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date: 22 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Understanding traditional Maya land use is key to interpreting ancient Maya settlement. The authors link the traditional Maya milpa cycle in use today with a predictive model of ancient settlement patterns through a spatial model for the El Pilar area. The model provides the number of residential units, and therefore population, projected based on the geographic variables of soil fertility, drainage, and slope, while the ethnographic records of maize yields from traditional Maya forest gardening provide the basis for subsistence. By classifying residential units and assuming average family sizes, the authors derive population estimates and ranges for the Late Classic Maya and demonstrate the potential of the milpa cycle to support significant populations at the height of the Maya civilization. Their work shows the value of indigenous strategies to produce food and household needs while conserving the forest, a strategy of potential use today and in the future.

Keywords: milpa cycle, predictive model, Maya forest, traditional farming, population density, residential units

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