Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Co-chair

Meradeth Snow, John Douglas

Commitee Members

Ashley McKeown, Jaime Awe, John Ravesloot


University of Montana


The Late (AD 500-700) to Terminal (AD 700-900) Classic transition in the Maya Southern Lowlands has been defined as a period of decline and large scale migrations out of ceremonial centers. The reduced access to food due to multi-decadal droughts severely affected the social and political environments during this period. Previous research focused on large scale geographic migration and diet in this area. What is less understood is the degree and direction of migration at a site-specific level, as well as the community’s specific response through time. This research uses the human remains along with their associated mortuary artifacts from the site of Cahal Pech, Cayo District, Belize in order to understand one community’s response to environmental stress during the Late to Terminal Classic period. Several multivariate statistical analyses were run on a comprehensive stable isotope plan (δ13C, δ15N, δ34S, 86Sr/87Sr, and δ18O) and mortuary database for 27 individuals from the site core. These result were then compared to models created by the author in order to find a best fit. This research found that migration into and out of Cahal Pech was occurring at a similar rate over time and that almost all individuals that showed non-local isotope signatures came from the Macal River region south of the site. The mortuary patterns do not trend on time period, age and sex, origin of the individual, or location of the burial at the site. Rather, the mortuary patterns initially cluster based on grave type and presence or absence of certain grave goods. The findings show no effect during the transition from the Late to Terminal Classic based on the mortuary and bioarchaeological data. This unexpected result may be due to sampling only the Cahal Pech core, possibly representing elite individuals buffered from the worst effects of deteriorating environmental conditions. In order to understand if this is a unique occurrence or regionally expressed, future research will need to be undertaken with broader parameters.



© Copyright 2016 Kirsten Anne Green