The Mayapán Periphery Project
Postclassic Maya Settlement on the Rural Urban Fringe of Mayapán, Yucatán,
Mexico (2008)

   This dissertation details the results of a multi-year (2001-2004) study of settlement patterning on the
periphery of the
Postclassic Maya capital of Mayapán, Yucatán, Mexico (regional map).  Ethnohistoric
and archaeological evidence both suggest that the site was the capital of the last powerful Pre-Hispanic
regional polity in the area.  The apparently coerced resettlement of local elites and portions of the
populations of provinces that came under Mayapán’s control to its
site center (Proskouriakoff 1962 map)
led to a very rapid rise of the site and an equally rapid fissioning and depopulation when internal strife
resulted in its demise. In contrast to earlier Classic Period political centers,
Mayapán is a very large and
dense settlement (site map).  The massive defensive walls surrounding the site are arguably the most
formidable anywhere in Mesoamerica.  The obvious differences in settlement patterning seem to reflect
significant social changes taking place between the two major periods of Maya pre-history.  
   Research reported in this volume (and on this site) includes mapping, test pitting and soil sampling
of architecture encountered along eight survey transects extending 1 km in various cardinal directions
from the city’s roughly 9 km city wall.  The study analyzed the form and function of all architecture
recorded in this previously unexplored portion of the site.  New data presented here suggest that some
17,000 people were present at the site, rather than the 12,000 person population estimate that has
been widely used since 1962.  The estimated site size more than doubled from 4.2 sq km to between
8.8 sq km (map) and 10.1 sq km (map).  The site-wide spatial distribution and function of, residential
settlement zones, economic production activities, the road system, administrative architecture and ritual
architecture are all explored in detail.  The results presented here and being generated by other ongoing
research at the site by both INAH and Dr. Marilyn Masson of SUNY – Albany raise important questions
about the scale of political complexity achieved by the polity centered at the site.  The complexity, size
and form of the city suggest that it may be the capital of a previously unappreciated Maya/Itza empire that
co-existed with other better known Postclassic empires such as the Aztecs and Tarascans.  
Dissertation and all web site contents copyright 2008 Bradley W. Russell