The Residential Spaces, Social Organization and Dynamics of Isla Cerritos, an Ancient Maya Port Community

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The Residential Spaces, Social Organization and Dynamics of Isla Cerritos, an Ancient Maya Port Community

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Title: The Residential Spaces, Social Organization and Dynamics of Isla Cerritos, an Ancient Maya Port Community
Author: Clark, Dylan J.
Citation: Clark, Dylan J. 2016. The Residential Spaces, Social Organization and Dynamics of Isla Cerritos, an Ancient Maya Port Community. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: In this study I explore the social archaeology of a Maya coastal port community through household archaeology at the site of Isla Cerritos, a small center for maritime trade on the north coast of Yucatán, Mexico from c.300 BCE to 1250 CE. Known as the principal port for the regional polity of Chichén Itzá during the Terminal Classic Period (800-1100 CE), the island is located at the crossroads of a rich marine resource zone, a major salt production area, and the confluence of sea and overland trade routes that served greater Mesoamerica. While the economic importance of trading enclaves such as Isla Cerritos is often recognized, the domestic contexts of these kinds of settlements remain understudied, so we know less about who actually lived in these communities, how they were organized socially, and how the maritime branch of Maya culture related to and contributed to Mesoamerican civilization.
This goal of this thesis is to combine the recent archaeological excavation of three residential structures and a shared patio space at Isla Cerritos with multiple lines of evidence from both macro-level and micro-level scales of analysis to examine the material expressions of collective identity and social organization at the port during a particularly dynamic historical period in the history of the region from the late 9th through 11th centuries CE (Late to Terminal Classic transition). The results of this analysis provide new insights into the occupational history of the site, the domestic settlement pattern and activities of the port community, labor and resource investment in port construction and maintenance, the sociocultural and political relationship between the coast and the regional center of Chichén Itzá, and the complexity of collective identity and social inequalities even among the Maya “non-elite.” Through this study I also argue that port residents took advantage of the liminality and fluid movement of life along the “edge” of the Maya world for increased social mobility in ways inaccessible to people in inland regions. This motivated coastal communities to actively forge and alter social and political alliances and networks with interior centers, like Chichén Itzá, over the course of the Classic period, obviating the need for urban polities to rapidly colonize the coast.
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Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:26718709
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