Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



In 2012, excavations were conducted at Witz Nabb’ and Killer Bee the last remaining above sea level features Paynes Creek National Park, Belize. Salt is a basic biological necessity that was in limited supply at inland Maya cities. The ancient Maya of coastal Belize produced by fire enhanced evaporation of salt enriched brine. Survey and excavation at inundated salt works in a shallow lagoon in Paynes Creek National Park provide extensive evidence of this technique in the form of briquetage, the remains of pots used in the fire evaporation. Lacking is any evidence that the salinity of seawater was enriched by leaching brine through salty soil or by solar evaporation – virtually universal in ethnographic and historic case studies. Discussions of the excavation, stratigraphy, and artifacts helped to determine the function of the mounds and demonstrate how production scales changed over time. Ethnographic examples indicate that salt making is often a periodic activity. The excavation at Witz Naab’ supports evidence that salt production was not a continuous activity. Detailed soil analysis developed a baseline of data to compare to ongoing research at the surrounding inundated sites. Furthermore, the use and function of these mounds will aid in our understanding of resources exploitation and trade interaction between the coastal Maya and the inland Maya centers of the Late Classic (A.D. 600-900). This research will expand the understanding of techniques of salt production associated with the ancient Maya and the interaction between the coastal and interior settlements.



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Committee Chair

McKillop, Heather