Humboldt Journal of Social Relations


Agricultural production during the Classic Period (c.1,700 to 1050 BP) in the Central Maya Lowlands was comprised of a variety of techniques that were used to satisfy dietary needs and to stimulate its subsistence economy. The complexity of those methods was a consequence of a variable topography and previous forest management practices that likely resulted in wide-spread deforestation, and subsequently large-scale erosion which limited arable land. The Classic Maya solution to limitations in arable land, augmented by increased erosion seems to have come in the form of geotechnical constructions placed in a variety of positions along the contours of hillsides that could have mitigated soil loss and provide leveled platforms for the cultivation of consumable resources. While retaining wall viability can be measured based on their ability to withstand earth pressures, the effectiveness of the planting platforms would have relied heavily on the nutrient availability required for plant development. This research sought to investigate the geotechnical constructions, as well as the soil properties resulting from their implementation and use at the Central Lowland Maya site of Yax Ch’am. While the results of this investigation indicated comparable designs in two retaining wall structures at the site, those structures had varied responses to lateral earth pressures. Consequently, soil analysis indicated increased phosphorus availability along the northern reaches of the hillside and deficiencies across the westernmost terrace.

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