The Early Anthropocene in a Neotropical Floodplain: Aguada Fenix, Tabasco, Mexico

Authors: Timothy Beach*, University of Texas at Austin, Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, University of Texas at Austin, Fernando Casal, University of Texas at Austin
Topics: Paleoenvironmental Change, Soils, Geomorphology
Keywords: Soils, water management, Anthropocene, Mexico, Maya
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2020
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Plaza Court 7, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


From a recent Lidar survey, scientists discovered Aguada Fenix, a massive, monumental, three-millennium old complex along the lower Usumacinta River in Tabasco, Mexico. The structures associated with this complex represent the Early Anthropocene in the Central American Tropical Forest since they represent the earliest largescale infrastructure in this key corridor of Mesoamerican history. Since the original survey, the Aguada Fenix Project acquired much more intensive and extensive Lidar surveys. This paper derives from evidence from the Lidar surveys and three seasons of fieldwork, 2018-2020, to study the soil and water chemistry of this colossal Middle Preclassic complex and its environmental interactions. The guiding questions of the project include the earliest formation of Maya and Olmec societies, how and why did these societies come together to build these features, and what do the structures tell us about soil formation and environmental change. Focusing here on the latter question, we present soil profile descriptions, dating evidence, and ongoing laboratory analysis for elements, minerals, carbon isotopes, and soil organics. We will compare these and other soil and water analyses to understand the sources of sediments used to build these earthworks. We also link these complexes to wetland field and water management across this region of river and cultural convergence.

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