Middle Formative
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Middle Formative (Chunyaxche ceramic complex, ? - 300 B.C.)

            Settlement processes for the peninsula as a whole are still somewhat unclear. The Muyil data provide new evidence for the timing of first settlement in the region, if not for the direction from which it came. In the Late Formative, when the peninsula was sparsely settled, and the Peten and northwest Yucatan were the major loci of population, the first settlers arrived at Muyil. I believe that these people travelled by sea due to the isolated presence at Muyil of a few Middle Formative sherds from four ceramic groups.

            The Middle Formative sherds found at Muyil include two from the Achiotes group; two Joventud Red: Joventud Variety; four Chunhinta Black: Capaz Variety; and six of the Dzudzuquil group. The Joventud and Chunhinta ceramic groups are found at both Becan and Uaxactun (see Chapter 4 above and Appendix 4) to the south and southwest of Muyil. The Dzudzuquil group material from Muyil was directly matched with samples in the Komchen collection (Ceramoteca - Merida). Andrews V (personal communication) ascribes a date of not later than 350-300 B.C. to this material.

            None of these four ceramic types is reported at Coba, Xelha, Tancah, or Cozumel (sites near Muyil), and there are no other ceramic types of a similarly early date reported for these sites. At this point in Maya history, the end of the Middle Formative, there were settlements in the Peten (Altar de Sacrificios, Seibal) as well as in the northwest of the peninsula (Komchen), but not in the interior of the northeast of the peninsula (Andrews V 1990:14). As Andrews points out, there are two major routes for the settlement of the northern Maya lowlands via the Usamacinta drainage to the north along the west of the peninsula, and via Belize and the northeast Peten into the Rio Bec area and into Quintana Roo. "When the earliest ceramic remains appear in these areas, they were more like those of northern Belize and the northeast Peten than were early assemblages in the western section of the lowlands." (Andrews V 1990:15) He notes that throughout the Classic the ties of Coba remain closest to Belize and the northeast Peten. Such associations are also true for Muyil, and we may reasonably suggest that the earliest settlers at Muyil were from this area.

            Early sea-borne Maya may have chosen Muyil as their home for its sheltered sea access with fresh water, its diversity of ecological zones and subsistence opportunities, and its access to the caves (and therefore the spiritual underworld) and construction materials around the karstic collapse at the center of Muyil. Their sherds were found chiefly around the edge of this natural feature. We did not detect structures or other cultural remains of these first settlers.


Copyright 2000-2005 Walter R. T. Witschey   Page last updated Wednesday, April 02, 2008