Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 December 2012
This paper applies structuration theory and semiotics to interpret the results of a recently completed total coverage pedestrian survey to the east of Yaxuna, Yucatan. Data from this survey suggest that a social group centered at the site of Tzacauil vied for political clout in the Late Preclassic period through the construction of a triadic acropolis 3 km from Yaxuna. This group also initiated but did not complete a new experimental construction: a long-distance causeway between the two sites. A central facet of structuration is the instability of social practice. Rules can be altered when transposed to new contexts, while durable resources, such as causeways and acropolis groups, do not ensure the solidity of the coalitions they are meant to represent. Despite an outlay of labor never again seen to the east of Yaxuna, Tzacauil had a rather short occupation. Though they never completed the causeway, the people of Tzacauil did succeed in transforming the conventional understanding of causeways. These events support a semiotic approach since they show that materiality is contingent: it has a potential that people may or may not work to realize.