Using in-field phosphate testing to rapidly identify middens at Piedras Negras, Guatemala
Article first published online: 5 NOV 2001
Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Volume 16, Issue 8, pages 855–873, December 2001
How to Cite
Parnell, J. J., Terry, R. E. and Golden, C. (2001), Using in-field phosphate testing to rapidly identify middens at Piedras Negras, Guatemala. Geoarchaeology, 16: 855–873. doi: 10.1002/gea.1024
- Issue published online: 5 NOV 2001
- Article first published online: 5 NOV 2001
- Manuscript Accepted: 15 APR 2001
- Manuscript Received: 15 JAN 2001
- National Science Foundation. Grant Number: 9974302
Recent studies have promoted using soil phosphate analysis to detect ancient Maya sites by delimiting areas of occupation based on decomposed organic matter. Refuse associated with human activity increases organic matter around areas of ancient human habitation. Theoretically, the highest concentration of organic matter—detectable by phosphate analysis—should be directly associated with areas of refuse disposal. Thus, the objective of this study is to investigate the potential of phosphate analysis to detect residential middens in Piedras Negras, Guatemala. This paper presents the results of a sensitive, in-field phosphate analysis method applied as a midden prospection tool in residential areas. Phosphate concentration is correlated with artifact data obtained from a total of 37 test pits excavated in areas of varying phosphate concentration in three residential sites. A positive correlation between phosphate concentration and ceramic density indicates the potential of this method in defining and orienting excavations of residential areas. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.