Description of the project


The research team, which core works at the Center for Mesoamerican Studies (CMS) of Faculty of Arts CU, joins its abilities and capacity to solve one of the greatest questions of recent Maya studies – the character of environmental sustainability of Pre-Columbian Maya agriculture. The recent state of research is alarmingly low considering the cultural and historical connotations generated by this topic. CMS dispose of data from extensive laser scanning (LiDAR) of the rainforest – these data are essential and brand-new. On the other hand, these data need extensive analyses, deploying the affords for excavation as well as for anthropological research, scientific analyses, and funded scientific hypotheses. Interpretation should combine LiDAR data with verifying field excavations. Field excavations reversely verify and correct predictions and statistics. Which by Geographic Information System (GIS) lead to final data. These data linked with field anthropological data and the resulting thesis will be compared with historical context, given by epigraphy and iconography. The result will be qualified by the interpretation of primary LiDAR data. So-called “hard data” tie systematically with “soft data” and formed a qualitatively new level of information, concerning nature and scope the data will lead to rethinking and the new definition of one most sophisticated ancient civilization wherein the worldwide perspective exists a tremendous gap.


Research goals

1. Complex evaluation of LiDAR laser research from an area of 1600 km2 in the central area of classical Maya settlement in Petén, Guatemala, with a focus on all types of agriculturally usable soil. Detection of individual forms of agriculture via LiDAR and hyperspectral devices focused on factors such as drainage canals in lowland zones, terrace fields in highland areas, and raised fields in mild heights, etc.
2. Attesting archaeological excavations of each type of agricultural elements in different geographical zones, which will be linked to the verifications proved in 2017.
3. Upgrade of filter used for detection of agricultural elements in LiDAR data from Petén area and specification of their quantification on the basis of verifying excavations from point 2.
4. Incorporation of LiDAR and hyperspectral data in the GIS systems, identification of water management features, and spatial modeling. 5. Analysis of soil samples from surveyed pre-Columbian fields and their comparison with soil samples from contemporary traditionally cultivated Maya fields, to find out their suitability for specific typical Maya crops, on the Department of Soil Science at Faculty of Natural Science of the Comenius University. Archaeobotanical and palynological analysis of the same soil samples to be carried out in UCL laboratories, in order to identify characteristic crops from a historical perspective.
6. Anthropological research of contemporary agriculture in the zone of research and definition of agricultural processes, seeding, and harvest of individual plants and their appearance in each location and soil type.
7. Epigraphical and iconographic evidence of Maya agriculture, reconstruction of calendar celebrations connected to the agriculture, setting dates of seeding and harvest, Maya agrarian rites.
8. Synthesis of LiDAR data, hyperspectral systems, GIS modeling, excavation results, analysis of soil samples, comparison of recent systems, and historical and ritual background from the epigraphy and iconography.



2018 – 2022