Managing Global Resources for a Secure Future

2017 Annual Meeting | Oct. 22-25 | Tampa, FL

48-9 Utilizing Soils to Understand Maya Water Management at El Peru-Waka', Guatemala.

Poster Number 1014

See more from this Division: SSSA Division: Pedology
See more from this Session: Pedology General Poster

Monday, October 23, 2017
Tampa Convention Center, East Exhibit Hall

Matthew C. Ricker, Department of Environmental, Geographical, and Geological Sciences, Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, PA, Damien B. Marken, Department of Anthropology, Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, PA and Alexander Rivas, Department of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
Poster Presentation
  • Ricker_etal_SSSA2017_final.pdf (3.6 MB)
  • Abstract:
    The ancient Maya civilization thrived in the lowland karst landscapes of Mesoamerica, which includes the Petén region of present day Guatemala. Although the area supported large populations centered around major cities, there were very serious challenges regarding freshwater resource management in the region. These issues include distinct wet-dry seasons which required surface water systems able to safely transmit floodwaters, yet maintain storage over the extended dry season and the difficulty of construction engineering on Vertisols found in the lowland depressions of the region. Our research looks to understand the types of water management practices used by inhabitants of the Classic Maya city of El Peru-Waka’ through the study of surface reservoirs within the city core. To date we have described 141 soil profiles from a combination of soil cores and deep pits within seven reservoirs. We are using soil data to quantify the types of engineering that the Maya used to maintain their surface water systems.

    Soil morphologies indicate that reservoirs were likely managed differently depending on environmental constraints. For example, we found extensive retaining walls and construction floors in reservoirs containing gypsum, which suggests attempts to contain soluble salts in the groundwater and prevent interaction with fresh water resources derived from rainfall inputs. Soil morphology metrics will also be useful to refine surface water storage estimates within Waka’. The morphologies we described clearly indicate periods of use by the Maya, overlain by more modern soil profiles that have developed since city abandonment (slopewash). Modern soil depths were variable across the reservoir transects, ranging from 9-302 cm in depth. Removal of the volume associated with these deposits should significantly increase the estimates of area for water storage in the Waka’ core reservoirs and provide a more accurate estimate of total water availability within the city.

    See more from this Division: SSSA Division: Pedology
    See more from this Session: Pedology General Poster