Semester of Graduation

Spring 2018


Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



In this thesis, archaeological sediment chemistry, loss-on ignition and microscopic analysis of marine sediment are used to study Site 74 of the Paynes Creek Salt Works in southern Belize. Site 74 was once an ancient Maya salt work. Due to sea-level rise, sea water and mangrove peat now cover the site. Sediment from the site was exported under permit to the Louisiana State University Laboratory. I prepared and delivered the samples to the Louisiana State University Agricultural Chemistry Laboratory for inductively coupled plasma- atomic emission spectroscopy testing (ICP-AES). ICP-AES measured the amount of 20 elements in the sediment. Maps showing variation in the elemental concentrations across the site were made. The study of rapidly-abandoned sites as well as ethnohistorical and ethnoarchaeological theory and methodologies were used to interpret the results. I also preformed loss-on ignition to analyze the percent of organic matter in the samples and microscope analysis to analyze the organic composition of the sediment. The sediment chemistry identified areas with long term burning, believed to be from salt-making fires, as well as storage areas. Loss-on ignition was used to identify artifact distribution and spatial use post abandonment, and to show that the yard was most likely not used for salt making. Microscopic analysis positively identified the sediment as red mangrove peat as well as microscopic pieces of charcoal within the sediment in the areas believed to be associated with fires. These tests helped interpret how Site 74 was used, what activities took place there, how the buildings were constructed, the spatial layout of Site 74 and adds to the growing knowledge of ancient Maya salt production at Paynes Creek Salt Works.



Committee Chair

McKillop, Heather