Video: The Origins of Maya Civilization: New Insights from Ceibal


In the 1960s, Gordon Willey and a team of Harvard archaeologists led the investigation of Ceibal, a Maya site in Guatemala. Their research revealed that Ceibal was a very early settlement, one that predated the cities constructed in the heyday of Maya civilization. Recent excavations in Ceibal, directed by Takeshi Inomata and Daniela Triadan, have produced exciting new findings, including the discovery of what is considered the earliest ceremonial complex in the Maya lowlands, dating to 950 BCE. Inomata and Triadan discuss the new discoveries and what they reveal about the origins of Maya culture and society. 

Takeshi Inomata, PhD

Professor and Agnese Nelms Haury Chair, School of Anthropology, University of Arizona and Daniela Triadan, PhD, associate professor, School of Anthropology, University of Arizona

Co-presented by the Museum of Science, Boston and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology

Gordon R. Willey Series Lecture recorded 2/19/15


The Origins of Maya Civilization: New Insights from Ceibal

[00:00:07.18] Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Jeffrey Quilter, director of the Peabody Museum. And welcome, tonight, to The Origins of Maya Civilization, New Insights into Ceibal. It is the Gordon R. Willey Lecture. It's one of our two most prestigious lectures of the year. And it's presented this year by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, as well as the Museum of Science, with its new exhibit on the Maya.

[00:00:35.57] I'd also like to note, thanks to the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, with whom we partnered, and who enables our public programs. You can pick up a flyer on the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture events, which include Peabody events, as well as events at the Museum of Natural History at the table. There should be a table over there.

[00:01:00.25] Tonight, anthropologist Daniela Triadan of the University of Arizona, as well as Takeshi Inomata, will discuss their joint work at the sight of Ceibal, a Maya site in Guatemala, and what this work is revealing about Maya culture and society. At the table, you can also sign up, by the way, to join our mailing list and receive regular updates about our lectures and other events.

[00:01:23.90] We also have information about how you can become a member of the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture. It gets you admission to all of our museums. It also helps support our museum mission to bring you public educational programs like this one.

[00:01:37.50] Also, after the talk, there will be a reception in the Peabody Museum on the third floor. Please join us there.

[00:01:45.62] I'd also like to invite you to join our museum's upcoming events. On March 12 at 6:00 PM, Stanley Ambrose, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, will deliver the annual Hallam L. Movius lecture, the second of our two prestigious talks. Dr. Ambrose's talk will focus on human evolution, and in particular, on the behaviors that contributed to competitive advantage of modern humans and the demise of the Neanderthals.

[00:02:17.05] On Thursday, March 26, at 6:00 PM, Don LaRocca, Curator of Arms and Armor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and consultant to our exhibit Arts of War, also on the third floor, will review how and why armored weapons have been acquired, studied, and preserved since the 16th century by both private collectors and by museums.

[00:02:38.38] And on Tuesday, March 31, Peabody curators Diana Loren and Patricia Capone will discuss the findings of the Harvard Yard Archaeology Project, an initiative that seeks deeper knowledge of 17th century Harvard College and the lives of its Native American and English students.

[00:02:56.77] I'm now delighted to introduce William Fash, Charles P. Bowditch Professor of Central American and Mexican Archaeology, former Director of the Peabody Museum, who will introduce our speakers tonight and tell you more about them. Thanks very much.

[00:03:10.13] [APPLAUSE]

[00:03:22.27] Good evening, all, and welcome. Thanks for coming out on a less than ideal might. Ceibal in the tropics this is not. But we are happy to see you all, and I know that we can count on some terrific questions after the presentation.

[00:03:38.65] So this evening's lecture, as Jeffrey mentioned, will be given by Professor Daniela Triadan of the University of Arizona, who is also a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution. The Gordon Willey Lecture is made possible by the generous gift of his former student, Richard Leventhal, now at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, who wanted to do honor to Gordon by sponsoring an annual public lecture, as well as a seminar presentation to members and students of the Department of Anthropology.

[00:04:16.33] So tonight, our good friend Daniela-- Dani to one and all-- will present the findings that she and her partner, in life and in work, Takeshi Inomata, also a professor at Arizona and Director of Graduate Studies at the School of Anthropology there, have been making through their research at the archaeological site of Ceibal in Guatemala.

[00:04:40.97] Takeshi, by the way, presented the seminar talk to us earlier this afternoon. So Takeshi and Dani are seated right here in the front. And Takeshi has agreed to also help answer questions after the presentation.

[00:04:56.50] Dani received her PhD from the Free University of Berlin in 1995, and her research interests focus on the study of the sociopolitical development of small sedentary societies and more hierarchical ones, as well as prehistoric economic systems, with a specialization in ceramic technology, provenance studies, and the integration of material analyses into archaeological research.

[00:05:23.95] She's conducted extensive field and laboratory research in the American Southwest, as well as Mesoamerica. In the Southwest, she works on two large scale studies of late prehistoric polychrome ceramic production and distribution, one centered on White Mountain redware from East Central Arizona, and the implications of that for transformations of the Pueblos in the 14th century, and the other on Chihuahua polychrome from the Casas Grandes region in Chihuahua, Mexico. She was delighted to see the Casas Grandes collections in the storage areas of the Peabody.

[00:06:01.90] Her research in the Maya area includes work in Belize and Guatemala, where she co-directed the Aguateca Archaeological Project with Professor Inomata. The investigations at Aguateca have been one of the most innovative and informative research projects in lowland Maya archaeology for the past two decades. The many articles, book chapters, and the technical monographs from that project have addressed many significant research questions of broad anthropological interest, with a level of accuracy and attention to detail that make them models for our field.

[00:06:38.50] Dani has a well deserved reputation for meticulous excavations and recording standards learned and earned at the University of Arizona's Grasshopper Fiend School, where I understand she was the TF for our very own Bill Saturno, that bring great credibility to the research and its presentation in published form. She's the series coeditor with Takeshi of the Monograph series, volume three of which came out last year, entitled Life and Politics at the Royal Court of Aguateca. And the important 2010 volume, also, Burned Palaces and Elite Residences of Aguateca.

[00:07:18.95] Professor Triadan's research there is geared toward examining social, political, and economic organization, and its changed through the analysis of domestic assemblages. Excavations of elite residential structures at the epicenter this rapidly abandoned city-- amazing place-- have revealed the richest in situ floor assemblages found to date at a classic Maya site, providing a unique opportunity for reconstructing classic Maya household organization.

[00:07:49.19] Presently, as co-director, with Takeshi, of the ongoing Ceibal project, she works and directs an international team investigating the processes of the foundation of that important site, and its political disintegration during the Terminal Classic. It's providing new information on the foundation of Maya civilization, the subject of tonight's talk, as well as the so-called collapse or reorganization at the end.

[00:08:17.96] She's the author of numerous important publications on the Maya and the southwest in the major peer reviewed journals of our profession, a marvelous teacher and mentor, and a very personable and popular colleague in both Mesoamerica and the southwest, sought after at meetings and any gathering of friends. The list of her accomplishments goes on and on, but let's cut to the chase. Please join me in welcoming Professor Daniela Triadan.

[00:08:46.08] [APPLAUSE]

[00:08:51.85] Thank you so much, Bill. I hope I can actually live up to the reputation that you kind of laid out there for me. It sounds like a person that I don't know, somehow or other. But thank you so much, Bill, for your very kind words and, really, major exaggerations in those accolades, I have to say.

[00:09:13.33] And thank you for coming out and braving the weather. I have to say that maybe for the one time in my life, I'm actually glad for my pack rat tendencies. I was actually able to find winter clothes somewhere hidden away before we came here.

[00:09:28.15] We live in Arizona, as you've heard. Let's just say today, it was 82 degrees. I'm glad. I'm glad I found my winter coat that was still somewhere left over from our New Haven days early on. So we were actually fairly well equipped to get here and talk to you tonight.

[00:09:46.92] You can also see that we have slightly changed the title. We have made it longer. This is kind of a tendency, I guess, of professors.

[00:09:55.55] But the point was we really wanted to do honor to Gordon Willey, not just because it's the Gordon Willey Lecture, but as Bill mentioned, Gordon Willey was, of course, the uber archaeologist when it comes to Maya archaeology. And he and Harvard University had a long term project at Ceibal in the 1960s. So they've done very important work at Ceibal, and our work there is really building on what Harvard and Gordon Willey has done in Ceibal.

[00:10:28.72] When we decided to go there, we could thankfully really look at Harvard's research results, and we didn't have to basically reinvent the wheel. It was amazingly helpful to us. So we came out with a good idea, and we could develop a very specific research design when we came in to work, again, at Ceibal, after about 40 years when Harvard had been there.

[00:10:53.97] And in this photo, just to cue you in, we have Gordon Willey in the center right here, Ledyard Smith. I was informed, Dick Adams in the back. And we have a very handsome and young Jerry Sabloff on the left side of Gordon Willey, I have to say. So some of the main protagonists of the Ceibal project.

[00:11:21.30] So today, I'm going to talk about new ideas that we're developing about origins of Maya civilization based on our research in Ceibal. The origins of Maya civilization, as you probably know, and how the Maya became what we call the Maya, is really one of the big research questions of Mesoamerican archaeologists, right? I mean, this is one of the big things, and people have been thinking about this and researching this question for a long time. So we're not the first ones, obviously.

[00:11:54.39] And as I said, Harvard did a lot of work. But we, building on Harvard, have come up with some very interesting new data that we would like to share with you today.

[00:12:06.74] So just to orient you, Ceibal is in the southwestern part of the Maya lowlands. And the Harvard Project had shown that it was one of the sites with the earliest occupations for the Maya lowlands. So that was one of the really important results that came out of the Harvard project. So we already knew that there were early occupations at Ceibal.

[00:12:34.77] Just to orient you timewise, when we talk about origins of lowland Mayan civilization, most of you are probably familiar with the classic period of the Maya. This is where we have the big stelae. We have kings. We have nice buildings. This is a stelae from Ceibal and a building from Ceibal from the Classic period. So this is the typical Maya expression that everybody knows. Texts, art, so on and so forth.

[00:12:59.73] When we are starting to look at the origins of these expressions, we know through new research-- relatively new research at the important site of San Bartolo, where Dr. Saturno has been working, who is in the audience-- as well as research at the site of Mirador, that the foundations, the fundamental things of Maya civilization, were pretty much already in place in the period that we call the Late Preclassic.

[00:13:30.18] So what we see later, pretty much we see already expressed fairly early on. So when we're looking for the origins of these ideas and the origins of Maya culture, we really have to go farther back in time. We have to go into a period that we call the Middle Preclassic.

[00:13:48.15] Now, when we go there, we are talking about, really, the earliest sedentary settlements in the Maya area that are also using ceramics. These are ceramics from Ceibal. This is how they look like. Not very impressive.

[00:14:03.11] Now, I should remind you that while the Maya are doing this type of thing-- they're just starting to become villagers-- this is what's going on in the Mexican Gulf Coast. So when me talk about the Middle Preclassic, we've already have several years of Olmec civilization, with people who are schlepping giant heads over the landscape for large, over long distances, maybe have had kings already. We have the center of the major Olmec center of San Lorenzo.

[00:14:36.16] So clearly, outside of the Maya area, people are much more, quote unquote, "civilized," than what we are seeing-- already civilized than what we're seeing in the Maya lowlands. But really, when we're trying to look at what's going on in the Maya area, The middle Preclassic period is what we have to concentrate on.

[00:14:56.96] So to do our research to really ask questions of when and how Maya became Maya and what the social processes were that played a role in these developments, as well as development of social complexity, of different political organization, one of the things that's really important is chronology. We need good chronological detail and control to try to trace what has been going on, and to understand better what kind of processes were involved in these developments. So one of the foci of our research has been to really work on a better chronology for the Middle Preclassic.

[00:15:41.72] And then, as I said, we're really interested in the social changes that are taking place during this time period. And to some degree, they must have been dramatic, right? We have a very dramatic change in lifestyles of people who live in the Maya lowlands. And specifically, when we're talking about social change today, I'm going to focus on changes in ritual and symbolism, as well as the development of sedentism that happened in this early period.

[00:16:15.16] So going back to Ceibal, I'm going to talk a little bit about what kind of research we have been doing there. This is the map that Harvard created. It's a marvelous map of the larger site. It covers the center, as well as the peripheries of the site. So, again, it was wonderful. We didn't really have to do any of the bushwhacking and survey in a lot of these areas. We had a very accurate map that helped us a lot to structure our research design.

[00:16:47.43] As I mentioned, Harvard had found that they had very early occupations at Ceibal, and these very early occupations are centered in what we call Group A. So because we were looking for the roots and foundations of Maya civilization, we focused our own research predominately in Group A.

[00:17:11.90] So this is a close up of Group A. What you see here on the map is the latest configuration. This is the classic period configuration. This is what you see today on the ground.

[00:17:22.79] And when we're looking a little bit closer on this map, Dr. Inomata realized that when you look closely, he saw a pattern that you also see in many sites in Chiapas-- Middle Preclassic sites in Chiapas in the Grijalva Basin.

[00:17:40.95] What you see, basically, is this architectural compound right here, which we call an E Group, surrounded by large rectangular platforms. An E group, in Maya understanding, is a formal ceremonial complex that consists of a smaller western platform or pyramid, and then a range structure-- a long platform on the east side. And many Mayanists think that these E groups were aligned with solar-- that they had a solar alignment. So they were basically recording equinoxes and solstices.

[00:18:24.86] So he was looking at the pattern. He's like, man, I think we have an E group here, and then we have these platforms. And this looks awfully like some of the patterns that we see in Chiapas sites, especially in the Grijalva Basin. And this pattern is called by John Clarke the middle formative Chiapas pattern. So it's very typical for Chiapas sites.

[00:18:45.60] So one of the questions that came up was, hmm, so we have a Chiapas pattern site that doesn't look very Maya. What's going on? We really want to figure out whether this was indeed the early configuration at Ceibal.

[00:19:02.20] These sites in Chiapas also often have axe caches on the center line of the E groups right here. So that was another question that we were interested in. So when we start to work there, we actually find greenstone axe caches in Ceibal.

[00:19:18.84] So with these questions in mind, as I said, we focused our main excavations on group A. And you see these little red things all over the place, so we're focusing on the platforms as well as on the E group-- potential E group and the center line. And we really wanted to know how early this E group was and how far back some of these platforms actually went.

[00:19:45.49] So to verify that, we were excavating into the existing structure, especially on the west side. And in this particular area, we had to tunnel. This is a pyramid today that is about-- I'm probably lying-- but it's about 15 to 18 meters high. It's a massive structure.

[00:20:08.67] And we have to get into the core of the pyramid to get to the earliest construction of the E group. So we tunneled into the bedrock. We basically tunneled in bedrock. We followed bedrock and then dug up a little bit. So we had to kind of reverse stratigraphy.

[00:20:23.70] We dug up a little bit and followed the bedrock area, and we dug, and we dug, and we dug, and we dug. And there was [INAUDIBLE], and there was nothing. And we dug.

[00:20:32.98] And we were about 20 meters inside this pyramid, and we had a little grad student in there. And he's like, it is so hot, and really, we're never going to find anything. We have bedrock, you know?

[00:20:41.60] Until lo and behold, after about 20 meters in, we finally see this bedrock rising. And we're like, oh, something's going on here. Is it natural? Is it not?

[00:20:52.02] Well, it turns out it is not. It is actually a man-made ramp that was dug into bedrock and led to the very first structure of the E group, which you can see here. This is about five to six meters farther west, continuing the tunnel. So we're up the ramp.

[00:21:15.24] Here is the bedrock surface. And what happened once they hit the height that they wanted? They actually constructed a small platform here out of clay. So this is the very first construction phase. This is the first floor. And lo and behold, it dates to 950 BC.

[00:21:35.53] Then, of course-- so we have the structure there. Hooray. Everybody's really happy.

[00:21:40.00] But to make sure that it is an E group, we, of course, have to find the eastern platform. So we are digging in the center line, and also on the east side. And that also took a little bit of stamina and time, because we found several versions of an eastern platform.

[00:21:59.86] The earliest is the closest to the western structure. This is a shot of the plaza area where we were excavating along the center line. And so the earliest structure-- the back of it is about here. It dates also to 950 BC.

[00:22:15.75] And then we had several later iterations that were not built on top of this early structure, but out. So they are actually moving this eastern platform towards the east. They're making the plaza space bigger, and they're building larger platforms. So we have several versions of this eastern part of the building.

[00:22:35.96] This is the backside of the building, similar to the Western structure. A ramp cut into bedrock actually leads to this eastern building. And again, the date is the same. So looking at 950 BC, as of this day, as far as I know, this is the earliest E group that we have anywhere in the Maya lowlands.

[00:23:03.43] We also excavated in the surrounding large platforms. Again, we're trying to find out whether we have a Chiapas pattern and how early that pattern is at Ceibal. So one of our biggest excavations was in this big platform in front of the largest pyramid at Ceibal. And it was a 10 by 8 meter excavation, very challenging. You can imagine, we're trying to get to the origins of Maya civilization at a site that was occupied for 2,000 years.

[00:23:35.99] This excavation, 8 by 10 meters, we actually worked on for four field seasons. It reached more than 8 meters when we went to bedrock. We had to completely rethink our excavation strategies.

[00:23:49.57] We came from Aguateca. Everything was on the surface. Lots of stuff, but easy to do. Now, all of a sudden, we had to go down.

[00:23:56.88] Quite challenging. Took quite some time. Very different situation. I mean, just think about how we would get the dirt out of this mega pit.

[00:24:05.25] But what was actually most surprising about this excavation was that the majority of the construction that you see here dates to the early part of the Middle Preclassic. So more than 2/3 of the constructions here date between 950 and 800 BC. We're talking massive construction.

[00:24:26.31] The earliest platform down here was a very large structure, actually. It was probably something like 30 by 20 meters or so. So we have massive early constructions.

[00:24:38.24] And in the later part here, we also have-- you can see, maybe, these little flags-- we have floors upon floors upon floors upon floors. So we have a very detailed stratigraphic sequence that is sealed with floors. So we have, actually, a great situation where we can look at chronology of stratigraphy and those things.

[00:25:00.58] We also excavated in the northeastern platform, which is called the east court. This thing is about 8 and 1/2 meters high right now. It's all man-made.

[00:25:10.29] And what we found here was very interesting, because here, we found a series of small clay platforms that were built onto larger clay platforms, and that we think were actual residences. So this is the first evidence of people actually living on one of these platforms. What they did is they remodeled a lot of these little platforms constantly, and they built, also, one structure on top of the other in several different versions.

[00:25:37.29] So once we are about 800 BC, and we're looking at the east court, there seems to be this sense of place. People are now living there. And not only that, but we have evidence that these structures were actually forming a patio group. We have other excavations at the E group, and we found buildings that are on the same floors than the one that I just showed you. So we have a very early patio group that, again, supports that we probably had people now living there in houses.

[00:26:05.49] We also think that the people who lived there were people that had higher social status than the rest of the community. So these are what we tentatively call potential emerging elites that lived in this eastern platform.

[00:26:21.92] So to just summarize what was going on here with the early layout of the site, this is the early phase. We have the earliest E group. We have this big construction in the southwestern platform.

[00:26:36.01] Then a little bit later, the E group gets bigger. It gets moved towards the eastern structure, gets pushed towards the east. We have the addition of the east court platform right here, which is now supporting potential elite residences. And then a little bit later, in what we call the Escoba phase, which is also called the Mamon phase, between 700 and 350, we have the full Chiapas pattern, basically. So it really looks as if we have this type of middle formative Chiapas pattern early on at Ceibal.

[00:27:11.06] The earliest version of the E group was probably a relatively modest affair. We think it was a communal construction, but it was not very high. It was carved out of bedrock. And it was probably accessible and visible to the majority of people who were doing rituals there. So it was very community oriented, not very exclusive.

[00:27:31.99] And as you may recall, I was also talking about potential axe caches on the center line of E groups, right? And we were looking for them. And what do you know? Let's just say we found some axe caches on the center line. So we were obviously, again, very excited about these finds. So this whole idea about Chiapas pattern with axe caches and everything really played out nicely as Chiapas.

[00:28:02.09] Within these caches, we have these caches of greenstone celts, and we have additional caches with some other objects. But we found some very interesting Olmec style objects in these caches. So here you can see a pectoral, typical Olmec style, and a perforator made out of jade.

[00:28:20.93] We have these marvelous objects that look incredibly Olmec to us, including this upper object right here, which looks like a typical Olmec spoon pendant. And what's important about these objects is that they're personal ornaments. So we have them in these caches in the E group, which to us indicate that we now have people who wear these objects, potentially as personal adornment in rituals. And to us, that indicates that, again, we may have people now of slightly higher social status that are more visible in the community already this early on.

[00:28:57.26] We also have this amazing Olmec stone figurine head which was on the flyers for the talk. And we have here on the right what I call the evil artifact. This thing gives me the willies. You have no idea.

[00:29:12.16] I actually restored it. It was the creepiest thing that I've ever had in my hands. Seriously. It really gives you bad vibes.

[00:29:21.65] It's a spondylus shell that is carved to show a head that is desiccating. So you can see the teeth coming out because the flesh is basically shrinking. So it's probably the depiction of a trophy head. It was worn upside down like this, and it is actually an indication that people this early on in the Middle Preclassic were probably taking heads of people as trophies, and we probably have some warfare going on. So people were not always nice to each other during this time period.

[00:29:55.21] So I was mentioning chronology, and that this is very important to address the questions that we're having about the social changes and political changes that are going on at the beginning of this Middle Preclassic period. And we, in the project, actually concentrated a lot of our efforts on refining the chronology for the Middle Preclassic. So we took a lot of radiocarbon samples.

[00:30:26.67] We also were very careful about stratigraphy revisited stratigraphy, which is why I was showing you this picture with all these floors. So we have a very fine grained stratigraphic control of all of our excavations. And we were also revisiting the ceramic chronology and aligning it with dates-- radiocarbon dates as well as with our very detailed stratigraphic record.

[00:30:54.65] So Sabloff-- Jeremy Sabloff-- did a marvelous job when he originally established the chronology for Ceibal. He was mostly looking at ceramics and correlating them with excavations. And this general chronology still holds. I mean, Sabloff was right on. He was spot on.

[00:31:15.06] But as you can see, those are pretty big time periods that we're talking about. And so this doesn't really give us a very fine grain picture of what has been going on. So with all of our efforts, we are now actually able to subdivide Sabloff's phases into subphases, and now we have, actually, a chronological control of about 50 to 100 years in these phases, and we can correlate it with ceramics. So this is actually very good.

[00:31:46.45] I work in the southwest. We usually have about 50 year ceramic phases, and everybody's envious about this. We are close with this. So we're getting to a point in this early time in Maya archaeology where we get some very good time control.

[00:32:06.08] So the chronology that we developed is also important to revisit some of the more regional and interregional interactions that are going on and the social changes on a larger scale. So we were using our new chronology to reevaluate and reassess some of the ideas that have been floating around when it comes to the development of social complexity in the Maya lowlands. One of the ideas has been for a long time that the Olmec, who by then are carving this type of things, were instrumental in the Maya becoming civilized, right?

[00:32:46.75] So the big question, really, is if we think there was a connection between the Olmec-- at that time, we're talking about the center of La Venta-- is La Venta earlier or contemporaneous with Ceibal? I mean, that's kind of it in a nutshell, right? If there's influence, then it had to be there before to influence Ceibal.

[00:33:10.45] So to just give you a brief idea about how detailed and how good our dates are, this is the radiocarbon sequence of the dates for the E group. Each one of these states is basically shown with a 95% probability, so each one of these is a sample. All of these are mass accelerator dates. And you can see for the earliest construction period in the western structure, the dates fall very nicely in the majority around 950.

[00:33:48.54] The next period-- the next construction phase-- we have two dates that are slightly later, which is great, because that basically shows us that our first date sequence is good. We have a later construction. It should date later, and it does.

[00:34:02.71] And then we have dates from the back of the eastern platform that are also falling into this general range. So we are very confident that our dating of 950 for the earliest phase of the E group is correct.

[00:34:18.34] Now look at the dates from La Venta. These are dates from the Franco phase. The Franco phase is the phase where La Venta is supposed to have become a major center-- a major influential settlement in the Gulf Coast and in surrounding regions. And you can see there's not a single date here that is before 800 BC. So clearly, La Venta was probably not the impetus for all the changes that we are seeing in the Maya lowlands, because it wasn't that La Venta didn't exist, but it wasn't a major player before 800 BC.

[00:34:59.90] We also looked at this chronology and reevaluated some of the regional Maya chronologies and ceramics sequences. So this is the refined Ceibal sequence that you see here, and these are the chronological sequences and the ceramic complexes that go with them from other early sites in the Maya lowlands, especially sites in Belize.

[00:35:24.59] And what you can see is that the colors are basically showing ceramics that are similar to each other. So they're very closely related. They kind of look the same. So they're all kind of overlapping.

[00:35:37.34] But what you can see is that in many sites, especially the Belize sites, people are pushing the dates earlier than what we have in Ceibal. So a lot of people think that these sites started around 1200 BC. And one site that I want to actually point out is Nakbe, where we actually have a situation where this middle part is pushed even farther back.

[00:36:00.29] So Richard Hanson and colleagues think that what they call Early Ox dates to about 1000 BC. This is significant because major construction at Nakbe, and Nakbe is a very big site in the late Middle Preclassic, starts basically here. So pushing it to 1,000 makes Nakbe the earliest monumental site in the Middle Preclassic.

[00:36:29.38] I have this slide up here to show you that when we're doing this comparison using our chronology, we pretty much have the same date ranges at some of these Belizian. We cover it all, except that we have 100 dates. So we have the best data right now for the Maya lowlands. We have the best dating sequence.

[00:36:48.67] And when we look at the Ceibal sequence, we really have to critically evaluate radiocarbon dates. And Takeshi talked about this today in the seminar. And by looking at these dates, we have decided that these early dates that we have are questionable. So we are not using them. We are not pushing the beginning of Ceibal to about 1100, which we could easily do if we look at these dates. So looking at some of the other dating sequences, we argue that basically these dates are also too early, and should be disregarded.

[00:37:22.33] Getting back to Nakbe, these are the earliest ceramics that they found in Nakbe. This is the Ceibal sequence on the right side. And I dare you to say that these look awfully the same, yeah?

[00:37:41.74] So we are pretty convinced that what they have at Nakbe is what we have here in Ceibal, and we have good dates. And these things are later than 800 BC. So we are convinced that the Nakbe sequence is not correct, and it needs to be pushed up younger.

[00:37:59.59] So when we look at all of this, again, and we take into consideration that we think some of these early dates need to be discarded, and obviously the Nakbe situation, as I've just described it, we really think that the situation in the Maya lowlands looks something like this. So we really don't have any good dates that are before 1000.

[00:38:21.02] And as you can see, there's a remarkable consistency, actually, with these ceramic complexes. So this, to us, makes much more sense, actually. But it's also interesting, because something big seems to be happening right around 1000 BC.

[00:38:36.16] So to summarize this kind of regional picture, I want to reemphasize that when we talk about the beginnings in the Maya area, this is late. Compared to the rest of America, these guys are way behind the curve. We have San Lorenzo starting at 1400, right, in the Olmec big site.

[00:38:55.80] San Lorenzo goes down around 1100 BC, disappears, and as I mentioned, we really don't have a major Olmec center until 800 BC. So between 1100 and 800, we have some kind of a vacuum in the Olmec coast. We may have a power gap in this area.

[00:39:14.25] And what's interesting is that a lot of these things that I've been showing you-- the E groups and the Chiapas pattern-- seem to be happening precisely in this time gap. And they're happening in the area between the Maya lowlands and the Gulf Coast. They're happening in this intermediate area.

[00:39:33.69] So around 1000 BC, we have Ceibal, earliest E group, and we have a site in the Grijalva Basin-- think Acapulco-- which may be the site that has the earliest Chiapas pattern and dates, potentially, to the same time period as Ceibal. In the Pacific Coast, we have a site called La Blanca, which also has a formal ceremonial complex a little bit different from the Chiapas pattern. This is about 1000 BC.

[00:39:59.05] A little bit later, we're starting to see, around 800 BC, other sites in the Grijalva Basin with now a Chiapas pattern, and also La Venta, which may have adopted a Chiapas pattern. Only after 800 BC are we starting to see E groups in the rest of the Maya lowlands. And interestingly, those sites like Ceibal and Tikal only seemed to adopt the E group, but not the rest of the Chiapas pattern. So we have E groups, but we do not have the platforms that we see in this area right here.

[00:40:33.97] So to us, that actually indicates that the idea of E groups did not originate in the Maya area. This kind of coagulated somewhere in this intermediate area-- this whole idea of more formal architectural layout E groups-- and then some of these Maya centers adopted part of these new ideas a little bit later on.

[00:41:01.69] So what really is interesting to us, of course, is when we're thinking about all these changes, that this is an enormous time period and a very interesting time period. A lot of different things are going on, and there's an enormous amount of social change and organizational change going on in the Maya lowlands.

[00:41:20.71] And the thing that we want to focus on in this talk is changes in ritual and symbolism that go on during this time period as well as sedentism, and I'm going to talk about this in a little while. So Mayanists have the tendency to have a relatively-- not everybody-- but many Mayanists have a tendency to have a relatively static view when we're talking about ritual and symbolism, right? They're coming from the classic, and we're looking for signs in the time.

[00:41:52.29] And they're seeing this kind of as a static development, right? It's this kind of, oh, we have this there. Oh, the roots go all the way back to the Middle Preclassic, as if nothing ever changed. And we really question this. We really think in these early times in the Middle Preclassic, a lot of things happened, and there were hundreds of changes. It was very dynamic.

[00:42:11.56] Mayanists also have the tendency to see E groups as a solar alignment, often accompanied by these axe caches and these cruciform caches also as being aligned with cardinal directions or with celestial type of symbolism. But with our newer chronology, we have a much more fine grained view, and we can tell you that things actually changed. They were not static.

[00:42:43.87] So again, E groups probably originated here-- E groups and axe caches. But what we actually see when we look at the actual alignment of E groups is that in many cases, they're not aligned to the north. There's quite a bit of variability. We have them either veering a little bit west of north, as in these two cases, or in some cases, they're actually veering east of north.

[00:43:11.36] So what's going on? If this is supposed to be a pattern, if it's supposed to be solar alignment, why are these people-- I mean, they can't find north? I mean, what's going on here?

[00:43:21.97] We have an even more extreme example in Tzutzuculi, where they are really going towards the east. So Michael Blake, a very esteemed colleague and brilliant colleague, is actually doing a study on E group alignments. And he postulates that the main reference in early times for E groups is not a solar alignment, but our landscape references, such as hills or mountains, so that we have a very localized orientation that references directly the surrounding landscape for these E groups.

[00:43:55.90] And then as a secondary reference, we have a solar alignment. So he's really arguing that in the early parts of these, we have a more earthly symbolism. And then the celestial part of this is secondary.

[00:44:14.45] And if you look at landscape pictures-- this is the view from Chiapa de Corzo-- the E group is aligned with a prominent hill. The same is true for Izapa, where the E group is directly aligned with the major volcano to the north of the site. So clearly, it looks as if in these early places, these kind of earthly landscape references were very important, and people then also incorporated or tried to incorporate some kind of a solar alignment.

[00:44:46.81] Now, when we go to the Maya lowlands in Ceibal, earliest E group, we basically have nothing on the horizon, right? There are no landscapes. We're sitting on a [INAUDIBLE] plane, and there's no hill. And so at Ceibal, the E group actually does have a solar alignment. So more cardinal direction.

[00:45:03.53] And if you go to La Venta, Olmec being Olmec, they don't have any landmarks, either. They're sitting in the coastal plain. They're building their own landmark for the E group with this gigantic mount that is to the north of the E group. And that to us indicates that this whole idea about the Chiapas pattern and the E groups probably came from the south, and was not invented by La Venta, because they're adopting this kind of localized pattern. They're creating a landmark, basically, which is really not necessary, if you think about it. So they're probably still thinking along those lines.

[00:45:41.50] We see the same changes when we look at the caches. These are axe caches from El Manati. This is a site that is contemporaneous with San Lorenzo and close to San Lorenzo.

[00:45:53.54] These caches were placed in the spring, so we have a very clear earthly reference. And these caches are either in a flower shape or they're in a horizontal alignment. So probably some earthly references there.

[00:46:10.37] With our new chronology at Ceibal, we can actually sequence the caches. We can look at stratigraphy and the dates, and we can sequence our axe caches. The early caches at Ceibal look like El Manati caches, so they seem to be having these earthly type of references.

[00:46:30.15] After 800 BC, we have cruciform caches. So we have a direct change towards cardinal directions and potential more celestial reference when we talk about ritual. This, by the way, is cache number seven, the famous cache that was found by Gordon Willey and colleagues in the plaza.

[00:46:54.11] We see the same change, by the way, using our chronology and making the comparisons in other sites. Now that we have a better idea about time, we can actually see the same changes at La Venta and some of the Chiapas sites. They all go to cruciform caches.

[00:47:11.61] So again, we see this change towards more celestial symbolism. But they also maintain some of the water and earthly symbolism, because many of these cruciform caches-- this is the one from Ceibal-- actually also have water jars in the directions. So there's a change, but then there's also this maintaining of some of the earlier symbolism.

[00:47:33.97] We also start to see the cardinality in iconography. You can see basically four axes right here. And it looks as if we're starting to see a connection with the maize god from a symbolic perspective.

[00:47:52.79] So to summarize, before 1000 BC, we have this very earthly reference. We have these caches in these type of formations. No Chiapas pattern yet.

[00:48:04.95] Around 1000 BC, we see the earliest Chiapas pattern, E groups, still these type of firstly references in the caches. There's probably some solar alignment, but it's not necessarily the primary reference.

[00:48:20.71] And then after 800 BC, we see the fully fledged Chiapas pattern and these cruciform caches. So we see the shift towards a different meaning and symbolism around 800 BC. So clearly not a static situation.

[00:48:35.88] I should also mention that around that time, again, we have this eastern platform where we may have the first elites that are directly tied into some of the ritual performances that are going on. So as a summary slide, we first have this earthly symbolism expressed in the caches. We're starting to see mounted complexes, E groups, around 1000 BC, mostly connected with this. In the lowlands, more solar or celestial symbolism. We see a development to more standardization in the architectural pattern and a clear change from earthly symbolism to a more celestial symbolism.

[00:49:20.17] So the second big question when we talk about social change is sedentism, right? I mean, how did people become sedentary? Before about 1000 BC, we don't really have any evidence for sedentary sites in the Maya lowlands. Sorry, I'm losing my voice.

[00:49:43.49] So going back to our now refined chronology in the Maya lowlands, as I mentioned, what's really striking here is that everything seems to be happening around 1000 BC. All the early sites seem to date, more or less, around 1000 BC. So what's going on? Is there something fundamentally happening that kind of synchronizes all of these people?

[00:50:10.63] And one factor actually may be a change in maize productivity. In this slide, we're looking at carbon isotopes in human bone, which represent consumption of maize. And as you can see, before 1000 BC, there's very low maize consumption from samples from the Pacific coast. We have no data from the Maya area, by the way, before 1000 BC.

[00:50:36.71] But then around 1000 BC, all of a sudden, we have a major jump in maize consumption. It's still not a lot, but it is noticeable, and it is a dramatic jump. And we now have data from the Maya lowlands, and it is very similar to what we see in the Pacific coast.

[00:50:53.54] So many people think that around this time, maize may have become more productive. It may have been better adapted to the lowlands. People now can use maize in the central lowlands, which were probably not a very good place to live before that. And people are starting to incorporate more maize into their subsistence strategy, which gives them a basis to become more sedentary.

[00:51:18.38] So when we started to look at the distributions of early occupations at Ceibal, we were really becoming interested in how did the sedentism thing actually happen? I mean, did everybody come together, they build the E group, and they became sedentary, or what's actually going on?

[00:51:38.96] So this slide shows you the areas where we have real phase or early Middle Preclassic constructions, or we have deposits. And then we have some areas-- the ones that are dotted lines here-- where we have ceramics, but we don't have actual construction. And the areas where we have blue circles are areas that have been excavated or tested, either by Harvard or by ourselves, and there's no evidence of early occupation. So it's a relatively restricted area, as you can see.

[00:52:14.22] But I really want to draw your attention to a couple of these outlying groups. They're really very close to group A, but they're a little bit farther away, especially the Karinel group right here. So we have E group 950. We have this platform at 950. We don't have much evidence for any sedentary buildings.

[00:52:40.72] When we look at the Karinel group, we have here no evidence of real phase construction. But around 850, we have ceramics directly on bedrock. So what this tells us is that we have people in the area that are clearly there at this time period, but they're not living there permanently. So they're visiting the area, but they're still actually moving around.

[00:53:07.03] A little bit later, at a little temple group called Caobal, we have post holes in the bedrock. We don't have actual constructions of the real phase, but we have ephemeral structures. So people seem to be maybe doing a little bit more, maybe be there for a few months, or who knows? But they're clearly not permanently living there, either.

[00:53:31.32] At the same time, as at Caobal, for the first time, we're starting to see burials in the Karinel group. So people are burying their dead into bedrock, which may indicate that they have a little bit more ties to the place, but they're still not actually building houses in this area. So people are moving around. They may be coming back to bury their dead, but they're not permanently living in these groups that are very close to the central part of group A.

[00:54:00.17] So if we were to construct this in a more fine grained way, as I said, we have the E group right here. We have this platform that date early. We have no evidence for any type of actual sedentary occupation. So they're building a major formal ceremonial complex which probably involved quite a few people, quite a community, but they're not living there permanently. So we have ritual construction before we have actual sedentary buildings.

[00:54:33.93] In the next phase, we have this platform that's built where we may have the first sedentary buildings for Ceibal. And as I said, those were potentially elites. They were potentially directly tied with activities in the E group. And then we have burials in these areas.

[00:54:53.32] But we're not really getting any kind of more substantial evidence for residences until we hit this period starting at 700 BC. And even then, the area is relatively small. Again, the blue here are excavated areas where we do not have any evidence for this type of occupation.

[00:55:20.38] We have a very similar thing going on in the region. Ceibal is the earliest site. It has the earliest occupation with that E group complex.

[00:55:30.08] We know now, again, based on our chronology, that some of these other sites, especially Altar de Sacrificios, where people actually thought it was contemporaneous with Ceibal, is actually later. And we don't have evidence for sedentism before these later phases in these sites, either. So it really looks that not only locally do we have very little sedentary population, even though they're investing into public ritual buildings, but also in the region, we have still people moving around all over the place.

[00:56:02.37] And they may actually see Ceibal as a center point. They may come to Ceibal, to that E group, to do some kind of ceremonies and then go back out.

[00:56:12.91] So to summarize, this, in our view, is we have foraging going on in those southern Maya lowlands. Around 1000, something dramatically is starting to shift. It may have to do with more productive maize. We're getting more and more maize cultivation.

[00:56:28.51] We're getting the first ceremonial complex investment into these ritual constructions. We are starting to see the first elite sedentary residents quite a bit later, actually, and we may not reach full sedentism in some of these communities until 700, 600 BC-- so relatively late.

[00:56:51.21] So sedentism-- this development is actually a very complicated and a long term process. But what's really important here is that in many models, people, when they talk about development of sedentism, they think we have people coming together and they're starting to live at places longer and longer. Eventually, they're starting to invest into more monumental communal structures, ritual structures, and these structures are used for community integration, right? That's usually the story that we are all familiar with in the Near East or from other places in Mesoamerica.

[00:57:22.28] So what's really amazing here is that we seem to have the opposite. We have the majority of people still moving around the landscape for several hundred years. But these same people-- these mobile people-- are building a very formal ceremonial complex. So it's really kind of a reverse situation, if you think about it.

[00:57:41.79] And with this, I'm coming to my conclusions. So when we talk about the chronology, some of the, I think, for us, big, important things that we learned, is that La Venta is about 150 years later than the first E group instruction at Ceibal. A lot of things are happening in this vacuum between San Lorenzo and La Venta. E groups and Chiapas patterns are getting developed.

[00:58:10.02] So many new ideas seem to be kind of focusing precisely in this, if you want, power vacuum, when we do not actually have these Olmec people dominating the landscape or whatever. When we talk about social change, we see clear dynamic changes in ritual and symbolism. People are, early on, when they're still mobile, potentially, building these kind of integrated structures, but they're not static. They're clearly changing the meaning and the symbolism in relatively short periods of time, and then things become more standardized.

[00:58:49.76] And when we talk about sedentism, it's a pretty complicated picture. Yes, we all kind of agree that it takes some time, but what's really amazing here is that we seem to have the elites being the first people who are sedentary. They seem to be tied into ritual performances. Maybe that's why they're sedentary. They have to be close to the E group.

[00:59:09.72] And then we see, for quite some time, still mobile populations that are invested into these communities, but they're not living there on a permanent basis. Thank you very much for your attention.

[00:59:22.07] [APPLAUSE]

[00:59:31.24] Thank you. Thank you.

[00:59:34.63] So, any questions?

[00:59:37.68] I have a question for our speaker.

[00:59:40.53] I'm the expert in radiocarbon dates. He's the one who does the Bayesian voodoo.

[00:59:49.32] What about the maize? What about the sequencing genome? Have you found any kernels or any evidence of it changing genetically or the spread of that?

[01:00:01.67] Yes. That's a difficult question. In the tropical area, the preservation is not great. So we don't find much of those direct maize remains.

[01:00:13.43] We have small fragments of maize, but I don't know if anybody has succeeded in recovering DNA from them. Probably not. The preservation is bad, so it's difficult. It would be great if we can do it, yes.

[01:00:30.72] So it's kind of circumstantial, right? But we do see this major and pretty eye popping change in consumption when we look at human bone. So that's kind of why people-- they don't know exactly what morphologically happened to the maize, though. But, you know.

[01:00:46.00] I suggest that you repeat the question.

[01:00:48.81] Oh, OK.

[01:00:49.51] OK, yes.

[01:00:50.74] Do we have a mobile mic?

[01:00:53.04] No, just repeat. Yeah.

[01:00:54.47] So obviously this development of the sedentism-- I mean, how did it evolve? Where were people staying? Were people coming periodically to the ceremonial center for ritual, and were they living semi-permanently somewhere else, or were they wandering around the area and meeting up a couple of times a year? Could you flesh that out a little bit?

[01:01:16.57] So the question is about how we're envisioning this--

[01:01:20.93] What would the [INAUDIBLE] be that changed [INAUDIBLE] ended up in full sedentism?

[01:01:25.84] Right. So what the processes were, and how we actually envision people on the landscape, I assume, and what kind of movements and so on and so forth.

[01:01:34.54] So originally, people moving around, probably, because we don't have any permanent buildings, or we don't have ceramics during those early periods before 1000 BC. But 1000 BC, we have ceremonial structure, but we still don't have those residences. We think that the people were still moving around, although they are starting to do more maize cultivation.

[01:02:02.52] Then, those mobile people are still gathering for the construction of ceremonial center, and then gathering for the rituals that happened there. Then, gradually, people started to settle down.

[01:02:16.71] But it's not that everybody started to settle down at the same time. Many people tend to think that the sedentism just happened. Everybody started to adopt sedentism. But it's not like that.

[01:02:29.25] Some people started to settle down near the center, but at the same time, there's still people-- lots of people-- maintaining a traditional way of life, doing lots of foraging. Then, after about 400 years or so, finally, large majority of people settled down, focused more on maize cultivation.

[01:02:53.17] So there was a long period of this mixed economy. People do some maize cultivation, but do lots of gathering, hunting, and fishing. And then so there are those different kind of people. On one side, sedentary people. On the other side, still mobile people. So that kind of situation.

[01:03:12.88] But it may also very well be that they're coming periodically together, because we have construction phases of this E group, right? They're actually enlarging it. They're moving it out.

[01:03:22.37] So there may be these communal events, because you need, obviously, more than five people to bring all this earth together. So there may be, actually, these kind of periodic events where people come together. And they may even come, as I said, from farther away, because we don't have the same type of early occupations in these surrounding sites. So it may actually involve more than just people all around Ceibal. It may be a more regional thing, even.

[01:03:50.99] Yes?

[01:03:51.46] Are you finding changes in art and weaponry during this period? And how, today, are these sites protected?

[01:04:01.56] Good question.

[01:04:02.68] Is there any change in arts and weaponry that we're seeing, also, and how are the sites protected? For the first question, we see clear changes in the ceramics, which is why we have this very, very fine grained chronology. So it's dates, but it's also ceramics sequencing. And we see changes in forms and slightly in decorations, which is why we can narrow it down to these much smaller time periods.

[01:04:27.70] And it's pretty robust. I mean, now we can look at ceramics and can say, similar to what we do in the southwest, oh, these look like this, so these have to be earlier. This is this phase, right? And so we can start to do some cross dating, which is also what we're doing with some of these other ceramics sequences.

[01:04:41.90] Because there are lots of similarities, actually. And we see the changes pretty much in other sites, too. So yes, there are changes. Not so much in the lithics, but ceramics tend to be a little bit more sensitive to time change. Maybe people are just experimenting more, and they're coming in with new ideas.

[01:05:02.21] Site protection, big problem in [INAUDIBLE]. These lower levels are obviously well protected, because we have 11 meters of later construction, and you really, really have to work very hard to get to the bottom. But yeah. I mean, looting-- in general, Maya sites, it's a big problem, and especially in northern Guatemala, where, as many of our colleagues know, they have situations that are even worse than ours.

[01:05:27.45] Guards are not there, or especially the out sites are looted. So it's a problem. It's a big problem.

[01:05:36.49] I was very impressed by the quality of the material as well as the form of many of the [INAUDIBLE] artifacts that you illustrated, specifically that some of them were, to my eye, indistinguishable from the so-called Olmec [INAUDIBLE] source we found in Xalapa about 10 years ago.

[01:05:54.51] Questions arise which isotopic systemics might aid in resolving in terms of both the isotopic geochemistry of these well treated lithics. And also, just something far more speculative. I hesitate, but now that you're here, I was fascinated by the magnetic alignment issue. I'd not seen that raised before.

[01:06:21.32] Could you tell us a little about the sense we do have evidence of Olmecs' spoon magnets and magnetic materials that are basically magnetite and [INAUDIBLE]?

[01:06:34.57] Oh, for cardinal directions? Yeah.

[01:06:36.37] Yeah, as to whether the geomagnetic variations around 1000 BC encompasses the variations seen.

[01:06:43.75] So the first question was about the jades and the Olmec style artifacts. They looked like the blue jade source, and we think they're probably from the [INAUDIBLE].

[01:06:52.38] They certainly overlap-- the ones you showed overlap with the ones we've got here.

[01:06:55.99] Yes, yes. And we probably think that they're from the Motagua. So the question is, where are these--

[01:07:00.24] Not from the Motagua. From Xalapa the new source.

[01:07:02.37] Oh, the Xalapa.

[01:07:02.95] Yeah.

[01:07:04.10] OK. So the question was, what's the source of these jades?

[01:07:09.09] Yeah.

[01:07:09.69] The idea has been for a long time that they are coming from Guatemala. There's a blue jade source there. We don't know. We haven't actually done any isotopic analysis or any sourcing analysis on these artifacts.

[01:07:22.38] But it was mentioned that with newer techniques, we may actually be able to source some of them, If I understood you correctly.

[01:07:28.97] There are about 10 geochemical dates for different sources now, so there is something to correlate.

[01:07:36.11] sorry?

[01:07:36.40] Dates. Isotopic dates.

[01:07:37.61] They're geochemical age of formation dates.

[01:07:39.75] Ah, OK.

[01:07:40.52] Yeah, yeah, right.

[01:07:40.90] We've got them for about 10 different sources now.

[01:07:42.65] For Motagua jade.

[01:07:44.82] For the Xalapa jade.

[01:07:46.51] Not for-- the Motagua turned out to be the wrong stuff. The interesting ones are in Xalapa, in one fault farther south. And the most recently reported ones are from an area about 50 miles west of Ceibal, at an elevation of about 2,000 meters, actually, in the highlands on the north side of Motagua fault.

[01:08:16.57] Hmm.

[01:08:18.87] New information.

[01:08:20.71] Yes. I have to say that I wasn't aware of those new sources.

[01:08:27.47] So he just said that there were new sources in Xalapa as well as closer to the north side of the Motagua fault, right? Both sites. So we haven't done any actual sourcing on the jades. We, obviously, as you were mentioning, they look Olmec. I mean, they could come from the Gulf.

[01:08:46.11] If we had them somewhere in Gulf Coast sites, nobody would raise an eyebrow. They would basically say this is good. But your second question--

[01:08:52.82] The alignment of the--

[01:08:53.75] Oh, the alignment. The magnetism.

[01:08:55.69] The geomagnetic drift of the first millennium BC, does it correlate quantitatively with the changes in alignment seen?

[01:09:05.95] That we have been showing?

[01:09:07.29] Yeah.

[01:09:09.05] Well, I mean, but that's the whole point, right? I mean, they're actually, interestingly enough, these alignments of the E groups are not cardinal direction. And this is Michael Blake's point.

[01:09:21.30] They should be closer to whatever-- I mean, if it was a truly cardinal point and celestial type of symbolism, there's no reason why these E groups couldn't be--

[01:09:32.21] So actually, when we see the size of the one time, there's a variation. It's not that the change through time. So in that sense, we cannot clearly correlate to change in the magnetic directions.

[01:09:48.52] Actually, we can see that each many of cases, they're aligned to specific landmarks in the one place. So that tells us that it was not aligned to solar direction, primarily, or magnetic direction, or any of those more standardized things. It's really aligned to specific local [INAUDIBLE].

[01:10:13.80] I understand. The point simply is that magnetic north varies several degrees--

[01:10:19.34] Yes.

[01:10:19.77] On a century time scale.

[01:10:21.82] Right.

[01:10:22.22] You just have to go and do the geomagnetic [INAUDIBLE].

[01:10:30.43] Thank you. It was a very, very interesting talk. I'm curious about this transitional period around 1000 BC, when people suggested to practice sort of mobile maize agriculture. And I was wondering, do you have paleontological evidence that would tell you mobile it is, whether people are disrupting the vegetation right there around Ceibal, or if they're moving further out and coming in?

[01:10:50.75] So the question is whether we can actually see in the pollen record whether there has been deforestation around 1000 BC, which would also support doing more maize, doing more agriculture, even though people are still mobile.

[01:11:03.85] That's actually a difficult question. We take lake cores to reconstruct those vegetations and climate-- those things. Actually, possible change in forest starts around 1500 BC, before the beginning of these sites. Then, everybody thought that that's the effect of people cutting down forest. Then you get the different species. You get more erosion refracted to these lake cores.

[01:11:43.50] But now there's a different idea. Actually, that time, there was a climate drying. And because of climate drying, vegetation changed. You get more erosion, starting around 1500, or even earlier. It may not be done by people.

[01:12:05.31] So there's still different opinions. So then, there may not have been too many people before 1000 BC around this time in this area, because the lowland environment is not a good place to live. You don't have much food unless you have good crop. So there may not have been many people living there.

[01:12:27.00] Then, 1000 BC, we start to see this new site. But since this change in pollen and erosion happens earlier, it's very hard to see what kind of change in terms of vegetation is happening around that time. But the change is not that clear around 1000 BC.

[01:12:52.70] We think that the people are still doing lots of this hunting and gathering. They were cutting some forest. But not to extensive levels.

[01:13:02.46] Well, the isotopic signature is not that high. I mean, the maize consumption is not really super high, so they're not probably relying predominately on maize. It's just more incorporation into the subsistence pattern, [INAUDIBLE] thing right here.

[01:13:23.61] We have time for one more question.

[01:13:27.05] Yes. Hi. Could you elaborate a little bit on the postulated shift in the symbolism going from earlier terrestrial emphasis to then celestial? Especially because afterwards in the Maya region, we know that both of them are intricately related [INAUDIBLE]. So what could explain these different [INAUDIBLE] emphasis?

[01:13:53.74] Yes. So the question is about this symbolism, particularly in relation to earthly symbolism to later celestial symbolism. We are not really separating them clearly.

[01:14:10.64] Of course, in Mesoamerican thought, all those things go together. You cannot separate them clearly. What we are trying to say is that that's a change in emphasis. Early days, there's a stronger reference to earthly features, like El Manati. Those caches are placed in the spring-- a prominent earthly feature. And their sites are oriented to mountains-- prominent earthly features.

[01:14:39.53] But later time, the celestial reference becomes important, particularly after 800 BC. This solar directionality becomes important. This cardinal symbolism, represented by cruciform, becomes important.

[01:14:59.48] To us, that seems to represent a more standardized way of thinking, standardized way of representation. If you are referring to individual local features, those things change from one community to another. But once people started to refer to the sun and stars, you go to the next community, people are talking about the same thing.

[01:15:27.69] So that's actually, I think, an important process. There's a more standardized way of ritual and religion. That's probably sort of conditioned people for more centralized political ways or standardized political way, too. I don't know if that answers your question, though.

[01:15:53.20] Well, thank you again very much. Please join us for the reception.