skip to main content

Title: The Paleoindian Chronology of Tzib Te Yux Rockshelter in the Rio Blanco Valley of Southern Belize.
With very little known about preceramic occupations in Belize we present the chronology of a small rockshelter in southern Belize that has clear evidence of human activity extending back to the late Pleistocene. The shelter is located along the Rio Blanco valley less than 2 km from the site of Uxbenká. Data collected from four seasons of excavation indicate that the first humans began exploiting local resources, including freshwater snails (jute) by 10,500 BC and were drawn to the rockshelter by its location near fresh water and stone tool resources. Jute processing was a major part of the use of the shelter and continued likely through the Classic Period. Unfortunately, the upper levels of the archaic and Classic Maya period are mixed or were removed, possibly for the carbonate jute shells, likely during the occupation of Uxbenká.
Authors:
; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1632061
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10067808
Journal Name:
Research reports in Belizean archaeology
Volume:
14
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
321-326
ISSN:
2079-1038
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Research in Southern Belize has produced a 1000-year record of coupled human and environmental relationships at the ancient Maya city Uxbenká. Located at the southeastern margin of the Maya Lowlands, this region has excellent agricultural land and some of the highest rainfall in the Maya region. Uxbenká was the founding political center in southern Belize after 100 BCE. After 850 years, Uxbenká experienced a long geopolitical disintegration ending in depopulation as part of broad regional collapse. We use kernel density and summed probability distributions of 167 high-precision AMS14C dates to reconstruct relative changes in population and investments in the built environment throughout the growth and decline of the polity. Those data are compared to an annually resolved speleothem paleoclimate record from Yok Balum cave, located less than 3 km from Uxbenká’s civic ceremonial core. With no Classic Period wetland fields or evidence for large-scale landscape investments in agricultural intensification, food production would have been rainfall dependent as was water availability for household use. Using a 30 m SRTM DEM, we compute flow accumulation and the upvalley extents of river networks while varying the input precipitation to reflect hypothesized changes in paleorainfall over time. Our data suggest that Uxbenká experienced rapid growth following amore »severe drought at 200 CE, as well as cycles of growth and contraction until just after 750 CE. We find that geopolitical disintegration in southern Belize was already underway when a severe drought began at 830 CE. That six-decade drought likely contributed to the abandonment of Uxbenká and limited geopolitical reorganization.

    « less
  2. Southern Belize has received less archaeological attention than other areas due in large part to its remote location. However, the difficulty in accessing the area in recent times does not necessarily equate to isolation for the Classic Period Maya who lived in what is now the Toledo District. This paper discusses petrographic data collected on ceramic vessels recovered from burial contexts at Uxbenká, Belize. The partial and reconstructed whole vessels from these primary contexts include locally produced vessels that are stylistically and technologically unique to the southern Belize region and vessels produced elsewhere. We use these data to evaluate how local Uxbenká potters produced ceramic vessels for local consumption and to identify long-distance interaction networks between Uxbenká and other regions of the Maya Lowlands. Our data indicate that most of the pottery at Uxbenká was produced locally. However, elite tombs often include both local and non-local vessels. The elites of Uxbenká engaged in interaction with people living much farther afield in regions like the Belize River Valley and possibly Guatemala.
  3. In the past decade, Light Detection and Ranging (lidar) has fundamentally changed our ability to remotely detect archaeological features and deepen our understanding of past human-environment interactions, settlement systems, agricultural practices, and monumental constructions. Across archaeological contexts, lidar relief visualization techniques test how local environments impact archaeological prospection. This study used a 132 km2 lidar dataset to assess three relief visualization techniques—sky-view factor (SVF), topographic position index (TPI), and simple local relief model (SLRM)—and object-based image analysis (OBIA) on a slope model for the non-automated visual detection of small hinterland Classic (250–800 CE) Maya settlements near the polities of Uxbenká and Ix Kuku’il in Southern Belize. Pedestrian survey in the study area identified 315 plazuelas across a 35 km2 area; the remaining 90 km2 in the lidar dataset is yet to be surveyed. The previously surveyed plazuelas were compared to the plazuelas visually identified on the TPI and SLRM. In total, an additional 563 new possible plazuelas were visually identified across the lidar dataset, using TPI and SLRM. Larger plazuelas, and especially plazuelas located in disturbed environments, are often more likely to be detected in a visual assessment of the TPI and SLRM. These findings emphasize the extent and densitymore »of Classic Maya settlements and highlight the continued need for pedestrian survey to ground-truth remotely identified archaeological features and the impact of modern anthropogenic behaviors for archaeological prospection. Remote sensing and lidar have deepened our understanding of past human settlement systems and low-density urbanism, processes that we experience today as humans residing in modern cities.« less
  4. Recent research at Aventura in Northern Belize presents the first glimpse into a range of its prehistoric households from commoners to elites. In summer 2018, the Aventura Archaeology Project (AAP) excavated two elite households and conducted test pits in five commoner household groups. Drone technology provided the ability to create 3D models of household architecture and excavations. Excavations at the elite households consisted of the first horizontal exposure of buildings by AAP and provide comprehensive insight into structures, features, burials, and middens. One elite household compound, Group 48, was located adjacent to one of six civic-ceremonial plazas that make up Aventura’s central precinct. Excavations at Group 48 identified a series of late occupation structures in the group’s plaza areas, one of which was excavated in its entirety. The other elite household excavation at Group 22 was located directly on the edge of a microenvironment known as a pocket bajo, providing insight into the relationship between households and pocket bajos at Aventura. The earliest occupation of commoner households known to date was the Early Classic period, and all elite and commoner households were occupied in the Late Classic to the Terminal Classic/Early Postclassic, coinciding with Aventura’s maximal occupation. These results suggestmore »Aventura was a thriving community during a time period associated with “collapse” in areas outside of Northern Belize. Aventura’s longevity of occupation contributes to the notion that Northern Belize was an important region in the Maya area and pushes back against traditional narratives about Classic Period “collapse.”« less
  5. A decade of archaeology research at Uxbenká and five years of archaeological investigations at Ix Kuku’il have resulted in an understanding of the prehistory of these ancient political centers and established a tradition of engaged archaeology in Santa Cruz (Uxbenká) and San Jose (Ix Kuku’il). Over the course of 1000 years Uxbenká and Ix Kuku’il were initially settled during the end of the Late Preclassic and beginning of the Early Classic, developed into regional centers as foci of ritual and political events throughout the Early and Late Classic periods, and gradually declined through the Terminal Classic. The chronological sequences of Uxbenká and Ix Kuku’il were developed from multiproxy datasets including radiocarbon dates and ceramic analyses, as well as hieroglyphic texts at Uxbenká. Community-based and collaborative archaeology has been a goal of the Uxbenká Archaeological Project (UAP) and resulted in rotational labor programs and Archaeology Days in Santa Cruz and San Jose.