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An Archaeological Perspective on the Colonial Encounter at Lamanai and Tipu

Elizabeth Graham, University College London, Fellow 2007/08

The Maya sites of Tipu and Lamanai in Belize, in addition to exhibiting a long occupation sequence, have yielded extensive evidence of Spanish colonial activity in the 16th and 17th centuries. During the fellowship year, I have integrated historic-period data resulting from archaeological excavations at Tipu, directed by me from 1983 to 1987, and at Lamanai, directed by David Pendergast from 1974 to 1986 and by me from 1998 to the present. My focus during the year has been the architectural data. I have overseen digitization of structure plans and sections of structures for web-based publication, have written excavation descriptions, and have translated original databases (recorded via software no longer in production) into accessible programs. The result will be dissemination of data to other Mayanists which will facilitate recognition of historic-period buildings in the Maya area.

At the same time, I have continued research on the context of the colonial encounter that I began in 2005–2007 under a British Academy Readership. I concentrated originally on the specific circumstances of conversion among the Maya at Tipu and Lamanai; the resources at Dumbarton Oaks, with their focus on archaeology and art history both in the New World and in the Byzantine and Roman worlds, have enabled me to consider the context of conversion on a much larger and richer scale. In addition I have benefited from interaction with Byzantine scholars and from the opportunity to utilize the resources, especially the map library, at the Library of Congress.

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