Evaluating Models of Political and Economic Integration at Pusilha, Belize
Geoffrey Braswell Principal Investigator
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Funding from the National Science Foundation will support Dr. Geoffrey E. Braswell, Dr. Jennifer B.Braswell, and their colleagues for three seasons of archaeological research at Pusilha, a prehistoric Classic period(A.D. 250-800) Maya population and political center located in southwestern Belize, Central America. Their investigations will test current models of the political and economic integration of archaic states through the conjunctive study of hieroglyphic monuments, ceramic and lithic artifacts, and settlement patterns. Phase 1 research will consist of block coverage survey of the 9 km2 that constitute the ancient urban, residential, and agricultural zones of the site. Data from this phase will allow the mapping team to build a geographic data base to examine how natural resources influenced settlement patterns, and how different segments of the population were situated in regard to those resources. Phase 2 investigations will consist of test-pitting operations in residential and special function groups that crosscut all periods of occupation and social status. Artifacts gathered during Phase 2 will be used to study the level of economic integration of elites and commoners from a diachronic perspective, as well as interaction with much larger and more powerful polities - particularly Copan and Caracol - located to the southwest and northeast. Phase 3 excavations will consist of horizontal stripping operations in areas thought to have been production zones. Data gathered from these intensive excavations will enable the researchers to: (1) obtain fine-grain temporal information linked to architectural strata; (2) test models regarding production loci developed through the test-pitting research; and (3) more fully answer questions about the economic integration of elite and commoner households. Current with all three phases, project<br/>members will document and analyze the large corpus of hieroglyphic monuments from Pusilha. These monuments describe in great detail the founding of the site and its dynastic history, and hint that Pusilha -- for a time -- may have been absorbed by the expanding Copan state or hegemony. Analyses of settlement patterns and artifact distribution, therefore, will afford the<br/>study of the economic effects of the political events discussed in the ancient texts. This research will contribute most immediately to the understanding of local and regional political and economic processes in a largely unknown region of the southeastern Maya periphery. More broadly, it will contribute new and refine existing models of organization, stability, and change in Maya society, and - by extension - will be of relevance to the study of archaic states throughout the world.