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 actual plates of the survey strips were published by the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania in 1983 under the title: Tikal Report No. 13 THE SETTLEMENT SURVEY OF TIKAL, Dennis E. Puleston.

Note 1: This publication only contains the maps and the brief summaries of the features on those maps. It does not contain the main thesis, argument, or ecological discussion of the significance of this data to the study of Tikal. Further, in the editing process, some changes were made in Dennis's original text by the editors.

Note2: The objective of the dissertation was to calculate the population of Tikal over time and to discover how that population managed its natural resources to provide food, clothing and other needs. There is no question that Tikal, in Late Classic times, was a spectacular and large city with splendid architecture, complex culture, and a very advanced base of knowledge of the physical environment, math, astronomy, writing, history, and the arts. Based on his work Denny calculated that Tikal's population in late Classic Times counted around 120,000 individuals. However, his committee refused to accept that number (even in face of the evidence) and he had to reduce that estimate almost by half. In a series of polite Appendices he explained his calculations and the arbitrary nature of the committee reaction, but his data speaks for itself and this is the first time his whole argument is laid out for the interested Mayanist.

Secondly, it was fashionable in the 60's and 70's, to argue over such semantic terms as "city" and "civilization" and he spends some wasted effort at stepping around these arguments, avoiding common language. Thus, the reader will find such meaningless terms as "central" Tikal and "epicenter", "peripheral" Tikal, etc. They should all be translated simply into the "City of Tikal" and its environment. Tikal was not like our modern cities but neither are our modern cities today, in 2008, the same as they were in 1970. They have artificial centers, not developed by history but by city planners. Therefore, such arguments about the term "city" are meaningless today and we should use the terms as they have been used over the last 2000 years in Indo-European languages. Language, after all, is determined by the speakers, not by professors in Ivory Towers. (notes by Olga Stavrakis)

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