HomeBiographyWritingsPhotosContactAncient Maya Settlement Patterns and Environment at Tikal, Guatemala: Implications for Subsistence Models Dennis Edward Puleston A Dissertation in Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, 1973



The Role of Settlement Data
The Role of Environment
Toward a Definition of Settlement Patterns
Other Definitions



After more than a hundred years of research in the Maya Lowlands, some of the original questions that were asked about ancient Maya civilization still remain to be answered. These include: 1) why Classic Lowland Maya civilization collapsed in the ninth century A.D.; and 2) how this civilization arose and prospered in the heavily forested and often riverless southern Lowlands. In recent years these questions have been the subject of increasing speculation and research. The first has recently become the subject of a major symposium (Willey and Shimkin 1971). The hypothesis presented here is essentially an elaboration of one of the conclusions of this symposium, that is, that the answers to these questions lie within the realm of cultural ecology and are closely linked to considerations of ancient Maya demography and subsistence.

The present study attempts to shed new light on ancient Maya demography and cultural ecology through: 1) the examination of mapping and ceramic data produced by work on a series of half-kilometer wide survey strips extending out north, south, east and west from the center of Tikal; and 2) the presentation and discussion of environmental data relevant to prehistoric land use patterns.

Finally, these data are brought to bear on two hypotheses presented in my Master’s thesis (Puleston 1968). These are: 1) that Classic and probably Preclassic Maya subsistence at Tikal was based on the maintenance and utilization of kitchen gardens in which the staple crop was the fruit of the ramon tree; and 2) that the collapse of Classic civilization can be associated with a decrease in the importance of kitchen gardens for food production and an increase of the relative importance of the milpa.

The Role of Settlement Data

The importance of settlement pattern studies was pointed out by Gordon Willey (1956:114) more than a decade ago in his paper “Problems Concerning Prehistoric Settlement Patterns in the Maya Lowlands.” In this searching review he wrote:

Until we have more real knowledge of Maya settlement, the archaeologist will be in no position to attack the problems of demography or of prehistoric agricultural techniques and productiveness. Arguments of milpa versus intensive farming (Ricketson and Ricketson 1937) will remain insoluble until we can pin down the facts of habitation (Willey 1956a:114)

Willey was not the first to recognize the value of this approach. More than twenty years ago, Satterthwaite proposed a project specifically oriented to settlement patterns because of their relevance to problems of social structure, agricultural potential, and the relationship of ceremonial to residential areas.

We ought to have some idea of how people of each class lived when not on dress parade. What was the total population that supported a ceremonial center of such-and-such a size and complexity, and which grew by accretion in such-and-such a length of time? (Satterthwaite 1951:21).

In spite of the fact that over the last century dozens of Maya archaeological sites have been excavated (see R.E.W.Adams 1969) and literally hundreds at least partially mapped, we still have a very unbalanced picture of ancient Maya settlement patterns. The principal limitation on present knowledge lies in our ignorance of settlement in vast “intersite” areas between the “data islands” an ignorance resulting from the consistency of the “site-approach” of modern archaeology. Without information on these areas, crucial assessments of overall population density and the validity of assumed agricultural patterns cannot be carried out.

This is not to say that attempts have not been made to go beyond the limits of standard “site maps.” At various times in the past, valuable glimpses of intersite settlement have been provided by isolated studies such as those accomplished by Tozzer (1913), the Ricketsons (1937) and Bullard (1960). Such efforts have been rare, however, and even when carried out, were severely limited by restrictions on time, funds, personnel, by the lack of a good idea of how representative the data that resulted from these efforts really were. I believe these limitations have now largely been overcome for the first time.

If the present study represents in part a response to Satterthwaite and Willey’s call for a more extensive view of Ancient Maya settlement patterns, it also reflects an increasing interest in the explanatory potential of the relationship between culture and environment as expressed in the still emerging field of cultural ecology.

The Role of Environment

The nature of the relationship between culture and environment has long been a subject for discussion by anthropologists. The question as to whether or not environment plays a significant role in the shaping of cultural systems has been the focal point of speculation and even controversy for almost a century (Harris 1968:663-687).

Boas, after the publication of his study, The Central Eskimo (1888), appears to have favored a rather sharp division between biological and cultural worlds, though in reply to Kroeber’s (1935) analysis of his work he wrote:

If in later writing I did not stress geographical conditions the reason must be sought in an exaggerated belief in the importance of geographical determinants with which I started on my expedition in 1883-84 and the thorough disillusionment in regard to their significance as creative elements in cultural life. I shall always continue to consider them as relevant in limiting and modifying existing cultures, but it so happened that in my later field work this question has never come to the fore as particularly enlightening (Boas 1936:138).

As Harris (1968: 250) has indicated, the first half of the twentieth century was characterized by a “programmatic avoidance of theoretical syntheses,” which he has labeled “historical particularism.” Boas, guided by his mission to cleanse anthropology of “amateurs and armchair specialists,” made ethnographic research the central experience of the profession, and as indicated in the above quotation, “environmental determinism” was one of the generalizations he rejected.

Kroeber reflected this distrust of non-cultural factors even as he demonstrated the dramatic relationship between the cultivation of maize and various environmental factors.

. . . on the one hand culture can be understood primarily only in terms of cultural factors, but that on the other hand no culture is
wholly intelligible without references to the noncultural or so-called environmental factors with which it is in relation and which condition it (Kroeber 1939:351).

There is a certain ambivalence in this view that cannot be found in Hawley’s (1944:404) statement that “culture is nothing more than a way of referring to the prevailing techniques by which a population maintains itself in its habitat.” No less sweeping is Leslie White’s statement that . . . “if one wishes to discover how cultural systems are structured and how they function as cultural systems, then one does not need to consider the natural habitat at all” (1959:51) Rappaport (1968:5), in contradiction, states somewhat more cautiously than Hawley did 23 years earlier,”. . . much is to be gained by regarding culture, in some of its aspects, as part of the means by which animals of the human species maintain themselves in their environments.” The recent and rapid emergence of cultural ecology as a new branch of anthropology surely reflects a rowing realization of the possibility that the relationship between cultural and environment may have real value for explanation and the construction of generalizing principles of direct relevance to anthropology.

Many anthropologists and archaeologists since the time of Steward, and even Boas, have included discussions of environment and subsistence in their monographs. As Netting (1968:7) points out, though, they have rarely served as more than backdrops for more absorbing questions of kinship organization, legal systems, or, as in the case of archaeology, the establishment of ceramic sequences and site histories insofar as they involve site relationships and other purely “cultural” and historical questions. This is not to say that these concerns are not of great importance, but rather that the potential of a more ecological approach has hardly begun to be explored. Cultures have generally been studied as though they existed as closed systems. Even where it was obvious that they did not, it has been argued that it is better to pretend that they do (Gluckman 1964; Hagen 1962:142).

What is cultural ecology? Netting (1971) has provided a very useful summary of the history of the field and its present youthful status, along with a series of case studies that show what cultural ecologists do. From the point of view of the biological ecologist Odum (1963:3), ecology is “the study of the structure and function of nature,” with the stipulation that it must be understood that “mankind is a part of nature.” Cultural ecology deals more specifically with the structure and function of man’s relationship by way of his culture to the rest of nature or “his” environment.

So as not to become trapped in the cul-de-sac of “environmental determinism,” it may be better to speak of “environmental possibilism.” There is much that can be said, however, in favor of Hawley’s viewpoint if it is recognized that some aspects of culture are much more directly related to environmental considerations than others. Aspects of culture which are less directly related, such as language and kinship terminology, may in fact begin to reflect non-cultural factors over long periods of time as adjustments to shifts in other more directly related items, such as subsistence, land tenure, settlement patterns, and so on. This brings us to consideration of Julian Steward’s (1955) concepts of the culture core as a complex of basic, functionally interdependent institutions and relationship that represent the “primary” variables within a culture. For Steward, this concept centered on “the constellation of features which are most closely related to subsistence and economic arrangements’ (Steward 1955:37). It was on this basis that Steward placed emphasis on ecological adaptation as the primary factor in culture change.

R. M. Adams (1966:12) has challenged this view, however, stating his belief that the reasons for the "transformation at the core of the Urban Revolution lay in the realm of social organization." In other words, changes in social institutions precipitated changes in technology and subsistence rather than vice versa.

Ester Boserup (1965), a Danish economist whose work is having a powerful effect on the thinking of many anthropologists, has presented a convincing case for a nearly opposite position namely, that the roots of causation for agricultural development lie in population growth. The possibility that major developments such as irrigation and other more adaptive, intensive cultivation techniques were the result, rather than the cause, of population increments matches certain ideas of the effect of selective pressures on development in biological evolution. The consequent importance of populations in such considerations brings us to an important difference between an ecological and purely cultural approach that should be brought out here. This is the fact that the ecological approach requires that we study not only structure and system but quantity. Ecologists study "populations" and "food webs", the understanding of which is based upon the quantification of individuals and amounts of energy consumed and lost at various levels within these webs. It is this shift to observational specificity that has characterized recent developments in anthropological field work in general and cultural ecology in particular. While the anthropologists of the first half of this century avoided theoretical generalizations, they could not avoid observational generalization. As Netting (1971:3) points out, the shared beliefs and organizational forms of a culture could be obtained from a relatively small number of informants, as was often the case for the ethnographies of North American Indian groups whose traditions had already been significantly altered.

Now, with increasing awareness of the importance of studying the relationship between ancient Maya settlement (and population) and the land that would have been available for food production. This is done specifically to test the slash-and-burn, maize oriented, subsistence model which has been so consistently and unquestioningly applied to  reconstructions of ancient Maya culture (Morley 1946; Thompson 1954; M. Coe 1966; Willey 1966:124, Sanders and Price 1968). Right or wrong, acceptance of this model has substantially shaped other aspects of these reconstructions. The slash-and-burn model, however, does not fit the data and an alternative, in the form of a unique and indigenous horticultural system, is presented. It is quite different from the standard subsistence model, and its acceptance implies many changes in long-held view of ancient Maya culture.

Toward a Definition of Settlement Patterns

Since my approach to this question of ancient Maya subsistence is through settlement patterns, it is important to investigate this basic concept. A number of other terms and concepts which will be used in the body of the text will be defined in the following section.

The subject of settlement pattern studies has only recently become one of major concern to archaeologists. Though studies of settlement patterns date back to Steward's (1937) ecological work in the Southwest and earlier, the turning point for interest in this subject seems to have been Willey's (1935) survey of Viru Valley in Peru (Parsons 1972:1928). In the Maya Lowlands, however, this new emphasis is reflected in settlement pattern surveys such as the present one, as well as those of Tourtellot (1970) at Seibal, Andrews (1965) at Dzibilchaltum, and Willey, Bullard, Glass, and Gifford (1963) in the Belize Valley. Apart from a simple desire to find out more about the nature of domestic settlement (Bullard 1960:355), the reasons  for this new interest in a long neglected sphere of knowledge seem to center on the interpretive potential of these data. Willey (1956a:1) wrote: ". . . settlements are a more direct reflection of social and economic activities than are most other aspects of culture available to the archaeologist." In a similar vein, but with more emphasis on ecological considerations, Sanders (1968:88) states his belief that they reflect with great sensitivity, " . . . the interaction of cultural, biological, and physical environments in a single system." Evidence in support of such suppositions are beginning to emerge from archaeological as well as ethnographic data. Udo (1965) has demonstrated the integral association of dispersed settlement, intensive agriculture, and defensive requirements in his study of changing patterns in modern Ibo communities. Moseley (1972), on the basis of his work with prehistoric subsistence and demography in Peru, has found that each major change in subsistence pattern coincided with a substantial change in settlement pattern.

Basic to what follows then is the idea that culture can be defined as an "adaptive mechanism." In Netting's (1971:25) words, the "culture each of us inherits is a summation of coping devices . . ." Although they seem only to achieve a perfect balance in idealized models, the ultimate functions of these coping devices is to assist in keeping a cultural system running smoothly. Thus for a society that obtains the bulk of its energy by the production of food plants, rural settlement areas where this process goes on can provide potent information on what make a particular culture work. This may have significance for other aspects of culture. "At least some economic adjustments generate predictable and pervasive consequences in social organization, culture content, and even in personality patterns"  (Edgerton 1965:447).

Because interest in "settlement patterns" is so new, it is important to review definitions and broader implications of the concept. Vogt (1956:174), in his discussion of the usage of the term "settlement patterns" in the appraisal of the Wenner-Gren papers Prehistoric Settlement Patterns in the New World, reveals that "there is some difference in the range of phenomena included." This usage ranges from the interior layout of individual houses and even the details of house construction to the spatial arrangements of separate communities over a wide geographical area. Apart from the constructional details, which might be better included under the heading of architecture, the entire range of phenomena is profitably included within the concept.

Several overall definitions have appeared.  Willey (1953:101), in one of the earlier definitions of the concept, refers to settlement patterns as "the way in which man disposed himself over the landscape on which he lived." Sanders (1965:115) states, "The study of settlement patterns is a study of the ecological and demographic aspects of culture. Settlement pattern is, in effect, human ecology, since it is concerned with the distribution of population over the landscape and an investigation of the reasons behind that distribution." Vogt (1956:174), much like Willey, sees settlement pattern as "the patterned manner in which household and community units are arranged spatially over the landscape."

These definitions strike very close to the concept of "human geography." In this regard the study of settlement patterns seems to be opening a door that has always existed between the fields of anthropology and geography. In light of this conviction, I think it is well to point out the limitations of the term "settlement patterns." Unfortunately, some archaeologists have limited their personal conception of the subject to the spatial relationships of "settlements" and even "habitations." In fact, this is not enough; in order to make sense of his "patterns" the archaeologist or anthropologist must actively seek out the evidence for the physical articulation of these features. This is to be found in the remains of roads, paths, gateways, boundary walls, stairways, passages and even doorways, all of which deserve much more attention than they receive in current settlement pattern studies. For the Maya area, Bullard's (1952) report on property walls at Mayapan is essentially unique in this regard. Though walls have also been reported for Cozumel (Sanders 1955:195; Sablof et al  1972) and a site in Campeche (Andrews 1943:73), they have not been studied in detail.

Another frequent oversight in this field is consideration of the spaces around and between the settlement buildings. Spaces which may have been plazas, garden, orchards, wood-lots, open fields, and hunting territories are rarely discussed and even more infrequently examined as a factor in settlement patterns. This failure is the natural product of conceiving of archaeology as the procurement and study of the material remains of past cultures (Honigmann 1959; Hoebel 1966).

Pedro Armillas (1971:654) has used the concept of "landscape archaeology" as a means of trimming off some of the bias towards consideration of only architectural remains in "settlement patterns." Part of the trouble is that the term as it was used in early contexts (i.e., Viru Valley) was well-tailored to the limited information available to archaeologists. The limitations of the concept, however, lie in its exclusion of the non-artifactual and non-architectural aspects of archaeological investigation. The new frontiers posed by the systems approach and model-building (Clarke 1972) seem to call for a more inclusive approach.

Settlement patterns, then, can be broadly defined as the physical manifestations, spatial configurations, and articulation of human activity areas within a chosen time and space. The series of close relationships between subsistence systems, environment, and settlement patterns provide a potent means for approaching structural aspects of a prehistoric society from several angles. Combined with other types of archaeological information, broad insights into various aspects of political, economic, social and religious organization may be revealed by settlement patterns.

Some of the ways in which they may reflect other aspects of a culture and its relationship with the environment have been revealed by ethnological studies. Duff and Kew (1953) provided evidence to show how the complementary relationship of Haida moieties is reflected in the village of Ninstints. The dynamic way in which Cheyenne settlement patterns, as revealed by tipi arrangements, reflected the changing moods of the camp has been discussed by Fraser (1968:21). Likewise, Osage camps and tipis faced east on ordinary occasions, but if a hunt or raid in which life was to be taken was in progress, the imaginary course was towards the sunset, the land of the dead (Fraser 1968:21). Many other examples of this nature could be provided. The potential of settlement pattern study is only beginning to be realized by archaeologists.

We now come to the problem of recognizing subpattern articulation and levels of patterning. Patterns may be viewed in an overall way, as when we speak of a Late Classic Tikal settlement pattern, but within all the evidence that can be brought together on different aspects of the utilization of space, there are many subpatterns that overlap in complex ways. Patterns and subpatterns here refer not to outline, as in the sense of a dressmaker's pattern, but rather to the complex intertwining one might see in an aerial view of New York or Boston, where patterns formed by the gridded streets of the center city and certain residential areas intermingle with the patterns of major expressways, railroads, and subway systems. The residential patterns of habitations within the gridded center city would differ sharply from the patterns found in the meandering drives and handkerchief lawns of suburban housing developments, even though we were in effect dealing with a single "site." These, in turn, would differ from the overall communication and layout patterns seen in nearby small towns or agricultural areas.

Of particular interest to students of settlement patterns are clear-cut levels of generalization in patterning. As discussed elsewhere (Vogt 1956:174; Puleston 1967; Trigger 1968:55), patterns of human residential activity can be viewed on three major levels. Sanders (1956:116) outlines two of these; Vogt (1956:174) divides the three that will be discussed here into five. The first of these levels generally comprises a single building or structure and includes patterns in the location of food preparation and cooking areas, sleeping quarters, special places for socializing and receiving guests, and so on. This is Trigger's (1968:55), “individual Building” level. Generally we may consider this level to equate with the activity area of a household, though the distinction between household and community at the next level may break down in cases like that provided by the Witoto of Brazil (Steward and Faron 1959:353), where the entire community inhabits a single structure. The "household" may also involve more than a single structure occupied by a single nuclear family. The difficulties posed by this sort of arrangement in archaeological contexts has been discussed by Sanders (1965:18) with regard to Aztec residences. The case presented by the Lowland Maya is even more problematic where we find a nearly discrete plaza-unit involving several structures which may have included several related families and in some cases even unrelated servant families. In fact, this complex, rather than the "structure," seems to provide the basic unit for the discussion of ancient Maya subsistence, as will be indicated later.

In the final analysis, the "household" seems to be more useful as a basic unit in settlement pattern studies because it is a functional unit of the society. This concept may be harder to define archaeologically, but we should be aiming for such a definition. The concept of the "household" also permits us to separate out individual buildings that really belong to the "community level" to be discussed next. These buildings would include special function structures such as sweat baths, temples, and other public buildings. The principal weakness in Trigger's scheme is that he alternates between descriptive (structural) and functional categories.

The second level may be considered to include the spacing and arrangement of individual household units, including functionally associated plazas, kitchen garden, and midden areas, within a single community. This level would roughly be the equivalent of Sanders' "community layout." Public structures, causeways, reservoirs, village greens, along with corporately utilized hunting and agricultural areas, are best included at this level as well.

The third level involves the manner in which communities, along with their contiguous fields and resource areas, articulate with each other and the landscape as a whole. This level can be equated to Sander's (1956:116) "zonal settlement patterns" or Trigger's (1968:66) "zonal pattern," which is strongly influenced by community resource utilization, including subsistence practices and also by economic, religious and political factors that define intercommunity relationships, such as the distribution of trade routes, the role and function of different ceremonial centers, warfare and alliance. Topographic features to be considered at this level would include major rivers and even overland trade routes that were used by various communities, large bajos that may have served as "buffers" between communities in certain areas, and resource zones such as the sea or uninhabited mountains. Such considerations should make it clear that there is more to a functional study of settlement patterns than the distribution and arrangement of architectural units. The archaeologist as a student of culture and human behavior, however, must go beyond the mere recording of physical manifestations. Street patterns and building plans often do no more than record the fossilized ideals for behavior patterns conceived by city planners and architects. Thus superimposed upon the comparatively straightforward physical patterns are the actual activity patterns of the inhabitants of the settlement in question. A good example from the modern city can be found in the complex of behavior referred to as traffic patterns. These patterns must be unraveled in order to be clearly understood. Thus patterns of commuter traffic, market traffic, or even pilgrimage traffic must be extracted from the general picture if we are going to use this information to gain insights into other aspects of the culture.

Let us turn now to the dynamic aspects of these patterns. Far from being constant, the articulating traffic patterns of human activity area are ever changing. In our own culture they may be diurnal, weekly, annual, and seasonal patterns. Changes in environmental conditions, such as those produced by snow, flooding, high or low temperatures, or even light rainfall, may affect such patterns in predictable ways. Such patterns in ancient and "primitive" settlements are just as meaningful as anywhere else and, where they can be recorded, deserve to be examined.

Finally, we must realize that the articulation of activity areas may involve more than human movement. Patterns of communication by telephone, signal fire, or market gossip may play significant roles in defense, economics, and politics that are ultimately linked to, and influence, the spatial arrangements of activity areas. Even sewer systems and garbage truck routes are as much a part of settlement pattern studies as causeways and river systems.

Though the term is being stretched, "settlement patterns" is the only label in the nomenclature of archaeology at this time which can begin to encompass this overall view of "whole site archaeology." The point is that these aspects of a living culture must be encompassed by archaeological concepts if, in fact, archaeology is going to be anthropology rather than a limited form of antiquarianism.

Other Definitions

At this point a number of other concepts and terms which will be used in the following text can usefully be defined and discussed. Most apply best to the situation in Late Classic times. Necessarily they anticipate from time to time the data to be presented in later chapters. A schematic presentation may be found in Figure 1. Site  For this term I follow Willey and Phillips (1958:18), who write that "about the only requirement ordinarily demanded of the site is that it be fairly continuously covered by remains of former occupation. . . . " The logical question that follows is what is meant by "continuously covered," and here I think we have to face the reality of the situation and admit that this phase cannot be understood in universally applicable terms. While Willey and Phillips see the term "site" as applying to a continuum, "which may be anything from a small camp to a large city," with regard to the Maya Lowlands, I think it is more useful to view the concept as being applicable to two discrete level. The first kind of site, the plaza unit, as discussed above, occurs at the level of "household," and can be thought of as one of the basic units in ancient Maya settlement. With a paved plaza surface bordered by structures, these units represent the epitome of "site" as Willey and Phillips define it. The second kind occurs at the level of "community" (see the definition of "community below" but excludes less densely settled, peripheral agricultural and generalized resource areas. It is equivalent to Bullards (1960) District  for Major Ceremonial Centers, and his Zone for Minor Ceremonial Centers. Bullard (1960:369), however, saw zones as components of districts. This is not the pattern that has emerged at Tikal. Haviland (1963:421) has already commented that zones, as Bullard defined them, do not occur at Tikal. These two terms of Bullard's will not be used here as he defines them, though I will propose a new use for the term "Zone" below. As we go outward from Tikal, settlement becomes less continuous so a means of determining a cut-off point must be provided. Where possible, I think that at this level site limits should coincide with etic criteria such as a settlement density threshold which corresponds in turn with emic cultural forms such as the earthworks. The consistency of this correspondence provides a measure of the reliability and usefulness of the etic criteria even as control in comparative studies in cultural anthropology depends on the ability of etic concepts to describe emic cultural forms in kinship (Goodenough 1970:123). A settlement density threshold which seems to make sense in this regard for Tikal occurs approximately along the line outside of which there is more than 2 hectares of cultivable land per residential structure. It is the combination of this criterion and the Tikal earthworks (Puleston and Callender 1967) that are used to define the "site" of Tikal.

Intersite Areas
The necessity of describing areas that cannot be ascribed to one particular site or another at the community level, have led me to create the term "intersite area." It will be understood that as used here, this term will be applied only to sites at the "community" level. Small sites, generally at the "household" level, do occur in what I am referring to here as "intersite areas." A further point in need of clarification is the political implications of the term. While it may finally be demonstrated that intersite areas fell under the jurisdiction of a particular large site, such as Tikal or Uaxcactun, they still fall outside the limits of what I am considering here, sites "continuously covered by remains." Thus intersite areas cover all of the area between what could be defined as sites in terms of settlement density and/or cultural features such as earthworks or walls. On this basis, most of the so-called "site maps" which have been made in the Maya Lowlands do not cover the full site area.

Now another series of terms will be defined, primarily on the basis of the material that is yet to be presented. Though these terms will be discussed more specifically in terms of the data later, it will facilitate discussion to introduce them here. As they deal with concentric divisions of Tikal and its surrounding intersite area, I will start in the center.

Epicentral Tikal
In Webster's Third New International Dictionary (Grove 1961) the word "epicenter" has a second meaning which is defined as being synonymous with "2: center," . . . a point, area, person, or thing upon which attention, feeling, or action converges." Since the term and its adjectival form have already been used in the literature, it will be used here to refer to the core of Tikal which has sometimes been referred to the " ceremonial nucleus," though it also contains what are probably elite residences (Harrison 1968). I set approximate limits for the epicenter at 0.50 km. on the East Survey Strip, 0.40 km. on the South Survey Strip, 0.75 km. on the West Survey Strip, and 1.00 km. on the North Survey Strip. These boundaries correspond roughly to the area enclosed by the buildings illustrated by Guillemin (1968:2) as the "main buildings for the religious cult at Tikal." The occurrence of at least one twin-pyramid group outside this area (as outlined in Figure 2) and the inclusion of the sparsely constructed area enclosed by the Maler, Tozzer, and Maudslay Causeways makes this delimitation of epicentral Tikal very approximate. Insofar as we are concerned with them, I would further suggest that the supposed elite residences within the epicenter can be divided into at least two groups, i.e. those at the core of the epicenter in the "Central Acropolis" and those with comparatively peripheral locations with respect to the Great Plaza, which forms what is "unquestionably the heart of ancient Tikal" (Coe 1967:27).

Figure 1. A schematic presentation of the terms used to describe the main subdivisions of settlement patterns in and around Tikal, Jimabal, and Uzxactun.


Central Tikal Though this term has recently been used by Haviland (1970:190) to characterize "a central zone of roughly 63 km2 " distinguished from a "peripheral zone . . . of roughly 60 km2, " on the basis of data which will be discussed briefly here and in detail later, I think a more meaningful division within the site limits of Tikal is made closer to the epicenter, at 1.50 km. on the North Survey Strip, 0.75 km. on the East survey strip, 1.00 km. on the South Survey Strip, and 0.75 on the West Survey Strip (see Figure 2). the critical factor here is settlement density on cultivable land. On its residential portions, a well marked threshold appears to fall between 0.16 and 0.20 hectares per residential structure as reveled in Appendix 4 (see the "L.C1." column in that appendix). The area of central Tikal includes Epicentral Tikal

Peripheral Tikal Again, following Haviland's (1970) terminology but moving the limits closer to the epicenter, I will redefine Peripheral Tikal here as the area that falls between Central Tikal as defined above and the site limits of Tikal, also as defined above and illustrated in Figure 1. The cut-off points on the North and South Survey Strips are 5.0 and 6.5 km. respectively. This corresponds to the 4.5 - 4.7 km. crossing of the earthworks on the North Strip and the presumed 6.5 km. crossing (see Figure 20) on the South Strip. The land available per residential structure in Late Classic time falls in a range of 0.5 - 1.5 hectares with a few exceptions (see Appendix 4, "L. C1" column).

Residential Tikal This term will be used to refer to the combined areas of Central and Peripheral Tikal minus Epicentral Tikal. The separation of residential areas of smaller sites like Jimbal and Navajuelal into central residential and peripheral residential areas may not always be possible. With a total area of 120.5 km2, this division will serve as the functional unit for population density calculations.

Tikal The unmodified name will be used to refer to the combination of Epicentral and Residential Tikal. This represents the site of Tikal as defined above.

Tikal Zone Here, this designation will be used to separate, at least on a theoretical level, the total area that would have been under the jurisdiction of Tikal, as opposed to Yaxha, Uaxactun, or Nakum. Without cultural data, at this point, that would help us to decide where such divisions might occur, zone limits must be arbitrary. As I have stated above Bullard (1960) used this term to describe concentrations of house ruins around Minor Ceremonial Centers; since this function is assumed by the "site" here, I have abandoned Bullard's usage. Hammond has used the terms "realm" (Hammond 1972a:86; 1972b:782 ) and "region of control" (Hammond 1972b:784) to designate an equivalent area around Lubaantun. Neither of these terms is used here because of their political implications. Zone, by comparison, is fairly neutral and is mot consistent with Sander's (1956:116) concept of "zonal settlement patterns" and Trigger's (1968:66) "zonal pattern" discussed above.

Figure 2. The limits of Epicentral and Central Tikal. The inner line delimits Epicentral Tikal, the ceremonial and elite residential core of Tikal; the outer line delimits Central Tikal as defined in terms of settlement density on cultivable land.


Satellite This term will be applied to what have been called "Minor Ceremonial Centers" (Bullard 1960). They will be assumed to be satellites of the largest site that occurs in a particular site zone, irrespective of whether or not they fall within the "site limits" of that site. Thus Chikin Tikal, Bobal, Corosal, and Uolantun will all be considered satellites of Tikal, as will Navajuelal (see Figure 6). Jimbal may have dominated a site zone of its own, as I have indicated in Figure 1. In many cases, the satellite sites that fall within the site limits of a center, such as Tikal, may have been outside these limits when they were first constructed, even as towns and small cities are engulfed by the expansion of larger cities today. Such seems to have been the case with Uolantun, which has been more extensively excavated and will be referred to below again.

Kitchen garden This term will be used to refer to areas in the immediate vicinity of houses which are, and probably were, used herbs, and tree crops are all included as long as the land remained under essentially continuous cultivation and/or production. Excellent descriptions of present-day Middle American kitchen gardens may be found in a number of sources (Anderson 1969; Wisdom 1940; Wagner 1958). The dynamics of kitchen gardening along with a list of plants which may have been cultivated in ancient Maya plots of this kind will be presented in the concluding chapter on subsistence.

Community A specifically Mesoamerican definition of community will be used here. Wolf's (1955:456) definition of the "corporate community," as used by Reina (1966:xiii): . . . represents a bounded social system with clear-cut limits, in relation to both outsiders and insiders. It has structural identity over time. Seen from the outside, the community as a whole carries on a series of activities and upholds certain "collective representations." Seen from within it defines the rights and duties of its members and prescribes large segments of their behavior. At the present time this definition appears to be applicable to Classic Tikal and so will be used. The community does not necessarily coincide with "site," which has been defined above in terms of settlement density and the earthworks system, though coincidence may appear to be logical. The question hangs on the identity of the former occupants of the "Tikal intersite area." Were they "insiders"? Did they participate in Tikal community activities such as markets and rallies? Did they take part in "collective representations" such as religious festivals, suggested by the "parades" and "floats" exhibited in the Tikal graffiti (Webster 1963)? Did they have rights and duties to "Tikal" that were equivalent to the rights and duties of those who lived within the earthworks? Archaeological data may be able to provide answers to some of these questions as indicated by the ceramic studies of Rands (1967) and Fry (1969:222-246)

Tikal ceramic complexes The Tikal Ceramic Complex designations, including Eb, Tzec, Chuen, Cauiac, Cimi, Manik, Ik, Tmix, Eznab, and Caban will be used as presented by Willey, Culbert, and Adams (1967). Fry's identification of ceramic that were apparently manufactured during transitional periods are included in Figure 12, though they do not comprise ceramic complexes as defined in the above reference.

Regional periods Traditional designations including Middle and Late Preclassic; Early, Late, and Terminal Classic; and Post-classic will be used to designate major cultural periods. Their approximate relationships to the periods of use of the ceramics of the Tikal ceramic complexes and to an absolute time scale are presented in Figure 12. Brief discussion of some of the cultural developments that took place during these periods may be found in W. R. Coe (1965; 1967).


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