Building Xunantunich: public building in an ancient Maya community




McCurdy, Leah

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The purpose of this study is to consider the nature and implications of large-scale public building conducted by ancient groups. "Public building studies" is offered as a unifying moniker for investigations interested in ancient construction processes with public significance. As an example of a public building study, this work concentrates on labor as an understudied component of public building in the ancient past and narrows focus directly to laborers as contributors to and the actual actors in public building activities. As a general theme, this study considers alternatives to elite-centric interpretations of monumental buildings and their processes of creation. This study focuses on an ancient Maya case study to apply a labor and laborer perspective on public building. Particularly, this study explores El Castillo acropolis of Xunantunich, Belize, through architectural history analysis, virtual architectural reconstruction, architectural energetics, and labor analysis. Projections of the 'labor investment' involved in the nine phases of El Castillo construction are provided and lead to models of global labor populations and organization. Further, global labor projections are expanded to consider regional supervision and the scale of local workgroups and laborers as individuals. As another component of the laborer approach, the impact of public building participation on laborers lives is examined in addition to the impact of participants on public building and the buildings that result.


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architectural energetics, community, construction history, labor, Maya archaeology, virtual reconstruction