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3D Geophysical Imaging of Early Maya Paleoenvironments at Los Naranjos, Honduras

Tiffany Tchakirides

Cornell University, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Ithaca, NY

[email protected]

The core of my study is to use geophysics to reconstruct the topographic and geographic environment at the Early Maya site of Los Naranjos, Honduras at the time of occupation and to map modifications to that configuration over time. Geophysical methods have proven to be effective in supporting archaeology in numerous locations, but their application to studies in the Maya world has been limited to date. New insight on the influence of environment (especially paleoterrain) on cultural exploitation can be gained. Three-dimensional Ground-Penetrating Radar data will be systematically collected over key portions of the site, calibrated by targeted excavations to establish stratigraphic control and identification of artifacts. GPR will be augmented by further magnetometry surveys to help identify subsurface structures. Selected high resolution seismic surveys will be carried out to identify stratigraphy and geological structure (faults) at depths too great for GPR. The relatively novel element of this research, at least in archaeology, is the “horizon slice”, an extraction of all of the reflected signals that correspond to the same geological or anthropological stratum, regardless of its geometry in space. By extracting reflection amplitude and horizon geometry, one can construct a 3D rendering of a particular surface, along with a representation of physical variations within that surface. At a site like Los Naranjos, simple time or depth slices are unlikely to convey the lateral changes in surface properties or usage; horizon slicing is needed to sort out the nature and usage of various stratal surfaces across space and through time.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90060©2006 AAPG Foundation Grants-in-Aid