Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Cultural Heritage Option)

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Dr. John Douglas

Commitee Members

Dr. Jaime Awe Dr. Julie Baldwin


Ceramics, Maya archaeology, petrography, pottery analysis, Terminal Classic Period Maya


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Archaeological Anthropology


The objective of this thesis is to examine the relationship between two Maya sites, Cahal Pech and Xunantunich, during Terminal Classic (780-950 CE) through ceramic variability. Until recently the Terminal Classic (TC) was often misunderstood as a time of the “Maya collapse.” The TC period is now understood as a complex time with shifting political tides possibly due to environmental pressures. New evidence from a TC deposit at Cahal Pech known as “south of H-1” shows an abundance of a specific decorated ware known as Mount Maloney Black (MMB), a type more closely associated with the neighboring site of Xunantunich. With the close proximity between the two sites (roughly 10 km) and given that Xunantunich was a politically influential civic center during this time, one might postulate that the MMB at Cahal Pech may indicate an influx from Xunantunich due to political or economic control over the site. However, the rim forms at Cahal Pech reflect that of an earlier style of MMB. This fact may indicate an emulation of the style by the residents of Cahal Pech, suggesting multiple production sites, or an early abandonment of Cahal Pech. This thesis uses the combined strategies of microphotography through the use of a portable digital microscope as well as thin section petrographic analysis to examine MMB pottery sherds from both Cahal Pech and Xunantunich to determine if they came from the same source. These approaches to ceramic analysis allow us to compare the mineral composition of the sherds from each site and to gather information about the ‘recipes’ used to make the MMB. From the data that were collected and analyzed, I suggest that there is some statistical significance between the mineral inclusions used in the MMB between the sites. Other lines of evidence such as texture, quantity of minerals, and thickness of sherds indicate possibly more than one production site. Comparing the MMB sherds found at Plaza H of Cahal Pech to Terminal Classic MMB at Xunantunich possibly sheds light on the interactions between these two sites and give a broader understanding of regional activities during the Terminal Classic.



© Copyright 2018 Kara B. Johannesen