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

Dylan J. Clark, Harvard University, William R. Tyler Fellow 2011–2013

As one of the first William R. Tyler Fellows in Pre-Columbian Studies, I have had the great privilege of spending two academic years affiliated with Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in both a research and consulting capacity with the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA).  My dissertation research explores questions related to the social organization and daily life of the ancient Maya who lived on the north coast of Yucatán through the excavation of house mounds at the small island port of Isla Cerritos.  This involves searching for clues that help us learn about who lived at these coastal ports, how their lives were similar and different from people living inland at large regional centers, and what their roles may have been within wider Maya society around 800-1150 AD. I spent the first year of my Tyler Fellowship in Yucatán, Mexico carrying out the laboratory analysis of the artifacts from our excavations.  In 2012-2013, I was in residence in Washington, D.C. where my dissertation writing benefited greatly from the world class library specializing in pre-Columbian America, as well as conversations with other scholars studying Maya culture and, perhaps even more significantly, with colleagues working on related problems in South America, Europe, and South Asia—certainly one of the advantages of being part of the intellectual community of fellows in residence. As part of my Tyler Fellowship institutional project, I also worked closely with ICFA to complete the initial collection assessment and inventory of the Justin and Barbara Kerr Photographic Archive, an important collection of still and rollout photographs of Mesoamerican art that will be donated to Dumbarton Oaks in the future.  To read a blog about this project, please visit: