Lithic Economy and Household Interdependence Among the Late Classic Maya of Belize

Jon C. VandenBosch

PhD Thesis. 1999

This dissertation examines the domestic lithic economy of rural non-elite households. The patterns of variability among lithic assemblages are used to infer the degrees to which consumer households were economically integrated, the spatial scale of that integration, and the existence of elite involvement in household economic organization.
The houses examined by this research were located along two transects surveyed by the Xunantunich Settlement Survey. The transects extended 4km and 8km from the Late to Terminal Classic center of Xunantunich, located above the Mopan Branch of the Belize River.

Five discrete clusters of settlement in the study area appear to correspond to small rural communities centered on local elite and/or ceremonial sites. Test pits recovered artifacts from refuse deposits at twenty-eight house sites from each of the five settlement clusters and the lengths of both transects. The degree of participation in the lithic economy, the diversity of activities involving lithic artifacts, relative rates of tool production and utilization varied among commoner households of the Late Classic period. The lack of strong correlations between domestic lithic assemblages and house proximity to local or regional centers suggests that domestic lithic economies were little affected by the elites. Therefore, it appears that the economically differentiated households were interdependent, and horizontally integrated with one another.

The spatial scales at which households were integrated appear to have varied, often according to settlement cluster/community. Most settlement cluster/communities were composed of households that exhibited a wide range of variability suggestive of economic differentiation and likely integration. Only one community appears to have been composed of autonomous households that lacked indications of having been integrated with one another.