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Lowland Maya lime plaster technology: a diachronic approach

By M.I. Villaseñor Alonso


Lime plasters are mixtures of burnt lime, aggregates and other materials that are employed in masonry architecture. Lime plasters were widely used by the ancient Maya in public monumental buildings and constitute important elements of ancient Maya material culture. This research analyses archaeological samples of lime plasters from three different lowland Maya sites: Palenque, Calakmul and Lamanai. The thesis examines how these building materials changed through time, and includes samples from ca. 400 BC to the 16 th century AD. In addition to the analysis of archaeological samples, the research also reviews various sources of information, including ethnographic and ethnohistorical descriptions, for the understanding of ancient Maya lime plaster production. The results demonstrate that plasters from the three sites have different characteristics that are due to different access to raw materials and different building traditions at each of the sites. Some of the changes seem to be related to changing economic and political conditions, which is very clear in the use of clays instead of lime for the manufacture of architectural plasters during the Terminal Classic periods at Calakmul and Palenque. Other observations include the use of local meteoritic deposits in the lime mixtures of Palenque, the use of non-local volcanic materials in the late plasters from Lamanai, and the likely use of volcanic ash at Calakmul for the production of hydraulic plasters. In addition to the technological analyses of ancient plasters, the research also provides suggestions for future research and recommends those analytical methods that are most suitable for the examination of Maya lime plasters

Publisher: UCL (University College London)
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:
Provided by: UCL Discovery

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