Institute of Archaeology


Mark Johnson

What contribution did marine resource procurement and coastal resource exploitation make to the ancient Maya economy? Of particular interest are critical periods of transition, namely the Maya collapse, and adaptations to Spanish and British colonial activity in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Mark Johnson

Email: mark.johnson.13@ucl.ac.uk
Section: Archaeological Sciences



My PhD studies expand on inroads I made in my master's degree dissertation, which explored the contribution that marine resource procurement and coastal resource exploitation made to the economy of Marco Gonzalez, an ancient Maya site on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize. My PhD broadens the scope of my research to include additional samples of archaeological fish bones from Marco Gonzalez. It will also review samples from San Pedro, the main town in present day Ambergris Caye, which has been continuously inhabited since the ancient Maya period and through the Spanish and British colonial periods. Comparing the data from these samples and will allow the results of my master's research to be considered in a wider regional and temporal context and to assess the impact that critical periods of transition had on the communities of Marco Gonzalez and San Pedro.

My master's dissertation is one of a limited number about the role that marine fishing and species selection played in the ancient Maya economy, particularly in the area around the islands and barrier reef off the coast of Belize. My PhD research will consider much larger samples from Marco Gonzalez and San Pedro, with greater representation of sieved smaller fish remains for balance, which will allow the theories my dissertation put forward to be more rigorously tested. Likewise, similar investigation of other ancient Maya fishing and trading sites within the Belize Barrier Reef region, such as San Pedro, will help improve data sets about the region. This new research will provide information about the impact of critical periods of transition, including Terminal Classic Maya collapse and Spanish and British colonial periods, within a region in which much remains to be explored by archaeologists, particularly regarding the contribution that its ample marine resources and fishing and trading communities made to the local and wider economy.         


  • BA Hons, European History, University of East Anglia, 1999.
  • Graduate Diploma in Archaeology, University College London, 2015.
  • MSc, Environmental Archaeology, University College London, 2017