Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



Arvin’s Landing and Foster Farm are ancient Maya settlements located on Joe Taylor Creek near Punta Gorda in southern Belize. The abundance of obsidian and the number of sources in the artifact assemblage at Arvin’s Landing and Foster Farm indicate the inhabitants of these settlement participated in long-distance trade with other Maya communities. The research was developed to examine the different geographic sources of obsidian as well as the distribution of these sources at both sites. The goal of this research is to determine whether these sites fit with existing trade patterns established by previous research over decades of obsidian studies. Researchers originally believed that obsidian was transported along the coast and by inland routes to the Maya in the lowlands during the Classic Period (AD 300-900). Researchers later argued that the pattern was more temporal; there was a shift from a dominance of El Chayal obsidian in the Classic to a dominance of Ixtepeque obsidian in the Postclassic (AD 900-1500). Tests were performed using a Bruker portable XRF tracer to assay obsidian from Arvin’s Landing and Foster Farm in order to determine their geographical source and evaluate the sites’ role in trade. The sources present and the distributions of source type at both Arvin’s Landing and Foster Farm were then compared to other Classic and Postclassic Maya settlements. Although both Arvin’s Landing and Foster Farm were originally thought to date to the Postclassic, upon comparison, the obsidian assemblage at Arvin’s Landing appears to more closely match Late/Terminal Classic (AD 600-900) sites in both the types of sources and the distribution across the site. The Arvin’s Landing assemblage also has an unusually high percentage of minor Mexican obsidian sources, suggesting a different role in the coastal obsidian trade than is normally performed by small settlements. If Arvin’s Landing does date to the Late/Terminal Classic period, as the obsidian distribution suggests, Arvin’s Landing possibly had a more significant relationship with major inland centers than was previously known.



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Committee Chair

McKillop, Heather