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The Hydroarchaeological Method: A Case Study at the Maya Site of Palenque

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This research consists mainly of introducing the hydroarchaeological method, especially as related to issues of drought. The article outlines how this multidisciplinary method can provide insights into the success and failures of an archaeological site, in this case the Maya site of Palenque. We also detail convincing evidence that shows that the Maya of Palenque did not leave their city because of deficiencies of water, as some paleoclimatologists and archaeologists have asserted. The first logical step toward understanding any settlement's water system is to use basic hydrologic methods and theory and to understand the local watershed. There is great potential for watershed-climate modeling in developing plausible scenarios of water use and supply and of the effect of extreme conditions (flood and drought), all of which cannot be fully represented by atmosphere-based climate and weather projections. The research demonstrates how the local watershed, land-use, and ecological conditions interact with regional climate changes. The archaeological implications for this noninvasive "virtual" method are many, including detecting periods of stress within a community, estimating population by developing caps based on the availability of water, and understanding settlement patterns, as well as assisting present local populations in understanding their water cycle.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2012

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