Thesis title: Ancient Topography and Urbanism of the Maya area: the spatial and regional distribution of ballcourts in Peten, Guatemala
This PhD dissertation focuses on analysing the urban and regional distribution of ballcourts in Peten, Guatemala. Previous research on the Mesoamerican ballgame from a regional perspective revealed the crucial role of ballcourts from a political and social point of view in various geographical areas and different periods. Starting from the Middle Preclassic (800 – 300 BCE) and up to the Late Classic (600 – 900 CE), the construction of ballcourts in specific areas of the city and strategic position in the territory helps us to understand the great importance that the game had for the ruling elite. At the same time, the presence of ballcourts on regional borders and in small sites, also related to domestic areas, can reveal their role in social cohesion and community bonding.
In this dissertation, the author drew extensively from previous studies, collecting a large amount of information on the ballcourts in Peten, analysing them from an architectural, urban, and regional point of view. In addition to an already established methodology, especially in cataloguing the available data, the author has proposed a new methodology based on GIS software. First, the purpose of these analyses conducted through QGIS was to reconstruct possible maps of ballcourts distribution according to chronology, density, number, and dimensions. Secondly, combining QGIS and SAGA, the aim was to reconstruct possible cost surfaces considering the landscape's territorial features and anthropogenic elements to recreate possible connection networks and territorial boundaries during the Preclassic and the Classic Period.
The analyses made it possible to underline the role that the ballgame played over the centuries in Peten from a social, political and ritual point of view. The urban analyses revealed the different functions that the ballcourt played based on its urban relations and architectural features. From a regional perspective, it was possible to verify political changes for different areas of Peten according to the regional distribution of the ballcourts. This type of complex has also proved to be an excellent element for territorial demarcation and connection in strategic points of the territory.