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Article

Airborne Lidar Survey, Density-Based Clustering, and Ancient Maya Settlement in the Upper Usumacinta River Region of Mexico and Guatemala

1
Department of Anthropology, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02453, USA
2
Department of Anthropology, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA
3
Center for Latin American Studies and Florida Institute for Built Environment Resilience, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
4
Department of Anthropology, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON L8S 4L9, Canada
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National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204, USA
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Facultad de Ciencias Antropológicas, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Merida, Yucatán, MX 97305, USA
7
Education Department, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Geert Verhoeven
Remote Sens. 2021, 13(20), 4109; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13204109
Received: 9 September 2021 / Revised: 9 October 2021 / Accepted: 11 October 2021 / Published: 14 October 2021
We present results from the archaeological analysis of 331 km2 of high-resolution airborne lidar data collected in the Upper Usumacinta River basin of Mexico and Guatemala. Multiple visualizations of the DEM and multi-spectral data from four lidar transects crossing the Classic period (AD 350–900) Maya kingdoms centered on the sites of Piedras Negras, La Mar, and Lacanja Tzeltal permitted the identification of ancient settlement and associated features of agricultural infrastructure. HDBSCAN (hierarchical density-based clustering of applications with noise) cluster analysis was applied to the distribution of ancient structures to define urban, peri-urban, sub-urban, and rural settlement zones. Interpretations of these remotely sensed data are informed by decades of ground-based archaeological survey and excavations, as well as a rich historical record drawn from inscribed stone monuments. Our results demonstrate that these neighboring kingdoms in three adjacent valleys exhibit divergent patterns of structure clustering and low-density urbanism, distributions of agricultural infrastructure, and economic practices during the Classic period. Beyond meeting basic subsistence needs, agricultural production in multiple areas permitted surpluses likely for the purposes of tribute, taxation, and marketing. More broadly, this research highlights the strengths of HDBSCAN to the archaeological study of settlement distributions when compared to more commonly applied methods of density-based cluster analysis. View Full-Text
Keywords: lidar; Mesoamerica; archaeology; population density; ancient agriculture; density-based cluster analysis; HDBSCAN lidar; Mesoamerica; archaeology; population density; ancient agriculture; density-based cluster analysis; HDBSCAN
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MDPI and ACS Style

Golden, C.; Scherer, A.K.; Schroder, W.; Murtha, T.; Morell-Hart, S.; Fernandez Diaz, J.C.; Jiménez Álvarez, S.d.P.; Alcover Firpi, O.; Agostini, M.; Bazarsky, A.; Clark, M.; Kollias, G.V., III; Matsumoto, M.; Roche Recinos, A.; Schnell, J.; Whitlock, B. Airborne Lidar Survey, Density-Based Clustering, and Ancient Maya Settlement in the Upper Usumacinta River Region of Mexico and Guatemala. Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 4109. https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13204109

AMA Style

Golden C, Scherer AK, Schroder W, Murtha T, Morell-Hart S, Fernandez Diaz JC, Jiménez Álvarez SdP, Alcover Firpi O, Agostini M, Bazarsky A, Clark M, Kollias GV III, Matsumoto M, Roche Recinos A, Schnell J, Whitlock B. Airborne Lidar Survey, Density-Based Clustering, and Ancient Maya Settlement in the Upper Usumacinta River Region of Mexico and Guatemala. Remote Sensing. 2021; 13(20):4109. https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13204109

Chicago/Turabian Style

Golden, Charles, Andrew K. Scherer, Whittaker Schroder, Timothy Murtha, Shanti Morell-Hart, Juan Carlos Fernandez Diaz, Socorro del Pilar Jiménez Álvarez, Omar Alcover Firpi, Mark Agostini, Alexandra Bazarsky, Morgan Clark, G. Van Kollias III, Mallory Matsumoto, Alejandra Roche Recinos, Joshua Schnell, and Bethany Whitlock. 2021. "Airborne Lidar Survey, Density-Based Clustering, and Ancient Maya Settlement in the Upper Usumacinta River Region of Mexico and Guatemala" Remote Sensing 13, no. 20: 4109. https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13204109

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