Francesca Glanville-Wallis (UCL) - 2021-22 Students

Soils and Land-Use in an Urban Context – Past, Present and Future: Lamanai, Belize from 1600 B.C. to A.D. 1990

Past land use continues to influence socio-ecological systems today. At the interface of these human activities, past and present, lie soils. Anthropic urban soils and sediments associated with ancient cities – the soils and sediments that formed within past settlements influenced by human activities – are legacies of past human-environment interactions, retaining the physical and chemical traces of past land use, whilst also being active constituents of current socio-ecological interactions. Through the study of soil profiles as sequenced archives of land-use change, my research aims to investigate over two millennia of occupation at the Maya site of Lamanai, Belize, to understand land use in an urban context and its impact on soils. The research will provide a chronologically-sensitive record of urban land-use change that will permit comparisons with what is known about the socio-political, economic, architectural and cultural history of Lamanai and enable me to contextualise the landscape record associated with the site’s different periods of occupation. The research will allow for the assessment of soil enrichment and landscape degradation resulting from different forms of urban land use. These findings will bear on debates surrounding the character and impact of Maya urbanism and discussions relating to future soil security and sustainable cities.

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