Imagen - Vasija de Cacao - K6706 © Justin Kerr FAMSI © 2008:
Francisco Estrada-Belli

Investigaciones Arqueológicas en la Región de Holmul, Peten: Holmul, Cival, La Sufricaya y K’o

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Año de Investigación:  2007
Cultura:  Maya
Cronología:  Middle Preclassic - Terminal Classic
Ubicación:  Peten, Guatemala
Sitio:  Holmul

Tabla de Contenidos

Trabajos en Holmul
Edificio N, Grupo II
Edificio B, Grupo II
Excavaciones en la Plaza Este Frente a la Estructura 7
Conservación en el Grupo III
Mapeo en Cival
Cival, Grupo E-Norte
Cival, Grupo XIII
Grupo IX
Pirámide Norte
Grupo VIII
Estructura 20, Plaza Oeste
Estructura 33, Plaza Oeste Lejano (Far West Plaza)
Plaza Principal (Grupo-E) de Cival
Estructura 1, Grupo 1
Estructura 1. el Mural 1 de Cival. Documentación y Conservación
Grupo XV
La Sufricaya
Estructura 2, La Sufricaya
Lista de Figuras
Referencias Citadas


The 2007 archaeological research campaign in the Holmul region focused on exploring the earliest human occupations and assessing their impact on the local forest and wetland environments. The main goal was to test existing theories about the peopling of the Maya Lowlands. Current consensus is that groups of village farmers entered the region from the east and west through riverine systems during the late Middle Preclassic period 900-400 B.C. This position is largely based on the scarcity of archaeological remains for human occupation prior to 900 B.C. in the Maya Lowlands. Regional environmental records, largely from lake sediments, provide a much deeper chronology of occupation, showing signs of vegetation disturbance and/or domesticated maize starting between 3500 and 2000 B.C. This project proposed to test the hypothesis that the Holmul area was occupied by farmers prior to the current available dates (900 B.C.) and to document changes in vegetation and wetland regimes as populations colonized the region. Methodologies employed included 1) Multi-proxy analysis of sediments from nearby perennial lagoons. 2) Mapping of settlement in and around the main ceremonial core of the two largest Preclassic sites in the Holmul region Cival, and K'o. Test excavations in the settlement areas of Cival and K'o targeting large and small architectural structures to obtain comprehensive occupation sequences.

The first part of the season was dedicated to consolidation of archaeological structures damaged by decades of looting and millennia of natural erosion. Structure 1 at Cival was specifically targeted for conservation of the monumental stucco masks preserved in its interior. The large looters' trench that caused structural instability was filled and the monumental sculptures (masks) were protected with sacks of sifted sand. Looters' trenches were also filled in Cival's North Pyramid, Group IX and in Group III and Building B at Holmul.

Analysis of sediment cores is still in progress at the time of this writing. Pollen, charcoal and isotopic analyses, coupled with a series of AMS radiocarbon determinations, will provide a detailed record of vegetation and fire history associated with the arrival and expansion of sedentary agriculturalists. Preliminary observations of the samples recovered from Laguna Cival (near Cival) and Laguna Yaloch (near K'o) suggest that the records contain significant time depth. The cores' sediment sequence is similar to other studied locations where full Holocene sedimentation was preserved. Particularly significant are the apparent episodes of infilling of lagoons due to soil erosion; precise timing of these events awaits a more complete radiocarbon series. Once analyses are completed, this sediment core material will provide a long environmental history for the Holmul region.

The survey of Cival expanded the mapped settlement an additional 40% (800x800m), which consists almost entirely of ceremonial structures. The new map shows the ceremonial area extending over several hills during the Late Preclassic period. Five distinctive architectural arrangements known as E-Group plazas exist in different sectors of the site (E, N, NE, W, and center), attesting to the importance of this architectural feature for early Maya ritual performance.

Two transects were extended from the site center, one to the west (1 km) and one to the south (600m), to ascertain the extent of settlement. These transects cross-cut hills and drainages documenting terrain and residential structures with 1 meter resolution. In one case a secondary ceremonial group (southwest) was documented across the Cival lagoon. The map of K'o was increased to an 800x800m area and complemented by a 1-km transect to the east. Here, hundreds of residential structures were documented (also by excavation). Settlement and land use appear to have avoided the nearby wetlands.

The major results of the excavation program at Cival, K'o and Holmul can be outlined as follows:
  1. Earliest evidence of occupation at Cival and Holmul dates to circa 900-800 B.C. according to ceramic and 14C dating. In both cases, however, the evidence is for massive construction projects at this time, such as leveling of hills and raising of large paved areas. Moreover, a subterranean multi-chamber storage or ritual complex (chultun) was found in the bedrock below the North Plaza. The ceramics associated with the earliest occupation are finely made and highly decorated with abstract religious symbols.
  2. The earliest architectural forms at Holmul include stepped temple pyramids decorated with monumental sculpture and complex iconography. These features were dated by 14C to ~400-350 B.C. (1 sigma calibrated), and may be the earliest securely dated in the Lowlands.

These findings suggest that a) Cival and Holmul's earliest known occupations were not of isolated farming villages but large-scale communities with more complex social organizations than previously thought and b) remains of earlier phases of development may exist locally and are yet to be discovered or c) the first migrants into the region were more centrally organized than previously thought and their earlier development is to be found elsewhere. While the environmental evidence will elucidate the timing of early farming and settled life locally, as well as the impact of human activities on the eco-system, the available archaeological data already gives substantial evidence of earlier and more complex social conditions in the Maya Lowlands than previously thought. The archaeological remains of the earliest development of Maya civilization, small-scale farming communities with simple ritual and social organization, are still largely to be found.

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Entregado el 5 de agosto del 2008 por:
Francisco Estrada-Belli
Vanderbilt University

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