Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Merit-Making and Monuments
Bagan, Myanmar’s capital during the country’s Classical period (c. 800-1400 CE), and its surrounding landscape was once home to at least four thousand monuments. These monuments were the result of the Buddhist pursuit of merit-making, the idea that individuals could increase their socio-spiritual status by performing pious acts for the Sangha (Buddhist Order). Amongst the most meritous act was the construction of a religious monument. Using the iconographic record and historical literature, alongside entanglement theory, this thesis explores how the movement of labour, capital, and resources for the construction of these monuments influenced the settlement patterns of Bagan’s broader cityscape. The findings suggest that these monuments bound settlements, their inhabitants, and the Crown, in a variety of enabling and constraining relationships. This thesis has created the foundations for understanding the settlements of Bagan and serves as a useful platform to perform comparative studies once archaeological data for settlement patterning becomes available. Author Keywords: Bagan, Entanglement, Religious Monuments Buddhism, Settlement Patterns, Southeast Asia
Digital Elevation Models and Viewshed Analysis
This thesis approaches the issue of Viewshed Analysis and how it can impact the understanding of a medieval environment. Centered on the High Medieval period of Cilicia, in what is today Southwestern Turkey, the precision of Viewsheds in a complex terrain is evaluated, and the role of the fortifications in the environment is expanded upon. The maps that were generated for this thesis demonstrate that the use of free datasets must be done with caution, and that the use of more than one dataset is crucial in trying to create a clearer picture of the environment. The examination of four separate sets of fortifications within the region leads to new questions about the role of fortifications in the region, as well as a better understanding of what groups such as the Armenian Cilicians and the Knights Templar were doing in the High Medieval period. Finally, conclusions are made regarding the future impact of GIS based studies, and how they can help scholars understand Ancient and Medieval landscapes. Author Keywords: Armenian Cilicia, Fortifications, GIS, Viewshed
Community, Complexity, and Collapse
The city-state of Minanha, located in west central Belize, reached its zenith and most culturally complex stage by the Late Classic period, 675-810 AD. Only a century later, its royal court “collapsed”. The Contreras Valley is a small farming community located in a settlement zone south of Minanha. Decades of research at Minanha and the analysis of artifact frequencies from commoner households allow for a better understanding of the intra- and inter-community social practices occurring at the site of Contreras Valley and within the greater Minanha area. An Archaeology of Communities as well as Resilience Theory frameworks are utilized to explore the integrative social, political, and economic strategies of this commoner population. These theories are used to better understand the developmental history of the royal court from the perspective of the peripheral commoners, who sustained a population while the royal court disintegrated. Furthermore, this thesis focuses on the intersection of resilience and communities, and how the Contreras Valley experienced phases of resilience as well as vulnerability throughout its history. The resilience of this group of individuals will generate an increased cognizance of how a community copes with and continues to thrive in a climate of political chaos and instability. Author Keywords: Ancient Maya, Archaeology, Archaeology of Communities, Artifact frequencies, Resilience Theory, Settlement pattern studies
Ethnoarchaeology in the Traditional Villages of Bagan, Myanmar
This thesis investigates the current composition of traditional settlements located in and around the remains of the ancient, walled and moated, regal-ritual epicenter of Bagan, Myanmar. This study also provides some suggestions as to strategies that may be employed by future settlement archaeology projects in the region. To achieve the aims of this study, an ethnoarchaeological approach was employed at ten village sites located on the Bagan plain: Thè Pyin Taw, Thè Shwe Hlaing, Zee Oo, Kon Sin Kyi, Kon Tan Gyi, Minnanthu, Hpauck Sein Pin, Thah Tay Kan, East Pwa Saw, and West Pwa Saw. The data obtained from these villages, compounds, and houses is used to generate a version of the average Bagan village, compound (i.e., house lot), and house. The model Bagan village, compound, and house are in turn used to provide the basis for suggestions to be used in future settlement archaeology projects. Author Keywords: Ancient Tropical Societies, Bagan, Ethnoarchaeology, Myanmar, Settlement Archaeology, Southeast Asia
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
Neolithic Resource Use and Adaptation in the Eastern Gobi Desert
Stone axes and adzes first appeared in the eastern Gobi Desert at 8.0 cal BP and were incorporated into the technological package. At the same time, changes in local ecological conditions reflect a transition from continuous grass/shrub-steppe across the Mongolian Plateau to the development of dispersed patches of dune-field wetland oases and high-elevation forests. This thesis focuses on exploring the adoption and function of axes and adzes in the eastern Gobi Desert and their relationship to the development of these new forested ecologies. Using an experimental and use-wear approach, I analyze 29 axes and adzes from four sites in the eastern Gobi Desert of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia. Results indicate that axes and adzes were primarily used for woodworking but include other activities. Furthermore, the adoption and manufacture of axes and adzes represent an increasing investment in producing formal technologies as resources within these new diverse ecological patches were intensively utilized. Author Keywords: Adaptation, Axes and Adzes, Eastern Gobi Desert, Neolithic, Technological Intensification, Use-Wear
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
Lost Landscapes of the Kawarthas
The Kawartha Lakes region of south-central Ontario is dominated by water bodies and rivers, where humans are known to have lived since at least 10,500 years ago, only shortly after the retreat of glaciers from the region. Since this time, water levels within the region have changed dramatically as a result of various geophysical, climatological, and human-induced-phenomenon, leaving modern water levels at a maximum high-stand. While it is acknowledged within the local archaeological community that these hydrological dynamics have resulted in the inundation of much of the region’s past terrestrial and culturally active landscapes, cultural research into the region’s lakes and waterbodies have to date been very few and limited in scale. The subject of this thesis concerns a cultural assessment of the inundated landscapes around an island within Pigeon Lake of the Kawartha Lakes region, known as Jacob Island. Using a series of integrated methods including bathymetric modeling, shoreline and ecological reconstruction, and in-water-visual artefact survey, the goals of this research relate to illuminating the nature of the Kawartha Lakes region’s underwater archaeological record and associating specific cultural occupations and land-use strategies with Jacob island’s inundated landscapes. Author Keywords: inundated landscapes, landscape archaeology, Ontario Archaeology, underwater archaeology
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
Politics of Feasting
The goal of this thesis is to explore the role that civic (i.e. state-sponsored) feasting and drinking played in early polis (pl. poleis), or city-state formation on Crete in the Early Iron Age to Archaic transition, ca. 700-500 BCE. Using the two recently excavated civic feasting structures at the site of Azoria as a model for both “inclusive” and “exclusive” forms of civic feasting, this project compares and contrasts the role that it played at a number of other sites in central and east Crete. In order to categorize the structures as either inclusive or exclusive, all forms of published evidence were examined including the buildings’ architecture and the socially valued goods and ceramics found within the structures. Ultimately, this project demonstrates that in the 8th century BCE, inclusive feasting rituals and association with the past were used as means of creating and maintaining a strong group identity, which paved the way for the use of more exclusive practices in the 7th century BCE, where sub-group identities and alliances were formed amongst members of the larger group. However, at the sites where there was evidence for multiple civic feasting venues it appears that by the 7th century BCE, the interplay of both inclusive and exclusive forms of feasting was crucial to the process of identity formation for the citizens of these proto-poleis. Author Keywords: Archaic Crete, Commensality, Feasting, Identity Formation, Polis formation
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


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