7. Conclusions

The constant adjustments to the political alliances between the Classic Maya kingdoms as interpreted from the hieroglyphic record makes it necessary that, in order to understand how the geopolitical map of the Maya Lowlands fluctuated through time, we need to develop a model of the territorial extent of these polities that (1) takes into account the characteristics of the physical terrain, and (2) that can identify the factors involved in the preservation and maintenance of this territorial extent.

First, considering that we are dealing with what was mostly a pedestrian society, the natural barriers that the landscape presents will determine the area that can be optimally serviced by a centre. To address this first condition I took advantage of the capabilities that GIS offers to model movement across the terrain in order to define the potential boundaries between the centres.

The second condition represents the thrust of this article. I have argued that subsidiary centres located along strategic points on the landscape were instrumental in the maintenance of the boundaries between polities, and that the political importance of these sites is reflected in the efforts made by the kings of these polities to retain the loyalty of the rulers of their subservient centres.

The major warfare events between Pomoná and Piedras Negras in AD 792 and 794 were used to exemplify the importance of these subsidiary centres. The possible attack route from Piedras Negras required access through one of the few natural passes that exist between the Upper Usumacinta mountain range and the coastal plains. Such access is located in the Redención del Campesino valley. However, a site of this nature was not known to exist in this valley. I took advantage of the spatial modelling capabilities of GIS, and a probability model based on Dempster-Shafer Theory was designed to identify the areas of high potential where the presence of this type of site may occur.

During the Redención del Campesino Archaeological Survey the valley was intensively surveyed with the intent of proving on the ground this site prediction model. The survey tracks were established in accordance with the high probability areas identified by the model. Of the sites visited only four were in close proximity to the high probability areas. The first, Santa Rosa, represents a site which, although it may have been of certain ritual importance, certainly did not constitute a political centre. The second, Agua Sucia, consisted of a couple of mounds that perhaps functioned as a checkpoint for incoming-outgoing traffic. The third site, San Arturo, although a more complex multi-structure site was definitely not a centre of administrative importance - rather more of a residential outlier. On the other hand, the site of Álvaro Obregón 2 proved to be a site of quite impressive masonry structures, thus suggesting a focal role. Álvaro Obregón 2's strategic positioning gives the site a commanding view of the valley from where it could have controlled traffic, while at the same time the steep hill on which it is located makes it easily defendable.

The epigraphic data together with the GIS modelling on territorial extent, indicates that at least between AD 792-794 the Redención del Campesino valley was under the political aegis of the Piedras Negras kingdom, thus strongly suggesting that the Álvaro Obregón sahal played a pivotal role in maintaining the territorial integrity of the kingdom. In this context it becomes apparent how, throughout the Late Classic, the changing boundaries of the Maya kingdoms depended greatly on where the loyalties of the subsidiary centres lay.


© Internet Archaeology/Author(s)
University of York legal statements | Terms and Conditions | File last updated: Tue Mar 7 2006