Ancient Mesoamerica

THE RISE OF SECONDARY STATES IN THE SOUTHEASTERN PERIPHERY OF THE MAYA WORLD: A report on recent archaeological and epigraphic research at Pusilha, Belize

Geoffrey E.  Braswell  a1 , Christian M.  Prager  a2 , Cassandra R.  Bill  a3 , Sonja A.  Schwake  a1 and Jennifer B.  Braswell  a4
a1 Department of Anthropology, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, M.C. 0535, La Jolla, CA 92093-0532, USA
a2 Institut für Altamerikanistik und Ethnologie, Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Bonn, Römerstraße 164, D-53117, Bonn, Germany
a3 Middle American Research Institute, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA
a4 Center for Research in Biological Structure, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, M.C. 0043, La Jolla, CA 92093-0043, USA

Article author query
braswell ge   [Google Scholar] 
prager cm   [Google Scholar] 
bill cr   [Google Scholar] 
schwake sa   [Google Scholar] 
braswell jb   [Google Scholar] 


How does state-level political organization develop in small polities located in peripheral areas? The Pusilha Archaeological Project, which has completed two field seasons, is studying political and economic development at the ancient Maya city of Pusilha, Toledo District, Belize. Pusilha emerged in the Early Classic period (A.D. 250–600) as a small regional polity, but throughout much of the Late Classic period (A.D. 600–800) it may have been influenced by larger neighbors such as Copan and Caracol. Our goals are to study both the political and economic trajectories of the site to better understand processes of integration and state formation from the perspective of a marginal, second-order polity. Our research entails (1) the detailed epigraphic and iconographic study of the 46 monuments known from the site, (2) systematic mapping of the entire 6- to 9-km2 city, (3) test-pitting operations in non-architectural contexts, (4) excavation and consolidation of select structures, and (5) artifact analyses. During the 2001 and 2002 field seasons, described in this report, we conducted systematic survey of a 1.5-km–long transect through the site core, mapped many additional groups at the site, excavated 24 test pits in various architectural groups, excavated and consolidated a partially destroyed structure occupied during the Postclassic period, developed a multi-phase ceramic chronology, and analyzed the many hieroglyphic inscriptions that describe Pusilha's 700-year–long dynastic and mythological history.

c1 E-mail correspondence to: