Talk by Arlen Chase, visiting professor of anthropology.
Perceptions about the ancient Maya have changed significantly in the last decade with the advent of new technologies and as a result of continuous dedicated research that seeks to define their social and political organization. With its ability to penetrate dense tropical canopies, LiDAR has revolutionized the field of Mesoamerican settlement archaeology. Because dense vegetation covers most ancient remains in the Maya area, archaeological documentation of the spatial extent of sites using traditional means was both difficult and usually incomplete. LiDAR was initially applied to the site of Caracol, Belize in April 2009 and yielded a 200 sq km Digital Elevation Model that, for the first time, provided a complete view of how the archaeological remains from a single Maya site – its monumental architecture, roads, residential settlement, and agricultural terraces – were distributed over the landscape.
In May 2013, an additional 1057 sq km of LiDAR data were recorded in west-central Belize. For the site of Caracol, these LiDAR data may be combined with 35 years of continuous archaeological research and excavation to formulate temporal parameters and guide social and political interpretations. The conjoined information derived from LiDAR and archaeological research is significantly changing our perceptions of ancient Maya civilization by demonstrating the anthropogenic changes made to landscapes, the scale of Maya urban settlements, and the socially complex situations that existed within and between Maya polities.
This lecture is part of the Pomona College Fall Faculty Lecture series.
- Pomona College
- Frank Blue Room, Frank Dining Hall
- 260 E. Bonita Avenue