Origins and spread of formal ceremonial complexes in the Olmec and Maya regions revealed by airborne lidar

Takeshi Inomata, Juan Carlos Fernandez-Diaz, Daniela Triadan, Miguel García Mollinedo, Flory Pinzón, Melina García Hernández, Atasta Flores, Ashley Sharpe, Timothy Beach, Gregory W.L. Hodgins, Juan Javier Durón Díaz, Antonio Guerra Luna, Luis Guerrero Chávez, María de Lourdes Hernández Jiménez, Manuel Moreno Díaz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

City plans symbolizing cosmologies have long been recognized as a defining element of Mesoamerican civilizations. The origins of formal spatial configurations are thus the key to understanding early civilizations in the region. Assessment of this issue, however, has been hindered by the lack of systematic studies of site plans over broad areas. Here, we report the identification of 478 formal rectangular and square complexes, probably dating from 1,050 to 400 bc, through a lidar (laser imaging, detection and ranging) survey across the Olmec region and the western Maya lowlands. Our analysis of lidar data also revealed that the earlier Olmec centre of San Lorenzo had a central rectangular space, which possibly provided the spatial template for later sites. This format was probably formalized and spread after the decline of San Lorenzo through intensive interaction across various regions. These observations highlight the legacy of San Lorenzo and the critical role of inter-regional interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNature Human Behaviour
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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