Welcome to the Proyecto Costa Escondida

Investigating the complex interrelationships between the Maya and their coastal environment in Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Shorelines are dynamic places, both culturally and environmentally.  The Proyecto Costa Escondida (PCE) was founded to explore that dynamism by employing earth, biological, and social sciences to elucidate the linkages between human settlements and their coastline over time.  The PCE investigates what social and environmental factors conditioned the resilience and vulnerability of the past inhabitants of the north coast of Quintana Roo, Mexico over the past 3000 years.  Our work has focused predominantly on the pre-Columbian Maya port sites of Vista Alegre and Conil, but we have also been investigating the historical archaeology along this stretch of coastline.

Over the past three millennia, rising sea levels and fluctuating climatic regimes have dramatically transformed the physiographic characteristics of this drowning coastline, while Maya society witnessed the rise and fall of divine kings,  the emergence of a market-based economy, the arrival of the Spanish, and the founding of the modern nation-state of Mexico. By correlating multiple facets of the changing paleoenvironment with broader social and economic changes, the research team is revealing the challenges faced, and opportunities pursued, by these coastal peoples as they adapted to their changing coastal landscape.  There is not a linear causality between environmental changes and social, political, and economic ones.  They operate on different scales, both temporally and spatially, and as such they map onto one another in complex ways.  That said, it is only through detailed, interdisciplinary research that these nuanced and complex stories of the past can be revealed, and that is what the PCE strives to do.


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The project was funded by the National Science Foundation (BCS #1530245) and NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (NA110AR0110050), with support from: Georgia State University, the Waitt Institute, the Explorers Club, the Foundation for Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc., the Strauss Family Fund for Mesoamerican Studies, Anders Family Foundation, Koret Foundation, and National Geographic (HJ-R004-17).