Four millennia of geomorphic change and human settlement in the lower Usumacinta–Grijalva River Basin, Mexico

Journal article


Muñoz-Salinas, Esperanza, Cook, Duncan, Castillo, Miguel, Beach, Timothy and Luzzadder-Beach, Sheryl. (2023). Four millennia of geomorphic change and human settlement in the lower Usumacinta–Grijalva River Basin, Mexico. Progress in Physical Geography. 47(2), pp. 227-248. https://doi.org/10.1177/03091333231156506
AuthorsMuñoz-Salinas, Esperanza, Cook, Duncan, Castillo, Miguel, Beach, Timothy and Luzzadder-Beach, Sheryl
Abstract

The lower Usumacinta–Grijalva River Basin contains one of the richest biodiversity landscapes of the Maya region. Our research is based on (1) an integrative literature review of the geomorphological and archaeological papers published about the lower Usumacinta–Grijalva River Basin and (2) topographic analysis of digital elevation models using a geographical information system to explore the relationship between past human settlement and landscape accessibility along the coastal plain of Tabasco. This work provides a new synthesis of previous research and proposes new models for the geomorphic evolution of the lower Usumacinta–Grijalva River Basin in the context of four millennia of human land use and settlement. For the evolution of the strand-plain of the Usumacinta and Grijalva rivers, there are two published geochronological models that provide different chronologies. We discuss here how both geochronological models encompass Pre-Columbian human settlement in the delta. Interestingly, we notice that one of them overlaps a possible high-magnitude flood event (or events) that drove large geomorphic change around 750 CE (1200 BP), with implications for settlement patterns and chronology. Based on topographical analysis of the eastern-distal sector of the Usumacinta–Grijalva delta, we propose a new model for the evolution of this area with implications for the human occupation during the Mesoamerican Terminal Classic and Early Postclassic on the delta. As one of the main conclusions, we propose that the Pom–Atasta water bodies predate much of the Usumacinta–Grijalva delta and the most recent phase of delta building overlays the original lagoon barriers, resulting in a geomorphic setting more attractive to local human occupation after the Terminal Classic period. According to one of the geochronological models of the delta, this dates to ca. 900 CE, preceding the establishment of nearby settlements such as Atasta.

KeywordsUsumacinta–Grijalva River Basin; Mesoamerica; Ancient Maya; Olmec; Late Holocene; Delta of Tabasco; geochronology; Mexican Maya Southern Lowlands; Mexican Maya Southern Lowlands
Year2023
JournalProgress in Physical Geography
Journal citation47 (2), pp. 227-248
PublisherSAGE Publications
ISSN0309-1333
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1177/03091333231156506
Scopus EID2-s2.0-85124830093
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
Page range227-248
FunderNational Geographic Society
Australian Research Council (ARC)
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Publisher's version
License
File Access Level
Open
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online19 Feb 2023
Publication process dates
Deposited07 Jul 2023
ARC Funded ResearchThis output has been funded, wholly or partially, under the Australian Research Council Act 2001
Grant ID7506-03
7861-05
DP180101986
0924501
0924510
1114947
1550204
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