University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Testing for Nonlinear Settlement Patterns with Fractal Geometry: A Case Study from the Yalahau Region, Northern Quintana Roo, Mexico
Jennifer U. Weber, Jeffrey B. Glover

Last modified: 2011-12-21


Ancient Maya settlement patterns have been intensely studied for many years and undergone various methodological and theoretical analysis.  The use of fractal geometry, however, is one approach that has not received much attention. While the nonlinear nature of fractal geometry is well studied in other disciplines, its ability to shed light on the patterning of communities across the landscape is less clear.  In this paper we test and evaluate the fractality of intra- and inter site data collected in the Yalahau region. The Yalahau region, located in the northeastern portion of the Yucatan peninsula, presents archaeologists with a unique perspective on emerging social inequality in the northern Maya lowlands during the Terminal Preclassic period (c. 100 B.C. – A.D. 400).  Across the Maya lowlands this is a time period marking the transition from communal leadership structures to more hierarchical ones associated with divine kings.  The recognition of fractal patterns exhibited in the settlements of the time may provide us with another line of data, suggesting a more organic, or self-organizing, system in contrast to a more orthogonal one that is often associated with the presence of the centralized control of the State. 


Fractal Geometry, Settlement Studies, Nonliniar Processes