The Kingdom of the Avocado: Recent Investigations at Pusilhá, a Classic Maya City of Southern Belize


  • Geoffrey E. Braswell University of California, San Diego, CA, USA
  • Christian M. Prager Universität Bonn, Bonn, Germany
  • Cassandra R. Bill Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, USA


Ancient Maya, State Formation, hieroglyphic texts, archaeology of Belize


Since 2001, the Pusilhá Archaeological Project has examined the ancient settlement patterns, carved monuments, ceramics, and architecture of an important Maya city located in southern Belize, Central America. Our goals have been to test models of secondary state formation and external relations – proposed most often from a perspective based in the central Maya lowlands – from a peripheral area or frontier zone. Investigations have included extensive mapping, test pitting, and both horizontal and vertical excavations. During the 2005 season, the tomb of an important ruler or K’uhul Un Ajaw was discovered and excavated. Results of our epigraphic and archaeological analyses suggest that, contrary to our prior expectations, Pusilhá was never under the political or economic sway of its more powerful neighbors. This suggests that a “third way” to secondary state formation, one that did not depend on the influence of established and authoritative states, may have been important in some regions of the Maya area.