Graduate Theses & Dissertations


When He Reigns, It Pours
This thesis examines the symbolic meaning and significance that the elite attached to water in ancient Bagan. Through the use of ethnoarchaeological, epigraphic, archaeological, and iconographic data, this study examines the role of water as part of rituals performed by the royal court and the ways in which the royalty of Bagan, in particular King Kyansittha, negotiated, appropriated and disseminated water symbolism to fulfill his interests. Data indicates that the symbolic and religious meaning of water was intricately attached to Buddhist concepts of fertility, wisdom, creativity, and protective powers. Evidence suggests that the royalty employed different techniques to appropriate and disseminate water ritualization, including the performance of water rituals that were closely attached to kingship, power, and ruler legitimacy, the promotion of an alliance with creatures capable of increasing rains and fertility, and the use of analogies that compared the properties of water with the virtues of the king. Author Keywords: Bagan, Bagan Iconography, Jataka Tales, Royal Rituals, Theravada Buddhism, Water Rituals
Question of Space
Chultuns are subterranean chambers that are found throughout the Maya area. The purpose of this thesis is to provide further insight into the function of chultuns, specifically within the area of the Southern Maya Lowlands. Within the Northern Lowlands, the Pre-Columbian Maya used chultuns for water storage, but this function does not appear to be as prevalent within the Southern Lowlands Through reviewing published literature and first-hand excavation, a total of 332 chultuns located with the specified area were catalogued into a database. Based on the information obtained from the research, this thesis has identified the most frequent final function of chultuns, if there is chronological change in final functions of chultuns, and if there is regional change in final functions of chultuns. Author Keywords: burial, chultuns, Maya, ritual, Southern Lowlands, storage
Assessing Quality of Life for the Urban Inhabitants of Classical Angkor, Cambodia (c. 802-1432 CE)
This thesis examines the interrelationship of urban planning and population health at the site of Angkor (c. 802-1432 CE), the capital city of the Classical Khmer state, now found within modern-day Cambodia. The inhabitants of Angkor developed a settlement strategy that relied on the dispersal of water management features, rice fields, temples and residential areas, to best utilize the spread-out environmental resources of the surrounding monsoon-forest climate. Thus, the main question to be answered by this thesis is this: did the city-planning practice of dispersed, low-density agrarian urbanism promote resilience against the disease hazards associated with tropical environments? To answer this question, methods involved creating assessing environmental and socio-cultural factors which habituated the urban inhabitants of Angkor’s relationship to disease hazards. The results of this assessment demonstrate that it was not until the last stages of Angkor’s urban development, when non-farming members of the population were concentrated into the “core” area of temples within city, that the city’s inhabitants’ vulnerability to infectious disease increased. As the city took a more compact settlement form, it was not as environmentally compatible as the earlier dispersed pattern. Significantly, archaeological case studies such as this can illustrate the long-term development and end-result of urban planning to deal with disease hazards, both in terms of everyday occurrences, as well as during crisis events, which has important implications for contemporary research on environmental disasters today. Author Keywords: Adaptive Strategies, Mainland Southeast Asia, Pre-industrial Urbanization, Resilience, Tropical Diseases
Socio-Ecology and the Sacred
Within the complex socio-ecological systems of South and Southeast Asia, ancient sacred natural sites were created by, and imbued with, cultural and ideological values. These landscapes are liminal spaces or threshold environments between cultivated areas and wilder spaces; the practice of creating and maintaining them persists from ancient to modern times. This thesis examines sacred natural sites in three early state formations from 800 – 1400 CE: the Khmer (Cambodia), the Sinhalese (Sri Lanka) and the Chola (South India), why they persisted over time, and what significance they held. Several ancient sacred natural sites are active parts of societies today, and the ones chosen for this study span several categories: mountains, rivers, forests/groves, and caves. Using the paradigm of entanglement theory in a comparative context, this thesis analyzes sacred natural sites acting as key socio-ecological nodes enmeshed in complex dependent relationships within the landscapes of the South and Southeast Asia. Author Keywords: Comparative study, Entanglement theory, Sacred natural sites, Socio-ecological systems, South Asia, Tropical Societies
Epicentres, Elites, and Entanglement
This thesis investigates the similarities and differences between the tropical epicenters of South and Southeast Asia during the Charter State era, 800- 1400 CE. This study can inform scholars about the relationship between “people and place” by examining the ground plans, activities, and people associated with each epicenter. By using the comparative approach and entanglement theory, this study will examine the ancient states of Central and East Java, Dai Viet in North Vietnam, the Cham in Central Vietnam, the Chola of South India, and the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka. The ancient Maya of tropical Belize will be used as a cross-cultural comparator, which would not have had any contact with the other charter states. An extensive literature review and on-site visitations were necessary to provide the background and date to accomplish these goals. The results indicate striking similarities between tropical epicenters across the Charter States that developed out of the entanglements between humans and things. This thesis will help to further our understanding of tropical urbanism and the nature of epicenters in tropical environments. Author Keywords: Anuradhapura, Caracol, Entanglement, Thang Long, Thanjavur, Urbanism
Bundles and Bloodletting
This thesis addresses the inclusion of women within Classic Maya works of art, consisting of, for this purpose, private-consumption ceramic vessels and large scale public monuments. Through the use of Feminist and Gender Theory, Performance Theory, and Iconographic Theory, the roles of women in iconographically depicted ceremonial performance is assessed. A Microsoft Access database was constructed in order to look at various aspects of female depiction, including but not limited to, bodily action, costume, and paraphernalia. The context, individual action, and associated paraphernalia of women performing numerous roles were analyzed, in which women were found to participate in many of the same roles as men, although there are some roles from which either men or women are excluded, and certain paraphernalia items with which women are not associated. Author Keywords: Archaeology, Feminism, Gender Theory, Iconography, Maya Art, Performance Theory
Analyzing agricultural decision making in the Late Roman Empire
In the Roman World, at least 80% and up to 95% of the population lived and worked in a rural environment, driving the agronomic economy of the empire. During the Late Roman Empire (AD 300-600), there were a number of widespread political, social, and economic changes faced by the people who made up the empire. Through all these changes, the empire maintained its tax collection and households maintained agricultural production. I will be examining settlement in the rural region of Isauria (Rough Cilicia) to understand the Late Roman agricultural production in a rural environment. This thesis focuses on the decision making that all economic levels of households would face when producing goods within this Late Roman Economy. Using an economic theory of the peasant economy, I develop a framework through which to view the agronomic production of the Late Roman Period which I use to understand the household as an agent. Author Keywords: Ancient Economy, Isauria, Late Roman, Peasant Economy, Roman Economy
Sacred Space, Ancestors, and Authority
The Middle Formative Period (1000 – 400 B.C.) has increasing become recognized as a critical locus in the development of Lowland Maya socio-political complexity. This period witnessed the founding of numerous ceremonial centers, substantial material cultural innovation, and the advent of mortuary practices indicating developing social differentiation. Recent excavations at the site of Ka’Kabish in Northern Belize have uncovered evidence significantly strengthening this view. Excavations underlying Plaza D-South at Ka’Kabish have revealed a series of bedrock-hewn pits containing offering caches of thousands of shell beads, forty-seven greenstone objects, and extensive ceramic evidence indicating communal ritual and feasting, which is argued by the author to represent a cosmographic diorama of the cave-riddled Underworld. Significantly, this elaborate cosmographic offering event appears to center on the secondary, bundled bedrock-cist burial of an important personage and/or ancestor who is accompanied by a number of finely crafted jade ornaments representing motifs and forms that have previously been interpreted as symbols of authority, rulership, and divine kingship. Comparable contemporary evidence from Northern Belize and beyond has been interpreted through models foregrounding site-founding, place-making, ancestor veneration, and aggrandizer driven social differentiation. By integrating and contrasting these existing models with new evidence from Ka’Kabish, this thesis argues that the mortuary, caching, and architectural practices evidenced at Middle Formative Ka’Kabish represent a glimpse into the incipience of the ideological complex, the socio-cultural processes, and the material manifestations propagating the development of subsequent Maya socio-political complexity, specifically the institution of divine kingship or ch’uhul ahau. Author Keywords: ancestor veneration, ancient Maya, greenstone cache, Ka’Kabish, Belize, Middle Formative, socio-political complexity
Situating Copper Bells in Prehispanic Southwest Societies
This thesis examines the spatial, temporal, and contextual distribution of copper bells in the Greater Southwest region and how they are situated in archaeological literature. To date, 672 copper bells have been found in at least 113 different Southwestern sites dating from ca. A.D. 900-1450, though there is no archaeological evidence for metallurgical activities in the area at this time. The origin of copper bells has been assumed to be West Mexico, a region known for its metallurgical traditions and whose inhabitants produced copious amounts of similar bells. Various lists of copper bells discovered have been compiled over the years, but little consideration has been given to the role these artifacts may have played in Southwestern societies. Copper bells are frequently labelled as prestige goods in archaeological literature, a term which fails to account for their significant depositional variation. By updating the database of known Southwestern copper bells, it becomes possible to examine these contextual distributions in greater detail. It is concluded that the prestige goods model is not suitable for Southwestern copper bells in many cases, and that alternative frameworks such as inalienable possessions are a better fit for these artifacts. Author Keywords: Archaeology, copper bells, inalienable possesions, interaction, U.S. Southwest
Comparative Studies in Tropical Epicentres in Southeast Asia
From ca. 800-1400 CE, low-density agrarian states dominated Southeast Asia, their authority emanating from their epicentres at places such as Angkor in Cambodia, Bagan in Myanmar, and Sukhothai in Thailand. These epicentres were the setting for numerous structures, activities, and stakeholders that became integral for the perpetuation of the state. These states and their epicentres declined and collapsed around the same time. As part of a larger project (the Socio-ecological Entanglement in Tropical Societies (SETS Project), the aim of this thesis is to add to our understanding of entanglement, resilience, and collapse in Southeast Asia. Using a relatively new method that combines resilience and entanglement theories, this thesis presents a view of epicentral entanglements and vulnerabilities that eventually contributed to the collapse of these societies. The results indicate that overextended socio-ecological systems and their growing entanglements created a loss of resilience and, when faced with change in these systems, collapse. Author Keywords: Angkor, Bagan, Entanglement Theory, Resilience Theory, Southeast Asia, Sukhothai
Water Management Amongst the Ancient States of Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Java, and Belize
This thesis investigates the organization and development of water management systems in a sample of past tropical societies in Southeast Asia and Mesoamerica. A comparative approach is employed to show how water management affected the trajectories of the ancient states of Angkor, Cambodia, Bagan, Myanmar, Sukhothai, Thailand, Central and East Java, and Caracol, Belize. Differing types of water management is demonstrated through the use of the adaptive cycle, a conceptual framework through which a broad range of socio-ecological data can be examined in order to explore shifting levels of resilience over time. To understand why levels of resilience might change over time, entanglement theory, which looks at the relationships between humans and things, is utilized to determine how entangled these societies were with water management. Particular degrees of entanglement and shifting levels of resilience provide the analysis with the means to explore how water management changed over time as these societies rose, grew, and finally collapsed. Author Keywords: Ancient Tropical Societies, Entanglement, Resilience, Socio-Ecological Dynamics, Southeast Asia, Water Management
Identifying non-local individuals at the ancient Maya centre of Minanha, Belize through the use of strontium isotope analysis
Strontium isotope analysis has become an important tool in identifying non-local individuals at archaeological sites. For this study, tooth enamel samples were collected from 20 individuals from the ancient Maya centre of Minanha, Belize. These individuals date to periods spanning the formative occupation of the centre, as well as its fluorescence and protracted decline. The goal of this research was to investigate if non-local individuals played a role in Minanha's formation and fluorescence. The study utilised published strontium isotope maps from Belize and the Yucatán in order to establish local 87Sr/86Sr values. The values of the Minanha enamel samples (n = 20) fell predominantly outside of the expected strontium isotope range; this result seemed implausible and an alternative method was utilised to establish the local 87Sr/86Sr values. The outlier method identified 5/20 (25%) non-local individuals. All of the non-local individuals had 87Sr/86Sr values that coincided with published 87Sr/86Sr values reported from within 10 - 20 km of Minanha. However, some strontium isotope values also corresponded with 87Sr/86Sr values reported from regions >50 km away. The percentage of non-locals at Minanha is consistent with other Mesoamerican centres. This study emphasises the importance of collecting local baseline 87Sr/86Sr values from sites themselves, as 87Sr/86Sr values from neighbouring regions might not reflect local strontium isotope values. Author Keywords: Ancient Maya, bioarchaeology, migration, mobility, Vaca Plateau


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