Chelsea Fisher

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9332

Approve Date

October 5, 2016

Project Title

Fisher, Chelsea Rose, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Early Maya Land-Use Practices and the Creation of Community at Tzacauil, Yucatan, Mexico,' supervised by Dr. Joyce Marcus

Preliminary abstract: How did early farming households develop and organize the land-use strategies that later led to urban agriculture among the Maya? My research addresses the fundamental relationship between (1) household decision-making and (2) the open spaces around houses to clarify the origins of land-use strategies at the early (i.e. 250 BC-AD 250) Maya farming village of Tzacauil, Yucatán, Mexico. Like many tropical societies, the people of Tzacauil probably spent most of their time outside, using the spaces around their houses (what I call ‘intra-settlement lands’) for outdoor activities like gardening and crafting. Over generations, these activities shaped Tzacauil’s landscape and developed the strategies that, centuries later, allowed the Maya to sustainably mix agriculture with urban settlement. To better understand how these land-use practices first emerged and developed, my project combines spatial analysis and excavations to identify the different kinds of activities that took place around people’s houses at Tzacauil. Using these data, I evaluate whether households’ land-use strategies at Tzacauil were autonomous and self-sufficient or complementary and interdependent. By investigating how the transmission and practice of activities like gardening and crafting constituted communities in an early Maya farming village, this research is positioned to contribute to anthropological approaches to learning, community-building, and the potential lessons to be learned from ancient sustainable societies.