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Understanding ancient urbanism: site planning and unintended consequences of the Classic Maya city as a model

Project description

Ancient Maya urbanism

The way in which an ancient urban site was planned, perceived and expanded is the purpose of a EU-funded study. Using the Palenque site in the Classic Maya Period (250-900 CE) as a model, the MAYURB project will study multiple factors that conditioned life in an ancient urban site. These include decision making, space limits, the influence of traditions as well as the influence religion had on buildings orientation. It will also explore the unintended consequences of city growth on urban structure and public health. MAYURB will develop a GIS platform that will help to present the life of the ancient Maya society. It will investigate ancient infrastructures, define its chronology, as well as the role played by different urban actors in site planning.


The main goal of MAYURB is to study ancient urbanism using the Classic Maya Period (250-900 CE) as a model to understand city inception and expansion through time, while considering the diverse actors involved in its planning, use and transformation. The urban fabric of Palenque, Mexico, will be assessed with an interdisciplinary approach that delves into the decision-making process that underlies site planning and considers the limitation imposed by location; in addition, the project ponders the influence of traditions and believes in site selection and religious buildings’ astronomical orientation. While considering the negotiation processes and power relations involved in city inception and growth, MAYURB will explore the unintended consequences of city expansion, such as urban sprawl and sanitation. The project will develop around three main axes: the construction of a GIS platform to join archaeological, architectural and morphological data and to outline the physical reality in which the ancient Maya lived. The spatial analyses performed with GIS will lead the second line of investigation: archaeological excavations at Palenque in areas where it is more likely to uncover infrastructural works and their relative chronology. The third inquiry will explore the extent of authority in site planning and the agency of other urban actors with an interdisciplinary theoretical focus that spans from urban to anthropological theory. The methodological approach and theoretical contribution developed with MAYURB aim at providing a thorough understanding of the planning process and city performance in antiquity, beyond the time period and the geographical location in question. Three unique interchange appointments between UNAM-Mexico, UNIROMA1-Italy and ZRC SAZU-Slovenia at top-level Institutions are planned to fulfill MAYURB’s objectives, while increasing the Experienced Researcher’ skills.


Net EU contribution
€ 231 524,16
Piazzale Aldo Moro 5
00185 Roma

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Centro (IT) Lazio Roma
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 231 524,16

Partners (1)