PEMY: Economic Foundations of Mayapan Projects

From 2001-2009, the longstanding tradition of household archaeology at Mayapan was amplified in seven seasons of field investigations by the Proyecto Económico de Mayapán (PEMY), directed by Marilyn Masson, Carlos Peraza Lope, and Timothy Hare. Summary reports to the National Science Foundation (2001-2005 seasons, and 2008-2009 seasons) and to the National Geographic Society (2009 season) are available on this site (LINK). The PEMY project is a collaborative undertaking of the University at Albany-SUNY and the Centro INAH-Yucatan. The majority of this research at the city has focused on questions of economic complexity in the context of an urban place and a primate political capital, and the bulk of this effort has concentrated on household archaeology. Beginning in 2001, we began a phased research program that included survey, mapping, surface collection, test pits and full excavation of twelve structures. Within or near the city wall, we have sampled 60 predominantly domestic contexts. Extending our reach beyond the wall, Bradley Russell, director of the tandem Mayapán Periphery Project (MPP) spent three years mapping and testing features in 8 transects outside of the city wall raising Postclassic population estimates to 17,000 residents. His 2008 dissertation and a description of this project can be found online at: http://mayapanperiphery.net. Timothy Hare has employed innovative field mapping and GIS techniques, including the use of a GPS base station and radio transmitters to permit architectural mapping to centimeter accuracy without the use of an EDM and the creation of aerial photomosaics to facilitate detailed computer digital mapping of surface architecture. Invariably, archaeology carries with it surprises, and we have found features that led us to consider new questions of the city's collapse and abandonment, warfare, mortuary patterns, and characteristics and functions of public buildings embedded in distant neighborhoods. In 2004, Bradley Russell discovered a colonnaded hall group outside of the city wall, and in 2002, Clifford Brown recorded a cenote with red handprints shown to him by a local landowner. Clearly, the fully complexity of this urban settlement has not yet been fully documented.

The PEMY project has been supported by the following sources: University at Albany-SUNY (Faculty Research Award Program, 2000, 2010), the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (2001), and the National Science foundation (2001-2005, 2008-2009), the Committee for Research and Exploration, National Geographic Society (2009). The lab and field workers of our host town of Telchaquillo deserve much acknowledgment and gratitude. Their knowledge and pride in their craft have underwritten the successes of the PEMY project. The degree to which they have trained the archaeologists in the methods, local culture, and ancient environs of this city cannot be overstated.

Our economic investigations have revealed many details about the structures of daily life at the city – which was complex and varied and tied intricately into regional and more distant exchange economies at the edges of the Maya area. A uniting research question was the relationship between social class and wealth. Variation in houselot assemblages quickly introduced questions of occupational specialization into this equation. From 2001-2003, all of the architecture in each of the 36 milpas (encompassing 52.99 hectares) was fully mapped under Timothy Hare's supervision and has been entered into a GIS database from which maps have been generated. During this time, the project also completed 189 test pits, 63 of which were near structures outside of the city wall. Antonina Delu and Clifford Brown oversaw phases of the test-pitting project. A surface survey of 36 milpas across the city was performed, from which 131 systematic surface collections were collected primarily from domestic refuse zones. In 2008 and 2009 we investigated 6 domestic structures, bringing the tally of fully excavated dwellings up to 9 (three were excavated in 2002-2003). Excavations were supervised by Carlos Peraza Lope and project staff including Pedro Delgado Kú, Miguel Delgado Kú, Georgina Delgado, Bárbara Escamilla Ojeda, Robert Hutchinson, Betsy Kohut, Jared Latimer, Elizabeth Paris, Bradley Russell, and Yonny Mex. Over 60 contexts have now been sampled by combinations of the field methods employed by the PEMY project; almost all of these are dwellings.