In 1966 University of Pennsylvania archaeologists discovered impressive earthworks near the Classic Maya center of Tikal, Guatemala. They were provisionally interpreted as part of a vast "emic" defensive and boundary system that defined the political capital and the agricultural core of the Tikal polity around A.D. 400-550. These conclusions have heavily influenced conceptions of Classic Maya warfare, urbanism, polity, settlement, demography, and subsistence for 40 years, despite the fact that very little research was ever done on the earthworks. Three seasons of mapping and excavation in 2003-2006 support some of the conventional interpretations, but call others into question. That the earthworks were ever a functional defensive system seems doubtful. The new fieldwork has also yielded a wealth of new data about settlement distributions, household remains, soils, vegetation, and land use at Tikal.
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