October 1998 Meeting of the Pre-Columbian Society

Marshall Becker spoke on  "Plaza Plans (or Back to the Future)".
The discovery in 1962 that there were multiple distinct Plaza Plans at Tikal
has allowed archaeologists to use careful mapping as a means for
understanding the architectural plans of individual cities.  This mapping
has shown that most lowland Maya cities have clusters of structures forming
discrete and identifiable units, or groups (household compounds, ritual
groups, etc).  Dr. Becker showed that this ability to recognize group
"function" on the basis of architectural plans alone has led to the
development of  effective testing programs that have answered serious questions about the evolution and devolution of these Maya states.

His account of early work at Tikal gave insight into the relationship among many clusters of buildings throughout the site.  Dr. Becker noted that Tikal is the best-mapped Mayan site because much of the mapping work was done back in the "good old days," when such labor-intensive work was still affordable.  Although the density of elite residences and ceremonial structures in the central site made it difficult to figure out what buildings went together, his excavation of a bounded area of house mounds "out in the boonies"-far to the east of the central city-uncovered a pattern.  When a series of buildings faced a common plaza, residences typically lay to the south, while what was often the smallest building, to the east, contained interrments and grave goods.
      The same pattern proved to occur among the larger buildings in the
center of Tikal and even Quirigua; but the large buildings usually had more elaborate grave goods.

Marshall Becker received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in
1971.  He was a member of the Tikal Project for over ten years.  He has
written over 20 book chapters and articles on Maya archaeology.  After 1970
his research focused on the archaeology and ethnohistory of the Lenape
("Delaware") and their neighbors in the lower Delaware Valley and has
resulted in a  monograph plus 40 articles.  He has also done research on
human skeletal populations in Italy and written numerous articles on the
subject.  Since 1996 he has been working on skeletal populations from old
and recent excavations at the Prague Castle in the Czech Republic.

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