Of Watery Rocks and Slumbering Crocs: Reassessing Middle Preclassic Occupation at Altun Ha and Lamanai, Belize
Geography and Anthropology
Excavations in northeastern Belize have generated one of the more detailed regional databases of Middle Preclassic (1000–350 b.c.) settlement in the Maya Lowlands, providing the basis for developmental models of later Maya civilization. Modest Classic period architecture permitted extensive exposures of early occupations at several sites, but contemporaneous settlements at large, later centers remain poorly understood, despite the insights they may offer into emergent social complexity and political hierarchy. We review extant and unpublished data from Lamanai and Altun Ha, two large centers in northeastern Belize during Classic times, to compare aspects of Middle Preclassic settlement, architecture, and burial practices and to evaluate how this evidence relates to existing models of early Maya community development. Comparisons between these sites and among other Middle Preclassic settlements beyond northeastern Belize suggest a more nuanced approach to understanding developing social complexity in the Maya Lowlands, which acknowledges regional similarities and variability, is warranted.
Journal of Field Archaeology
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)