Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 487–504 | Cite as

Lidar data and the Izapa polity: new results and methodological issues from tropical Mesoamerica

  • Robert M. RosenswigEmail author
  • Ricardo López-Torrijos
  • Caroline E. Antonelli
Original Paper


Light detection and ranging (lidar) and pedestrian survey are employed to document regional settlement patterns associated with the well-known center of Izapa in Chiapas, Mexico. Within an area of 47.5 km2, we located 413 previously undocumented mounds with associated time diagnostic artifacts. These mounds are the remains of both monumental architecture defining regional centers as well as domestic house mounds. This paper presents new data of overall occupation levels from the low hills zone that complements previously published patterns from the piedmont surrounding Izapa as well as eight newly documented Middle and Late Formative period (850 cal. bcad 100) monumental centers of various sizes that are coeval with Izapa. In addition to these substantive archaeological findings, the efficacy of lidar data acquired from two environmental zones (low hills and piedmont) are compared to evaluate how well Prehispanic mounds were detected under different vegetation covers. We conclude that the lower density of lidar collection from the low hills zone was as effective at detecting archaeological mounds as the higher density collection campaign used in the piedmont zone. The implication of these findings is that higher-density collection strategies may not always improve the documentation of archaeological features.


Izapa Lidar Settlement survey Mesoamerica 



Funding for this survey was provided by a National Science Foundation, senior research grant (BCS-0947787). Additional funding was provided by a UAlbany, College of Arts & Science Faculty Research Award Program grant and the UAlbany Center for Social and Demographic Analysis (CSDA) supported by NICHD (R24-HD044943). Special thanks to Linda Lawrence and Chip Ensel at CSDA for all their help. Permission to undertake this field work in Chiapas was granted by the INAH Consejo de Arqueología as well as landowners in the Municipios of Frontera Hidalgo and Tuxtla Chico. Helpful suggestions were provided by Payson Sheets and an anonymous reviewer.

Supplementary material

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Supplemental Table 2 (XLSX 33.3 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert M. Rosenswig
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ricardo López-Torrijos
    • 2
  • Caroline E. Antonelli
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity at Albany-SUNYAlbanyUSA
  2. 2.CasaAlba ConsultingAlbanyUSA

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