Publication Date

Fall 11-15-2019


Human behaviors and settlement decision-making can be evaluated through an assessment of settlement patterns. This dissertation examines the human behaviors that guide settlement selection, first through an analysis of settlement patterns to assess intra-site social communities, and second how communities develop over time. Three case studies examine settlement structure and what influences settlement selection within archaeological and modern contexts from the same region, southern Belize. Specifically, this dissertation focuses on two Classic period (250-800 CE) Maya centers, Uxbenká and Ix Kuku’il, and more than 50 modern Maya villages. Extensive survey and excavations were conducted to compare the development of settlements at Uxbenká and Ix Kuku’il. Geostatistical analyses indicate heterogeneous settlement structures between the two centers. Statistically analyses of Classic period Maya household foundation dates and nine suitability variables suggest that social resources had a deeper impact on settlement selection than environmental variables. This is likely due to ubiquitous access to valued environmental variables, which despots could not control. However, during later periods despots were able to control access to some social variables, such as a trade route at Uxbenká. Social variables, however, can be nearly impossible to detect archaeologically. Therefore, a similar analysis of modern village foundation date and suitability variables provides an analogy for how sociopolitical formations influence settlement selection today and in the past. Among modern Maya communities, sociopolitical formations and regulations influenced settlement selection more so than environmental variables. Notably, the modern case study emphasizes how desirable resources influence settlement selection but change over time. Regardless of scale, from households to villages, this study reinforces the influence of sociality and social circumstances on human behaviors and settlement decision-making.


Maya, Settlement Patterns, Human Behavioral Ecology

Document Type




Department Name


First Advisor

Field, Les

First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Keith M. Prufer

Second Committee Member

Dr. Loa P. Traxler

Third Committee Member

Dr. James Boone

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Brett A. Houk

Included in

Anthropology Commons