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Living on the Edge: The Residential Spaces, Social Organization, and Dynamics of Isla Cerritos, a Maya Port

Dylan Clark, Harvard University, Tyler Fellow 2011–2013

Dylan Clark with students Stephanie Miller and Cristina Vázquez analyzing ceramics from Isla Cerritos at the Faculty of Anthropological Sciences, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán.

My dissertation project is a study of the social organization and dynamics of an ancient Maya port community through the archaeology of domestic contexts on the small island site of Isla Cerritos, Yucatán, Mexico. The project consists of two phases, including archaeological excavations of house mounds that form two residential groups on the island carried out in 2010 and the analysis of the cultural material from these excavations in the ceramics laboratory at the Faculty of Anthropological Sciences at the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán in Mérida, Mexico. The laboratory analysis and tabulation of artifacts were conducted during the first two semesters of the Tyler Fellowship of the 2011–2012 academic year. During this time, we analyzed over 30,000 ceramic sherds, 850 cultural artifacts, 4,906 animal bones, and over 12,000 archaeological mollusca by species, creating an extensive database from which to build interpretations of daily life in the port community after 600 A.D. We also photographed and illustrated selected artifacts and produced publication-quality maps and excavation drawings to be used in my doctoral thesis and the forthcoming report for the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH). As a result of this analysis, we discovered new patterns in the data, including interior architectural features within house platforms, domestic ceramics that indicate a very late occupation of the port, evidence for shell-tool production at the household level, and evidence for a significant restructuring of island households between 800 and 900 AD, coinciding with the rise of Chichén Itzá as a regional power.

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