Award Number: 9311773

Award Period: 7/93-6/96

Award Amount: $219,369.00

Title: The Settlement Pattern of Caracol

(Diane Z. Chase and Arlen F. Chase)

The archaeological research undertaken at Caracol, Belize sought to examine the linkages between successful warfare, as recorded on the stone monuments in the center of that site, and the archaeological record found in the outlying settlement. Investiga tions focused on the systematic survey and excavation of settlement in the northeast sector of Caracol.

Two field seasons of excavation undertaken during 1994 and 1995 were supplemented with a season of laboratory analysis and additional mapping in 1996. Eight square kilometers of settlement were transit mapped as part of the project; a total of 16 sq km of the site have now been transit mapped. Mapped survey transects and the central mapped area presently cover a north-south distance of 12.75 km; within this area there is no indication of settlement drop-off. On-ground reconnaissance and LANDSAT satel lite imagery indicate that the city of Caracol had a radius of approximately 10 km.

Two square kilometers were intensively surveyed to include all agricultural terraces. These indicate the heavy density of agricultural terraces and the integration of numerous household residential units in agricultural areas within the city limits. Whi le there is variation in the amount of terracing and occupation units throughout the mapped areas of Caracol, all mapped areas exclusive of the epicenter and causeway termini contain both terracing and housing.

Excavations in the northeast part of Caracol were undertaken in 33 residential groups and revealed a chronological sequence extending from ca. 600 B.C. to ca. A.D. 1150. While remains of residences were also encountered in some "vacant terrain" excavati on tests within the agricultural fields, occupation units usually consisted of raised plaza units surmounted by 3 to 12 structures. Population estimates for the city at A.D. 650 are over 140,000 people.

Precolumbian Maya texts outlining political events of the 6th through 9th centuries (specifically successful warfare) have been compared with survey and excavation data to assess changes in structure density (and population numbers), amount of constructi on, artifactual and ritual cohesion, and general prosperity. This study also helped in the definition of a "Caracol identity" and in varying correlations between Maya hieroglyphic history and archaeological data. Late Classic Caracol's identity is char acterized by: east-focused residential groups in which the eastern structure had a predominantly mortuary component; common ritual and caching practices in virtually all residential groups; use of multiple burials and tombs; and, a relatively high frequen cy (ca. 22% of all burials) of inlaid dentition.

Textual references to successful warfare in the 6th and 7th centuries A.D. correspond with prosperity and cohesion in the archaeological record and the delineation of the above mentioned Caracol identity. However, a period with no known texts covering m ost of the 8th century (A.D. 702 - A.D. 798) occurs in conjunction with an archaeological record that also contains substantial material evidences of prosperity. Finally, increased aggressive activity after A.D. 798, as reflected in texts and iconography , corresponds with an archaeological record detailing uneven prosperity and decreased cohesion between central and outlying settlement. The data also suggest that a breakdown in Caracol's unique social and ritual (ethnic) identity may have played a key r ole in the site's ultimate demise.

For an unpublished paper dealing with this work, please see: "Changing Perspectives at Caracol, Belize."