Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



Since the publication of popular accounts of exploration by adventurers such as John Lloyd Stephens captured the attention of an audience eager for tales from exotic places, scholars of the ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica have been fascinated with the silent crumbling remains of ancient Maya cities that dot the cultural landscape of Yucatán in staggering numbers. Scientific research began in earnest nearly one hundred years ago with the first of many great Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. archaeological projects. Most researchers mention water resources in their reports, but no attempt has been made to study water resource management on a regional scale as an adaptive strategy that enabled the ancient Maya to inhabit a seemingly forbidding environment. Using the latest computer technology, Geographic Information Systems, and Global Positioning System data collectors, we spent nine months gathering data at over 32 archaeological sites in a region covering the northern portion of Yucatán, Mexico. This paper synthesizes data from my work with an existing body of information collected by other researchers and presents the initial results of what must be an ongoing effort to characterize the options for hydrological management available to the ancient Maya in a variety of physiographic zones. Wittfogel’s hydraulic hypothesis and Robert Carneiro’s circumscription model are tested as explanations for the Maya rise to complex society and a model of ancient water management is presented.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Heather McKillop