Coastal reconstruction of Vista Alegre, an ancient maritime Maya settlement

Roy Jaijel, Jeffrey B. Glover, Dominique Rissolo, Patricia A. Beddows, Derek Smith, Zvi Ben-Avraham, Beverly Goodman-Tchernov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Past coastal reconstruction is useful for understanding archaeological coastal settlements and predicting how coastal change might affect modern populations. The ancient Maritime Maya inhabitants of Vista Alegre in the northeastern Yucatan were active seafaring peoples. However, the past coastal landscape environmental history is unknown. Previous research concentrated on the fully terrestrial component of the site, and did not approach the issue from an earth sciences, sedimentological perspective. In this study, a sediment core campaign in the shallow offshore of Vista Alegre aimed to reconstruct the coastal and environmental changes that occurred over the past 3000 years, and specifically identify the changes in sea-level. Nine cores were analyzed using a multi-proxy approach including a range of sedimentological parameters such as granulometry, micropaleontology (foraminifera), radiocarbon dating, and loss on ignition. The sediment cores provided an archive of environmental changes related to sea-level change, anthropogenic influence, and shifting microenvironments which can be associated with cultural time periods. The environmental phases and shifts show some linkage to the archaeological chronology, suggesting an association between the environmental conditions and human activities. Sea-level changes and shifting shorelines have always been, and still are, a challenge for coastal settlements, and ancient sites can be a harbinger of what to anticipate in the future. In addition to this, current natural and anthropogenic pressures on coastlines are placing archaeological sites at increasing risk and thereby threatening this important scientific and cultural archive. Therefore, efforts to identify, characterize, and record natural and anthropogenic pressures prior to destruction are increasingly important.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-36
Number of pages12
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
StatePublished - 15 May 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for the study was provided by NOAA ( NA110AR0110050 ), Norman Krischer , and Sir Mick Davis . The authors appreciate the assistance provided by Alice Carter, Mor Kanari, Eli Shemesh, Yael Braun, Nimer Taha, Bea Baharier, MGM lab group, secretaries of Charney School, the people of Chiquilá and Kantunlikin, Wes Peterson, Dan Leonard, Frida and Diego. We also thank the Consejo de Arqueología of the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH) - Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, and Adriana Velazquez Morlet of INAH Quintana Roo, and the members of the Proyecto Costa Escondido at large. The authors would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.


  • Geoarchaeology
  • Geomorphology
  • Holbox
  • Loss on ignition
  • Sedimentology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Paleontology


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