This project addresses the rapid formation and organization of status differences in Preclassic Maya society through archaeological investigations at Altar de Sacrificios, Guatemala. Excavations will target residential contexts of variable scales to collect data on domestic practices, architectural plans, and occupational histories, which offer multiple lines of evidence for status gradations within this emerging community. The Middle Preclassic (ca. 1000–400 BCE) was a formative period characterized by rapid growth and settlement along the Pasíon River in southwest Petén, Guatemala. Strategically located at the confluence of two major prehispanic transportation routes, Altar de Sacrificios is an important site for understanding inter-regional influences as well as local interactions. This research pairs extensive excavations of Preclassic residential contexts with previous results to address three core research questions: (1) how do markers of social inequality vary during the Middle Preclassic? (2) how does long-term residential occupation impact the formation of status differences? and (3) how do diverse residential groups participate in displays of wealth and power in early Maya society? This project is supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation. The first phase of fieldwork will commence in 2016.

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