March 12, 2016 Claire Ebert, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology,  Penn State University: "From Cunil Ceramics to Complexity: The Origins of Preclassic Period Maya Society at Cahal Pech, Belize"

            The earliest complex societies and a distinctive set of socio-political and economic institutions appeared in the Maya lowlands during the Preclassic Period (1200 BC AD 300). The major Maya site of Cahal Pech, located in the Belize River Valley, provides a unique case study for understanding the development of complexity because of its long occupational history from the Early Preclassic until the Terminal Classic Period Maya collapse. This talk discussed results of excavations and analyses from the civic-ceremonial site core and household contexts that have tracked the development of social and economic inequality beginning with the earliest Maya, represented by the earliest Cunil ceramics at Cahal Pech. Population increase during the Middle Preclassic may have triggered increased competition over wealth and subsistence resources, and encouraged hierarchical growth of a centralized dynastic linage at Cahal Pech. Our research at Cahal Pech can provide a framework for understanding the factors that influenced cyclical of growth and decline of early complex societies in prehistory.

            Claire Ebert is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology at the Penn State University. Her research investigates the development of social inequality in the Maya Lowlands during the Preclassic Period (1000 BC 300 AD), focusing on household responses to social and economic changes taking place within the context of broader ecological systems. The ancient Maya site of Cahal Pech, in the Belize Valley, has been the focus for her recent research in collaboration with the Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance project directed by Dr. Jaime Awe. Claire has also worked on archaeological projects at the Maya sites Palenque and Uxbenka, as well as in the American Southwest, Hawaii, and Tanzania.

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