Scott Heckbert, Christian Isendahl, Joel D. Gunn, Simon Brewer, Vernon L. Scarborough, Arlen F. Chase, Diane Z. Chase, Robert Costanza, Nicholas P. Dunning, Timothy Beach, Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, David L. Lentz, and Paul Sinclair
Archaeological data can be represented in quantitative models to test theories of societal growth, development, and resilience. This chapter describes the results of simulations employing integrated agent-based, cellular automata, and network models to represent elements of the ancient Maya social-ecological system. The purpose of the model is to better understand the complex dynamics of the Maya civilization and to test quantitative indicators of resilience as predictors of system sustainability or decline. The model examines the relationship between population growth, agricultural production, pressure on ecosystem services, forest succession, value of trade, and the stability of trade networks. These combine to allow agents representing Maya settlements to develop and expand within a landscape that changes under climate variation and responds to anthropogenic pressure. The model is able to reproduce spatial patterns and timelines somewhat analogous to that of the ancient Maya, although this model requires refinement and further archaeological data for calibration.
Rosemary A. Joyce, Esteban Gomez, and Russell Sheptak
Historical archaeology in Central America is an archaeology of colonization, exploring processes through which indigenous, European-, and African-descendant people created new practices of everyday life and novel identities, and transformed place and landscape. A number of studies use formal models rooted in world systems theory or practice theory to understand colonial societies. Current methods, including compositional analysis and geophysical prospection, are employed to establish the nature of buried sites and patterns of exchange. Ethnogenesis and hybridity are a major focus, informing understanding of the African diaspora and indigeneity. Reframing indigenous survival in terms of persistence and change, rather than resistance and disappearance, is typical. Understanding the ways in which varied African populations became an indispensable part of the new colonies and later independent republics is a significant emphasis.
Patricia Fournier G. and Thomas H. Charlton
Recently there has been increasing interest in historical archaeology on a worldwide scale. A number of papers have been published dealing with the emergence and growth of historical archaeology in Mexico in general, and in western and northern Mesoamerica specifically, considering the characteristics of diverse research strategies and the incorporation of different approaches as used by historical archaeology in these regions. Other studies have addressed historical archaeology briefly or focused on particular topics of interest. This article summarizes background information relevant to the development of historical archaeology in Mexico, and presents key research themes to examine the current status of historical archaeology in central and western Mesoamerica.
Rani T. Alexander
Landscape transformations are at the heart of archaeological debate over whether native cultural practices in the Maya region survived the Spanish invasion. This article examines landscape change in the Maya region using the theoretical lens of historical ecology. It compares two trajectories of change: the period from 1450 to 1750, marked by the upheavals of conquest, demographic decline, and economic contraction; and the period from 1750 to 1910, marked by the transition from colonial to postcolonial political regimes, demographic growth, and economic expansion. The archaeological record reveals shifts in political-economic structures, agrarian ecology, the production of commodities for the world market, and negotiations of native cultural autonomy for communities and regions rarely mentioned in the documentary record.
Two big controversies continue to be debated about what happened to Native Americans when Europeans arrived in the Western Hemisphere to conquer and colonize. The first controversy is over how many people were present and thus what was the scale of the depopulation. The second controversy is over what caused the depopulation. Most researchers agree that there are two main culprits: the introduction of new diseases from the Old World and the stresses caused by conquest and colonization. This article first looks at the evidence for the pre-contact population of Mesoamerica. Then, it discusses the casualties of conquest. The important controversy over the causes of depopulation after conquest is then investigated in depth. Research on this subject is still ongoing.
John M.D. Pohl
The development of historical archaeology as a social science is a relatively recent phenomenon in Mesoamerica. Most published studies have been limited to purely descriptive reports of investigations of salvage projects or the architectural restoration and conservation of churches, the houses of prominent officials, and haciendas. However, a growing number of archaeologists and historians have begun to formulate research designs that move beyond artifact description and architectural restoration to address broader concerns with acculturation, ethnicity, and shifting patterns of socioeconomic stratification. Some of the most innovative multidisciplinary field research has focused on the Mexican highlands in particular.