Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



In this research endeavor, the empirical realms of archaeology and cutting-edge technology converge in an interdisciplinary fusion involving the use of GIS and LiDAR remote sensing to probe into the rich tapestry of the Classic Lowland Maya. This study focuses on the ditch and rampart earthwork fortifications of Dos Aguadas, a little-known Maya settlement located within northern Guatemala’s Holmul Region, a region in the Peten Jungle that contains the sites of Holmul, Witzna, Civil, Chochkitam, and La Sufricaya.

The primary aim of this research is to explore the scale of warfare of the Classic Lowland Maya through a detailed examination of the defensive earthworks at Dos Aguadas. This study aims to understand these fortifications not only as local defenses but also to determine if they are integral components of a broader regional defense strategy potentially linked to Tikal. By estimating the local population in proximity to Dos Aguadas and comparing it with the labor resources required for constructing these earthworks, this investigation seeks to determine whether the scale of labor mobilization suggests a defense effort extending beyond the local community to serve the strategic interests of a larger political entity.

This study is driven by two interconnected objectives: first, to evaluate the strategic significance of Dos Aguadas within a broader regional context, and second, to investigate the defensive infrastructure's implications for understanding regional warfare dynamics in the Classic Lowland Maya. This involves conducting a detailed population estimate of the area surrounding Dos Aguadas and comparing this to the labor required for constructing the site's defensive features. Through this analysis, the research aims to reveal the extent to which these fortifications reflect a coordinated regional defense strategy, possibly indicating the influence or protection of a major political power such as Tikal.

An array of specialized geospatial analyses is executed via the ArcGIS and GRASS GIS platforms to evaluate the strategic significance of the Dos Aguadas defensive features. This array included viewshed analyses to ascertain the tactical sightlines availed by the fortifications and least-cost path analyses to model optimal routes for traversing the complex terrain. Moreover, estimates of the required labor force needed to build the defensive features were quantitatively supported by calculating the volume of excavated materials removed to create the features. Population demographics are extrapolated via the identification and enumeration of structures that were revealed by LiDAR scans. Considering the sizable labor forces marshaled by regional political power and the strategic positioning of the defensive features, the study culminates in a comprehensive appraisal of Dos Aguadas as a locus of strategic significance within the broader framework of the region.



Committee Chair

Heather McKillop

Available for download on Friday, April 04, 2031