. Culture and Agriculture 20(2):6077.
Chase, Arlen F., and Chase, Diane Z. 2001a Ancient Maya Causeways and Site Organization at Caracol, Belize. Ancient Mesoamerica 12(2):273281.
Chase, Arlen F., and Chase, Diane Z. 2001b The Royal Court of Caracol, Belize: Its Palaces and People. In Royal Courts of the Ancient Maya: Volume 2: Data and Case Studies, edited by Inomata, Takeshi and Houston, Stephen D., pp. 102137. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado.
Chase, Arlen F., and Chase, Diane Z. 2004 Terminal Classic Status-Linked Ceramics and the Maya ‘Collapse”: De Facto Refuse at Caracol, Belize. In The Terminal Classic in the Maya Lowlands: Collapse, Transition, and Transformation, edited by Demarest, Arthur, Rice, Prudence, and Rice, Don, pp. 342366. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.
Chase, Arlen F., and Chase, Diane Z. 2012 Belize Red Ceramics and Their Implications for Trade and Exchange in the Eastern Maya Lowlands. Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology 9:314.
Chase, Arlen F., and Chase, Diane Z. 2014 Houses, Households, and Residential Groups at Caracol, Belize. Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology 11:317.
Chase, Arlen F., Chase, Diane Z., Awe, Jaime J., Weishampel, John F., Iannone, Gyles, Moyes, Holley, Yaeger, Jason, Brown, Katheryn, Shresthra, Ramesh L., Carter, William E., and Diaz, Juan Fernandez 2014 Ancient Maya Regional Settlement and Inter-Site Analysis: The 2013 West-Central Belize LiDAR Survey. Remote Sensing 6, in press.
Chase, Arlen F., Chase, Diane Z., Fisher, Christopher T., Leisz, Steve, and Weishampel, John F. 2012 Geospatial Revolution and Remote Sensing LiDAR in Mesoamerican Archaeology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109(32):1291612921.
Chase, Arlen F., and Scarborough (editors), Vernon L. 2014 The Resilience and Vulnerability of Ancient Landscapes: Transforming Maya Archaeology through IHOPE. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, Arlington, Virginia.
Chase, Arlen F., Chase, Diane Z., and Smith, Michael E. 2009 States and Empires in Ancient Mesoamerica. Ancient Mesoamerica 20(2):175182.
Chase, Arlen F., Chase, Diane Z., and Weishampel, John F. 2010 Lasers in the Jungle: Airborne sensors reveal a vast Maya landscape. Archaeology 63(4):2729.
Chase, Arlen F., Chase, Diane Z., Weishampel, John F., Drake, Jason B., Shrestha, Ramesh L., Clint Slatton, K., Awe, Jaime J., and Carter, William E. 2011 Airborne LiDAR, Archaeology, and the Ancient Maya Landscape at Caracol, Belize. Journal of Archaeological Science 38:387398.
Chase, Diane Z., and Chase, Arlen F. (editors) 1992 Mesoamerican Elites: An Archaeological Assessment. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
Chase, Diane Z., and Chase, Arlen F. 2014 Path Dependency in Rise and Denouement of a Classic Maya City: The Case of Caracol, Belize. In The Resilience and Vulnerability of Ancient Landscapes: Transforming Maya Archaeology through IHOPE, edited by Chase, Arlen F. and Scarborough, Vernon. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, Arlington, Virginia (in press).
Chase, Diane Z., Chase, Arlen F., Awe, Jaime J., Walker, John H., and Weishampel, John F. 2011 Airborne LiDAR at Caracol, Belize and the Interpretation of Ancient Maya Society and Landscapes. Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology 8:6173.
Cobos, Rafael 2004 Chichen Itza: Settlement and Hegemony during the Terminal Classic Period. In The Terminal Classic in the Maya Lowlands, edited by Demarest, Arthur A., Rice, Prudence M., and Rice, Don S., pp. 517544. University of Colorado Press, Boulder.
Coe, William R., and Haviland, William A. 1982 Introduction to the Archaeology of Tikal, Guatemala. Tikal Report 12. University Museum Monograph 46. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia.
Culbert, T. Patrick, Kosakowsky, Laura J., Fry, Robert E., and Haviland, William A. 1990 The Population of Tikal, Guatemala. In Precolumbian Population History in the Maya Lowlands, edited by Patrick Culbert, T. and Rice, Don S., pp. 103121. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Culbert, T. Patrick, and Rice, Don S. (editors) 1990 Precolumbian Population History in the Maya Lowlands. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Dahlin, Bruce H., Beach, Tim, Luzzadder-Beach, Susan, Hixson, David, Hutson, Scott, Magnoni, A., Mansell, E., and Mazeau, David E. 2005 Reconstructing the Subsistence Economy at Chunchucmil, Yucatan, Mexico: A Case for a Convergence of Evidence Argument. Ancient Mesoamerica 9:115.
Demarest, Arthur A. 1997 The Vanderbilt Petexbatun Regional Archaeological Project 1989-1994: Overview, History, and Major Results of a Multidisciplinary Study of the Classic Maya Collapse. Ancient Mesoamerica 8:209227.
Devereaux, B.J., Amable, G.S., and Crow, P. 2008 Visualization of LiDAR Terrain Models for Archaeological Feature Detection. Antiquity 82:470479.
Driver, David, and Garber, James E. 2004 The Emergence of Minor Centers in the Zones between Seats of Power. In The Ancient Maya of the Belize Valley: Half a Century of Archaeological Research, edited by Garber, James, pp. 287304. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.
Escobedo, Hector (editor) 2008 Registro de Sitios Arqueologicos del Sureste y Centro-oeste de Peten. Monografias Atlas Arqueologico de Guatemala. Direccion General del Patrimonio Cultural y Natural, Guatemala.
Evans, Damian H., Fletcher, Roland J., Pottier, Christophe, Chevance, Jean-Baptiste, Soutif, Dominique, Tan, Boun Suy, Im, Sokrithy, Ea, Darith, Tin, Tina, Kim, Samnang, Cromarty, Christopher, De Greef, Stephane, Hanus, Kasper, Baty, Pierre, Kuszinger, Robert, Shimoda, Ichita, and Boornazian, Glenn 2013 Uncovering Archaeological Landscapes at Angkor Using LiDAR. PNAS 110(31):1259512600.
Fash, William L. 1991 Scribes, Warriors, and Kings: The City of Copan and the Ancient Maya. Thames & Hudson, New York.
Flannery, Kent 1977 Linear Stream Patterns and Riverside Settlement Rules. In The Mesoamerican Village, edited by Kent, Flannery, pp. 173180. Academic Press, New York.
Fletcher, Roland 2009 Low-Density, Agrarian-Based Urbanism: A Comparative View. Insights 2:219.
Folan, William J., Kintz, Ellen R., and Fletcher, Larraine A. 1983 Coba: An Ancient Maya Metropolis. Academic Press, San Francisco.
Folan, William J., Fletcher, Larraine A., Hau, Jacinto May, and Folan, Lynda Florey 2001 Las Ruinas de Calakmul, Campeche, Mexico: un lugar central y su paisaje cultural. Universidad Autonoma de Campeche, Campeche, Mexico.
Ford, Anabel 1986 Population Growth and Social Complexity: An Examination of Settlement and Environment in the Central Maya Lowlands. Anthropological Research Papers, No. 35. Arizona State University, Tempe.
Garber, James E. (editor) 2004 The Ancient Maya of the Belize Valley: Half a Century of Archaeological Research. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.
Garduno Argueta, Jaime 1979 Introduccion al patron de asentamiento del sitio de Coba, Quintana Roo. Escuela Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, Mexico.
Garza Tarazona de Gonzalez, Silvia, and Kurjack, Edward B. 1980 Atlas Arqueoiogico del Estado de Yucat·n. 2 vols. Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, Mexico.
Glennie, C.L., Carter, William E., Shrestha, Ramesh L., and Dietrich, W.E. 2013 Geodetic Imaging with Airborne LiDAR: the Earth’s Surface Revealed. Reports on Progress in Physics 76. 086801 (24pp) DOI:10.1088/0034-4885/76/8/086801 (IF 13.23).
Golden, Charles, Scherer, Andrew K., Munoz, Arturo R., and Vasquez, Rene 2008 Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan: Divergent Political Trajectories in Adjacent Maya Polities. Latin American Antiquity 19:249274.
Graham, Elizabeth 1987 Resource Diversity in Belize and Its Implications for Models of Lowland Trade. American Antiquity 54:253267.
Grube, Nikolai 1994 Epigraphic Research at Caracol, Belize. In Studies in the Archaeology of Caracol, Belize, edited by Chase, Diane Z. and Chase, Arlen F., pp. 83122. Monograph 7. Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute, San Francisco.
Harrison, Peter D. 1999 The Lords of Tikal: Rulers of an Ancient Maya City. Thames & Hudson, London.
Haviland, William A., Becker, Marshall J., Chowning, Anne, Dixon, Keith A., and Heider, Karl 1985 Excavations in Residential Areas of Tikal: Non-Elite Groups without Shrines. Tikal Report 20. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia.
Helmke, Christophe, and Awe, Jaime J. 2012 Ancient Maya Territorial Organization in the Belize Valley. Contributions in New World Archaeology 4:5990.
Houston, Stephen D., Escobedo, Hector, Child, Mark, Golden, Charles, Terry, Richard, and Webster, David 2001 In the Land of the Turtle Lords: Archaeological Investigations at Piedras Negras, Guatemala, 2000. Mexicon 22(5):97110.
Houston, Stephen D., Escobedo, Hector, Child, Mark, Golden, Charles, and Munoz, Rene 2003 The Moral Community: Maya Settlement Transformation at Piedras Negras, Guatemala. In The Social Construction of Ancient Cities, edited by Smith, Monica L., pp. 212253. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.
Iannone, Gyles 2005 The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Maya Petty Royal Court. Latin American Antiquity 16:2644.
Inomata, Takeshi, and Houston, Stephen D. (editors) 2000 Royal Courts of the Ancient Maya: Volume.1: Theory, Comparison, and Synthesis. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado.
Inomata, Takeshi, and Houston, Stephen D. (editors) 2001 Royal Courts of the Ancient Maya: Volume 2: Data And Case Studies. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado.
Kowalewski, Stephen A., Balkansky, Andrew K., Stiver Walsh, Laura R., Pluckhahn, Thomas J., Chamblee, John F., Rodriguez, Veronica Perez, Heredia Espinoza, Verenice Y., and Smith, Charlotte A. 2009 Origins of the Nuu: Archaeology in the Mixteca Alta, Mexico. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.
Laporte, Juan Pedro 1994 Ixtoton, Dolores, Peten: entidad politica del noroeaste de las montanas Maya. Atlas Arqueologico de Guatemala No. 2. Universidad de San Carlos, Guatemala.
LeCount, Lisa J., and Yaeger, Jason (editors) 2010 Classic Maya Provincial Politics: Xunantunich and Its Hinterlands. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Marcus, Joyce 1983 On the Nature of the Mesoamerican City. In Prehistoric Settlement Patterns: Essays in Honor of Gordon R. Willey, edited by Vogt, Evon and Leventhal, Richard, pp. 195242. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Maudslay, Alfred P. 1983 Biologia Centrali America: Archaeology. 5 vols. R.H. Porter and Dulau and Company, London. 1983 facsimile ed. In 6 vols. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
Moyes, Holley, Kosakowsky, Laura, Robinson, Mark, and Voorhies, Barbara 2012 Better Late Than Never: Preliminary Investigations at Las Cuevas. Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology 9:221231.
Parsons, Jeffrey R. 1990 Critical Reflections on a Decade of Full-Coverage Regional Survey in the Valley of Mexico. In The Archaeology of Regions: A Case for Full-Coverage Survey, edited by Fish, Susan and Kowalewski, Stephen, pp. 731. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Puleston, Dennis E. 1983 The Settlement Survey of Tikal. University Museum Monograph 48. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia.
Redfield, Robert 1941 The Folk Culture of Yucatan. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Redfield, Robert 1947 The Folk Society. The American Journal of Sociology 52:293308.
Sabloff, Jeremy A., and Ashmore, Wendy 2007 An Aspect of Archaeology’s Recent Past and its Relevance in the New Millennium. In Archaeology at the Millenium, edited by Feinman, Gary M. and Douglas Price, T., pp. 1132. Springer, New York.
Sanders, William T., Parsons, Jeffrey R., and Santley, Robert S. 1979 The Basin of Mexico: Ecological Processes in the Evolution of Civilization. Academic Press, New York.
Schortman, Edward M. 1993 Archaeological Investigations in the Lower Motagua Valley, Izabal, Guatemala: A Study in Monumental Site Function and Interaction. Quirigu· Reports III. University Museum Monograph 80. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia.
Stephens, John L., and Catherwood, Frederick 1855 Incidents of Travel in Yucatan. Harper and Brothers, New York.
Stuart, George E. 1979 Map of the Ruins of Dzibilchaltun, Yucatan, Mexico. MARI Publication 47. Tulane University, New Orleans.
Sullivan, Alan P., Mink, Philip B., and Uphus, Patrick M. 2007 Archaeological Survey Design, Units of Observation, and the Characterization of Regional Variability. American Antiquity 72:322333.
Taschek, Jennifer T., and Ball, Joseph W. 1999 Las Ruinas de Arenal, Belize—Preliminary Report on a Subregional Major Center in the Western Belize Valley (1991-1992 Excavations). Ancient Mesoamerica 10(2):215235.
Vogt, Evan 1968 Some Aspects of Zinacantan Settlement and Ceremonial Organization. In Settlement Archaeology, edited by Chang, K.C., pp. 154173. National Press Books, Palo Alto.
Wauchope, Robert 1934 House Mounds of Uaxactun, Guatemala. Publication 436. Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C.
Weishampel, John F., Hightower, Jessica N., Chase, Arlen F., and Chase, Diane Z. 2012 Use of Airborne LiDAR to Delineate Canopy Degradation and Encroachment along the Guatemala-Belize Border. Tropical Conservation Science 5(1):1224.
Weishampel, John F., Hightower, Jessica, Chase, Arlen F., Chase, Diane Z., and Patrick, Ryan A. 2011 Detection and Morphologic Analysis of Potential below-Canopy Cave Openings in the Karst Landscape around the Maya Polity of Caracol Using Airborne LiDAR. Journal of Cave and Karst Studies 73(3):187196.
Willey, Gordon R. 1956 The Structure of Ancient Maya Society: Evidence from the Southern Lowlands. American Anthropologist 58(5):777782.
Zaksek, Klemen, Ostir, Kristof, and Kokalj, Siga 2011 Sky-View Factor as a Relief Visualization Technique. Remote Sensing 3:398415.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Advances in Archaeological Practice
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 2326-3768
  • URL: /core/journals/advances-in-archaeological-practice
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed