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STONES, BONES, AND CROWDED PLAZAS: Evidence for Terminal Classic Maya warfare at Colha, Belize

  • Jason W. Barrett (a1) and Andrew K. Scherer (a2)

This study provides a synthetic review of the Terminal Classic collapse of the Maya site of Colha, Belize, based on new data drawn from recent lithic and osteological studies and previously reported information. The well-known Colha skull pit has figured prominently in previous hypotheses of the site's collapse, which focus on either warfare or ritual termination. In this review, these two hypotheses are reexamined using data from: (1) shifts in settlement patterns; (2) transitions in lithic production; and (3) the death en masse of at least 55 individuals coincident with the site's abandonment. Based on the evidence presented here, we argue that warfare precipitated Colha's collapse. In light of Colha's role as a secondary site that functioned primarily as a lithic-production locality, the Terminal Classic destruction of the site illustrates the significance of material motivations in Maya warfare and accents the diversity of collapse processes in the Maya Lowlands.

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Ancient Mesoamerica
  • ISSN: 0956-5361
  • EISSN: 1469-1787
  • URL: /core/journals/ancient-mesoamerica
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