Human-Water Relationships during Drought at Aventura, Belize

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project investigates the changing relationship between humans and water during drought at the ancient Maya city of Aventura, Belize. Aventura’s heyday was 750-1100 CE, a time of severe regional drought. This city is an ideal location to study the entanglements of humans and water because of pocket bajos, which are seasonally swampy karstic depressions that likely held water perennially in the past, located directly in the ceremonial city-center. These watery pocket bajos would have been important both as utilitarian water sources and as ideologically powerful places. This research asks three questions. Q1: How did the ecology of pocket bajo microenvironments change during drought? To address this, the research will utilize phytolith analysis to determine how much water was present in the pocket bajos over time. Q2: Wow was pocket bajo modification related to regional drought? To answer this question, the research will use pollen analysis to determine the severity of regional drought during Aventura’s heyday. Archaeological excavation will also establish whether human modification of pocket bajos coincided with drought or not. Q3: How did activities associated with pocket bajos change on a continuum of ritual and utilitarian during drought? Through excavation and artifact analysis, this research will examine the types of activities associated with pocket bajos that increased during drought. The product of this project will be an understanding of how people negotiated their relationship with water in a way that allowed the community to thrive during times of water insecurity.
Effective start/end date3/1/1812/31/19


  • Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (Agmt 10/24/2017)


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