The Ucí-Cansahcab Regional Integration Project explores the ways in which the integration of several ancient settlements in the Northern Maya lowlands (what is now the state of Yucatan, Mexico) transformed political, economic, social, and ritual life. Integration took place at the beginning of the Classic period (250-550 AD) when the ancient Maya built a stone causeway that linked the city of Ucí with the town of Cansahcab, located 18km to the east. The causeway also connected two other towns and a handful of hamlets in between Ucí and Cansahcab. The rise of Izamal, the regional capital, also played a role in this integration. In particular, a style of architecture using massive stones originated at Izamal and spreads to all of the sites along the causeway. This project seeks to gauge both the impact of regional integration on the people living near the causeway as well as the ways in which these people actively shaped the outcome of this integration. National Science Foundation Funding will be used to excavate eight ruins of various size to detect changes that occurred after the integration and to determine whether these changes affected all sites in the vicinity of Ucí or only those sites linked to the causeways.

An appreciation of the dynamics of power has prompted archaeologists to recognize that people do not merely react to policies emanating from central authorities. The dynamic histories and strategic maneuverings of local communities help shape those policies and the terms of integration. A fundamental area of archaeological inquiry has been to study the impact of regional integration on local communities. This approach, sometimes referred to as "bottom up", has been fruitful at multiple levels of political complexity and the current research will add to this domain. However, following the notion that all members of society, regardless of their position in the field of power relations, play active rolls in the production of history, one must also recognize that "impact" goes both ways. In other words, a "bottom-up" approach to historical transformations must attend not only to how hinterland communities were impacted by centralized authorities, but 1) how the strategies of non-elites condition and circumscribe the exercise of centralized power; and, 2) how the extensive social diversity of actors grouped together in the unwieldy category of "non-elite" results in divisions and movements that are themselves a source of transformation.

This project has multiple broader impacts. These impacts collaboration with descendant communities and training workers and archaeologists at various skill levels. Collaboration involves working with residents of Ucí and other villages as well as migrant communities in order to promote preservation of cultural heritage. As for training, students at the University of Kentucky as well as the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatan will gain opportunities to complete Masters theses, doctoral dissertations and licentiatura theses with the mentoring of the PI and Mexican collaborators.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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John E. Yellen
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University of Kentucky
United States
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