University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Maya Archaeology in Long-Term Perspective: Diane Chase and Arlen Chase, July 2013

Available for download as audio (.mp3, 62.9MB) or video (.m4v, 340.3MB).

Question and Answer Session

Available for download as audio (.mp3, 17.3MB) or video (.m4v, 97.5MB).

Lecture: Thirty Years of Research at Caracol, Belize: Maya Archaeology in Long-Term Perspective. Diane Z. Chase, Pegasus Professor of Anthropology, Executive Vice Provost, University of Central Florida. Arlen Chase, Pegasus Professor and Chair of Anthropology Department, University of Central Florida.  As the largest known ancient city in Central America, Caracol, Belize may be used to make broader interpretations about Maya civilization and the complex relationship that existed between the ancient Maya and their environment. For 30 years the Maya ruins of Caracol have been the focus of continuous archaeological research by the University of Central Florida. Arlen and Diane Chase will discuss how the data that has emerged from Caracol provides perhaps the best understood Maya example of tropical low-density urbanism, as well as substantial insight into the rise and fall of Maya civilization. Traditional archaeological excavation, survey, and analysis – conjoined with Maya hieroglyphic interpretation and remote sensing data – reveal an expansive site covering more than 170 square kilometers. At A.D. 650, over 100,000 Maya lived at Caracol, sustained by crops grown on extensive systems of agricultural terraces. A dendritic series of causeways connected outlying public architecture with the site epicenter, providing both political control and economic integration. Excavations undertaken in the major public architecture of the site epicenter and in over 120 outlying residential groups demonstrate that Caracol was first occupied around 600 B.C. and that the Caracol epicenter was abandoned at or shortly after A.D. 900. Caracol’s extensive hieroglyphic texts record over 500 years of dynastic history for 28 rulers, spanning A.D. 331 through A.D. 859. Texts also record wars with the Guatemalan sites of Tikal, Naranjo, and Ucanal. Settlement archaeology has confirmed that the site’s inhabitants benefited from their success in war; this is expressed archaeologically through the widespread distribution of tombs, finewares, and ritual practices to most of Caracol’s residents. A resurgence of dynasty and a rejection of this “symbolic egalitarianism” in the Terminal Classic Period may have contributed to Caracol’s eventual collapse.

redden1Archaeologists Diane and Arlen Chase, key consultants for “MAYA: Hidden Worlds Revealed,”  have been excavating the Maya ruins of Caracol, Belize for 30 years. The data gleaned from their long-term scientific study helps us understand tropical low-density urbanism in the Classic Period Maya Lowlands, including agriculture, subsistence, trade, political alliances, warfare, and religion. Their work provides substantial insight into the rise and fall of Maya civilization.

Filmed on Friday, July 19, 7:30 PM, at
118 Drew Science Center, Hamline University

July 20 — Workshop with Arlen and Diane Chase

Workshop: Maya Religion as Viewed through the Archaeological Record of Caracol, Belize
Led by Arlen and Diane Chase
Saturday, July 20, 9 am–noon, 118 Drew Science Center, Hamline University, St. Paul. Cost: $10* (students free)

Purposefully placed archaeological deposits recovered at Maya sites provide a window into ancient ritual acts. What are called “special deposits” in Maya archaeology are generally associated with specific buildings and locales within a given site – and are also often interpreted in ethnocentric terms. Because of the longevity of the archaeological research program at Caracol, we are in an unusual position of being able to better contextualize and understand the nature of Maya “burials” and “caches.” Research directed by Drs. Arlen and Diane Chase indicates that the deposits themselves – their location, form, and contents – can help to answer questions about both their purpose and the role of ritual in ancient Maya society. Their presentation will review archaeological deposits from Caracol, Belize and place them within a broader temporal and social context. They will present evidence of caching practices, burial practices, tomb re-entries, the use of incensarios, the placement of child sacrifices, and problematic contexts in the archaeological record. This examination of deposits recovered at Caracol, Belize serves not only to provide a greater understanding of the ancient Maya use of private and public ritual, but also to demonstrate that an organized form of religion pervaded the lifestyles of the Classic Period Maya and is evident at all levels of their society.

No advanced registration is required. General admission is: $5 lectures, $10 half-day workshops. All students (middle-school through post-secondary) can attend any event for free. SMM staff and volunteers can attend all of the lectures for free. There is a special Maya Society membership for 2013-14 that includes all lectures and half-day workshops (June 2013 through April 2014). Cost: Individual = $50; Household = $80. It can be purchased at the door of any of the events (cash or check payable to the Maya Society).

Special registration information and fees for the October Hieroglyphic Workshop and November Maya/Sustainability Symposium will be available soon.

Questions? Contact the Maya Society at or 612-625-8606 (Phyllis Messenger, IAS).

Related Links

Cosponsored by the Science Museum of Minnesota, Hamline University and the Maya Society of Minnesota.


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