Institute of Archaeology


Francesca Glanville-Wallis

Soils and Land-Use in an Urban Context – Past, Present and Future: Lamanai, Belize from 1600 B.C. to A.D. 1990


Email: francesca.glanville-wallis.12@ucl.ac.uk

Section: Archaeological Sciences



Soils and Land-Use in an Urban Context – Past, Present and Future: Lamanai, Belize from 1600 B.C. to A.D. 1990

My research aims to investigate over two millennia of human-environment interactions at the Maya site of Lamanai, Belize, with a focus on understanding land use in an urban context and its impact on soils.

Past land use continues to influence socio-ecological systems today. At the interface of these human activities, past and present, lie soils. Anthropic urban soils and sediments associated with ancient cities are legacies of past human-environment interactions, retaining the physical and chemical traces of past land use, whilst also being active constituents of current socio-ecological interactions. Thus, the study of these sediments, their formation and properties, can on the one hand be used to examine past urban land use and its impact on the environment, and on the other hand inform our understanding of the formation of the soils we inhabit today.

Urban land use in the different zones of Lamanai, largely representing Preclassic, Classic and colonial period occupations at the site, will be examined through excavation and study of soil catenas, focusing on soil profiles as sequenced archives of land-use change. Samples from selected profiles will be analysed for their physical and chemical properties to determine the nature of past land use; the resources and materials associated with different land uses; and the formation processes and properties of associated urban soils. This research will provide a chronologically-sensitive record of urban land-use change that will permit comparisons with what is known about the socio-political, economic, architectural and cultural history of Lamanai and enable me to contextualise the landscape record associated with the site’s different periods of occupation. The research will also allow for the assessment of soil enrichment and landscape degradation resulting from different forms of urban land use. These findings will bear on debates surrounding the character and impact of Maya urbanism and discussions relating to soil security and sustainable cities.




  • BSc, Archaeology, UCL, 2015
  • MSc, Environmental Archaeology, UCL, 2020
Conference papers

Glanville-Wallis, F. and Arroyo-Kalin, M. 2021. “Amazonian Dark Earths: Comparison based on Enrichment Factors and Geoaccumulation Indices” [Poster]. 9th Developing International Geoarchaeology Conference, May 17-19, Online.