GUATEMALA The Cotzumalhuapa Archaeological Project

During its heyday, between A.D. 650 and 950, Cotzumalhuapa was a dominant city in the southern Maya Area, and its political and cultural sway extended over a large region of the Pacific coast and southern highlands of Guatemala. The city is renowned for its corpus of more than 200 monumental stone sculptures, carved in a distinctive style. Professor Oswaldo Chinchilla Mazariegos has conducted research at this major city since 1994, focusing on the study of culture history, settlements and urbanism, production and exchange, and sculptural art. A major result was the discovery of a complex system of causeways and bridges that linked together the city’s major compounds and extended into the surrounding settlements.

Ongoing documentation of the causeway system involves a combination of traditional techniques of survey and excavation, supplemented with extensive geophysical prospection. Investigation of an extensive obsidian workshop has provided important documentation of productive activities. Detailed documentation of the sculptural corpus provides a basis for iconographic interpretations of the complex carved designs and the associated annotations, rendered in a local, poorly known writing system. Recent research focuses on the Preclassic roots of Cotzumalhuapa, and on the city’s participation in widespread networks of trade and cultural interaction that extended throughout Mesoamerica. The book Cotzumalhuapa, la Ciudad Arqueológica: El Baúl-Bilbao-El Castillo (Guatemala, 2012) contains a broad overview of Cotzumalhuapa and a summary of the major results of this project.