Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Cultural Heritage Option)

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

John Douglas

Commitee Members

Jaime Awe, Michael Monsos


Archaeology, Maya, Architecture, Cahal Pech, Belize


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Anthropology | Archaeological Anthropology | Other Architecture


This thesis seeks to understand the human response to extreme environmental, social, and political change during the Terminal Classic (750-1050 CE) at Cahal Pech. Across the Maya lowlands, this period is distinguished by the end of divine kingships, the cessation of new monumental architecture, rapid changes in prestige goods and trade networks, and population decline at many major centers. Cahal Pech, a medium-sized ceremonial center, experienced great shifts in political power and access to resources during the Terminal Classic. This thesis attempts to understand the last occupation of the site, prior to abandonment. Field data for this study is derived from excavations at Plaza H, located in the northeastern portion of Cahal Pech. Research conducted at the Plaza focuses on the Terminal Classic occupation history, architectural features, and evidence of activities. The interpretation presented in this thesis draws from the frameworks of resilience theory and social memory, approaches that emphasizes agency and the ability for societies to reorganize while creatively drawing on the past. The outcome of this research shows that the residents of Cahal Pech during the Terminal Classic succeeded at both the maintenance of noteworthy cultural practices and undertaking radical changes in social scale, demonstrating significant resiliency.



© Copyright 2020 Rachel A. Steffen