Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Scott R. Hutson


The focus of this project is to track the social change developments in Ucí, Yucatan, Mexico, during the Middle (1,000 – 400 BCE) and Late Preclassic (400 – 150 BCE) that served as foundations to institutionalized hierarchy. This research is geared towards understanding if there were any expressions of social differentiation in the earliest, detectable moments in the history of Ucí, and what were the mechanisms used to eventually make distinctions permanent. Applying an agency approach, I argue that social actors may cause structural change, both consciously and inadvertently, through the application of several strategies aimed to enhancing their role and status within their society. I make use of data from extensive mapping, test excavations, and broad, horizontal excavations at two specific structures to assess differential access to labor, resources, and sumptuary materials. Results show that there was a noticeable change between the Middle and Late Preclassic with regards to labor practices, in which communal institutions were appropriated by individuals or families to enhance their status. Test and broad excavations demonstrated that there was a shift in focus in labor practices from a central structure to outlying, multiple structures. The artifact assemblages at these later structures show that these were most likely used as centers for congregation. The groups here represented used a series of strategies to gain socio-political followers such as rituals, music performances, and the consumption of food and beverages. I believe that this would have ultimately threatened a sense of community. In the Late Preclassic we see the creation of a ceremonial circuit that links the outlying structures to the center of the site through a network of causeways. I believe that this created to diminish social fractures and enhance a sense of community. In this configuration it seems likely that the various interest groups, represented by the outlying structures, could have entered into a competition to host community-wide rituals and enhance institutionalized forms of social differentiation.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This study was supported by

UK Anthropology Department Robert M. O’Dear Research Fund. 2014.

UK Anthropology Department Robert M. O’Dear Research Fund. 2016.

UK LACLS (Latin American, Caribbean & Latino Studies) Travel Award.


UK Anthropology Department Robert M. O’Dear Research Fund. 2018.

Dumbarton Oaks Pre-Columbian Studies Project Grant

Office of the Vice President for Research, University of Kentucky, Summer Research Fellowship.