Regional household variation and inequality across the Maya landscape

Whittaker Schroder, Timothy Murtha, Charles Golden, Madeline Brown, Robert Griffin, Kelsey E. Herndon, Shanti Morell-Hart, Andrew K. Scherer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The emergence and expansion of inequality have been topics of household archaeology for decades. Traditionally, this question has been informed by ethnographic, ethnohistoric and/or comparative studies. Within sites and regions, comparative physical, spatial, and architectural studies of households offer an important baseline of information about status, wealth, and well-being, especially in the Maya lowlands where households are accessible in the archaeological record. Between sites, more research is necessary to assess how these physical measurements of household remains compare. This paper investigates the intersection of landscape, household, and community based on a multi-scalar analysis of households using the Gini index across southeastern Mexico, in the context of a broader study of land use, land management, and settlement patterns. Notably, this paper represents a region-wide analysis of nearly continuous LiDAR data within and outside of previously documented prehispanic Maya settlements. While we conclude that the Gini index is useful for establishing a comparative understanding of settlement, we also recognize that the index is a starting point to identify other ways to study how household to community-level social and economic variability intersects with diverse ecological patterns. Highlighting the opportunities and limitations with applying measures like the Gini index across culturally, temporally, and geographically heterogeneous areas, we illustrate how systematic studies of settlement can be coupled to broader studies of landscape archaeology to interpret changing patterns of land management and settlement across the Maya lowlands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101552
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology

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