Overview

Motul de San Jose is famous for its beautiful pottery vases painted in multiple colors with scenes of court rituals and hieroglyphic texts (called the Ik’ Polychrome Style). Motul de San Jose is located in the tropical lowlands of Peten in northern Guatemala, approximately 3 km north of Lake Peten Itza, and 32 km southwest of Tikal.

The site and its environs have been explored since 1998 by the Motul de San Jose Archaeological Project co-directed by Dr. Antonia Foias, Professor of Anthropology at Williams College, and Dr. Kitty Emery, Curator of Environmental Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida-Gainesville. Funded by Williams College, NSF, FAMSI, Florida Museum of Natural History, SUNY-Pottsdam, Tulane University and many other agencies,the project has conducted surveys, mapping, excavations and laboratory analyses at Motul and several smaller centers in its periphery,

such as La Trinidad de Nosotros, Chakokot, and Buenavista-Nuevo San Jose. These investigations have explored the dynamics of political power in this small polity during the heyday of Classic Maya civilization in the Late Classic centuries (A.D. 650-850).

The results of these investigations have been published in several journals such as Mayab, Ancient Mesoamerica, Geoarchaeology, and Journal of Ethnobiology. A monograph Motul de San Jose: Politics, History, and Economy in a Classic Maya Polity (2012; edited by Antonia E. Foias and Kitty F. Emery; Gainesville, University Press of Florida) details the results of the multiple lines of investigation from ecology to ceramic analysis. We hope that this webpage supplements these articles and monograph by allowing access to the basic data of the project, including site maps, excavation drawings and photographs, artifact analysis by operation, and artifact appendices that supplement the published works.

The Motul de San Jose Archaeological Work Continues

A new project, the Periphery of Motul de San Jose Archaeological Project (co-directed by A, Foias, K. Emery, and J. Castellanos), embarked on new research in 2013. Funded principally by NSF, we conducted excavations, mapping and survey at two of Motul’s satellite communities: Kante’t’u’ul, located approximately 3km northwest of Motul, and Chachaklu’um, approximately 5km east of Motul. These two sites are especially noteworthy because of their specific ecological zones. Kante’t’u’ul sits on the north edge of a major bajo and along the river that drains it, known by the same name as the site. The soils on the edges of the bajo and river are deep enough and well drained to be ideal for cacao orchards. The name Kante’t’u’ul itself may suggest this, as one possible translation is the “Place of many mother-of-cacao trees.” In contrast, Chachaklu’um which can be translated as “Red soil” is situated in one of the well known savanna zones around Lake Peten Itza. These savannas are recognized historically as grasslands with poor agricultural soils due to their high iron content which gives them the red color. Nevertheless, these soils are good for tree orchards. Three field seasons in 2013-2015 explored these two settlements and their environments. Three reports have been published, and can be found on the Excavations page (right-side menu).

Motul de San Jose Video

This video tour was recorded during the summer of 2000 by Prof. Foias and a local videographer. It was edited down to the six-minute video presentation on this page. The digitizing and editing were undertaken by Williams students as part of the Williams Instructional Technology Project during the summer of 2001.

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