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Archaeological Research


Research Goals

Continuation of Project

Background and Significance

The Project (PACH)

2003 Field Season

2004 Field Season

2005 Field Season




Chocolá Archaeology: The Project's 2004 Field Season

Again supported by Earthwatch and other smaller grantors, building on the results of the 2003 field season, many important advances were achieved in 2004. These included gathering evidence of little known or hitherto unknown types of both elite residential and administrative Southern Maya Preclassic architecture, of sophisticated and extensive water control systems, and of local as opposed to regional art styles, indicative of the genesis of a Maya identity from various ethnic and social historical processes.

The last was gained through the expansion of a Chocolá monumental corpus from a handful to twenty-five, through recovery of many clay figurines and small effigies, and through the first efforts to create a Chocolá ceramic sequence from tens of thousands of well-preserved, provenienced ceramics. Through reconnaissance the 2004 season extended the area of ancient remains to 5.5 by 2 k. Explorations in 2004 carried over from 2003 demonstrated that the hydraulic system extended for at least 1.5 k and possessed at least two functions: 1) evacuation of excess water, and 2) delivery of agua potable inside elite residences. This finding confirmed project hypotheses that, because of a great superabundance of water at Chocolá, in the form of rapid-flow, high-discharge rivers, many natural springs, and a rainfall of 5 m per annum, anciently the people of Chocolá developed methods not merely to manage but exploit this superabundance.

From the first surveys of the project it was clear from a cultural ecological sense that this superabundance must have been one of the primary factors behind ancient social and cultural developments at Chocolá. An outstanding question from the 2003 season was whether or not the ancient Chocolenses had sought to control Chocolá’s superabundance of water not only to lessen the erosive impact on their densely spaced buildings but also to exploit these resources for agriculture. Research strategies incorporated these observations in the overall direction of the project.

Long-term the project is seeking evidence to support the hypothesis that the ancient Chocolenses exploited their water in order to take advantage of the city’s location in the heart of a rich cacao-growing area. According, the project’s formal hypothesis is that large-scale systematic exploitation of water and cacao, a pan-Mesoamerican prestige commodity, was the material substrate underlying Chocolá’s growth to great size early in the Maya and Mesoamerican trajectory and its participation in seminal cultural developments that led to the splendors of Classic Maya civilization.

A more detailed treatment of the Chocolá Archaeological Project's 2004 results is available in Spanish on the FAMSI (Fundacion para el Avance de los Estudios Mesoamericanos) web site. Click here.

To read a paper by Kaplan and Valdés on Chocolá from the important Mesoamerican journal, Mexicon, click here.



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