Semester of Graduation

Spring 2022


Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type




The Classic Maya period (A.D. 300-900) is characterized by large urban centers, distinct material culture, and long-distance trade of both utilitarian and elite goods. The rise in population during this time created a necessity for essential, everyday goods, to move along these trade routes; one of which was salt. Additionally, much of the production of utilitarian goods was occurring outside of urban centers and political control at smaller, specialized production locales. The Paynes Creek Salt Works in southern Belize was one of these specialized production locales. The number of salt works located in the Punta Ycacos lagoon suggests salt was mass produced for trade.

Methods of production and distribution can illuminate relationships among producers. Standardization of salt producing ceramics at the Paynes Creek salt works as well as resource utilization can reveal the interactions that were occurring. Through multiple analyses, pXRF elemental analysis and thin section petrography, this research analyzes the ceramic paste composition from 16 salt works to determine how producers were interacting during this time. Elemental analysis revealed no distinct differences of paste composition among or within sites while thin section petrography suggests resource acquisition was potentially coming from farther away locales than previously hypothesized. This research acts as a stepping stone for further and more in-depth analyses regarding Classic Maya specialized salt production.

Committee Chair

McKillop, Heather