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Questioning Postclassic Continuity at Baking Pot, Belize, Using Direct AMS 14C Dating of Human Burials

Julie A Hoggarth, Brendan J Culleton, Jaime J Awe, Douglas J Kennett

Abstract


Archaeologists working in the Belize Valley have argued for the persistence of Maya populations from the Classic (AD 300–900) through Postclassic (AD 900–1500) periods since Gordon Willey’s groundbreaking settlement survey and excavation work in the 1950s. This is contrary to the trajectory recorded in some parts of the Maya region where there is clear evidence for political disruption and population decline at the end of the Classic period. The argument for continuous Classic to Postclassic occupation in the Belize Valley remains ambiguous due to researchers’ reliance on relative ceramic chronologies. This article reports the results of direct accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating of human skeletons (n = 12) from the important center of Baking Pot, Belize, which is thought to provide some of the best ceramic evidence for continuity in the valley. The AMS dates show a long span of mortuary activity between the Middle Preclassic and Late Classic periods (405 cal BC to cal AD 770), with a hiatus in activity during the Early Postclassic (cal AD 900–1200) and subsequent activity in the Late Postclassic (cal AD 1280–1420). These results are not consistent with the idea that Baking Pot was occupied continuously from the Classic through Postclassic periods. This work highlights the need for additional AMS 14C work at Baking Pot and elsewhere to establish absolute chronologies for evaluating the political and demographic collapse of Classic Maya regional centers.

DOI: 10.2458/56.18100


Keywords


Bone Collagen; Maya Archaeology; Sociopolitical Collapse

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