Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa


  • Gabriel D. Wrobel (a1), Christophe Helmke (a2), Lenna Nash (a3) and Jaime J. Awe (a4)

A single right fifth metatarsal found in Tomb 1 at Peligroso, Belize exhibited a small deformity in the form of a small (7 mm) accessory digit emanating from the plantar surface at mid-shaft. This Type A postaxial polydactyly is the first archaeological example of polydactyly reported for Mesoamerica. Polydactyly is one of the more commonly reported morphological anomalies and thus its appearance in Maya populations would have been prevalent enough to demand explanation. A review of related terminology in pertinent Amerindian languages is presented as a means of exploring the manners in which digits and the human body are conceptualized. Maya iconographic representations of polydactyly at Palenque have parallels to other Mesoamerican renderings of supernumerary digits used to identify divinities and deified ancestors. However, the Peligroso mortuary context comprised disarticulated and commingled bones, suggesting that the individual did not have a distinctive social role related to the presence of an extra digit.

Corresponding author
E-mail correspondence to:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Lyle Campbell , Terrence Kaufman , and Thomas C. Smith-Stark 1986 Meso-America as a Linguistic Area. Language 62:530570.

D. Troy Case , R. J. Hill , Charles F. Merbs , and Michael Fong 2006 Polydactyly in the Prehistoric American Southwest. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 16:221235.

Eduardo Castilla , Regina Lugarihho da Fonseca , Maria da Graça Dutra , Eva Bermejo , Lourdes Cueva , and María Luisa Martínez-Frías 1996 Epidemiological Analysis of Rare Polydactylys. American Journal of Medical Genetics 65:295303.

Mary F. Feitosa , Eduardo E. Castilla , Maria da Graça Dutra , and Henrique Krieger 1998 Lack of Evidence of a Major Gene Acting on Postaxial Polydactyly in South America. American Journal of Medical Genetics 80:466472.

Paul F. Healy , Jaime J. Awe , and Hermann Helmuth 1998 An Ancient Maya Multiple Burial at Caledonia, Cayo District, Belize. Journal of Field Archaeology 25:261274.

Sarah A. Maas , and John F. Fallon 2005 Single Base Pair Change in the Long-Range Sonic hedgehog Limb-Specific Enhancer is a Genetic Basis for Preaxial Polydactyly. Developmental Dynamics 232:345348.

María Luisa Martínez-Frías , Eva Bermejo , and Ana Cereijo 1992 Preaxial Polydactyly of Feet in Infants of Diabetic Mothers: Epidemiological Test of a Clinical Hypothesis. American Journal of Medical Genetics 42:643646.

Kimmarie A. Murphy 1999 A Prehistoric Example of Polydactyly From the Iron Age Site of Simbusenga, Zambia. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 108:311319.

Mark D. Murphey , James J. Choi , Mark J. Kransdorf , Donald J. Flemming , and Frances H. Gannon 2000 Imaging of Osteochondroma: Variants and Complications with Radiologic-Pathologic Correlation. Radiographics 20:14071434.

Dennis A. Phelps , and Dennis P. Grogan 1985 Polydactyly of the Foot. Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics 5:446451.

Uppala Radhakrishna , Asha S. Multani , Jitendra V. Solanki , Vinod C. Shah , and Niloufer J. Chinoy 1993 Polydactyly: A Study of a Five Generation Indian Family. Journal of Medical Genetics 30:296299.

Ana Talamillo , María F. Bastida , Marian Fernández-Terán , and María A. Ros 2005 The Developing Limb and the Control of the Number of Digits. Clinical Genetics 67:143153.

J.T. Walker 1961 A Pedigree of Extra-Digit-V Polydactyly in a Batutsi Family. Annals of Human Genetics 25:6568.

Hiroyuki Watanabe , Shinya Fujita , and Ichiro Oka 1992 Polydactyly of the Foot: An Analysis of 265 Cases and a Morphological Classification. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 89:856877.

Estella Weiss-Krejci 2004 Mortuary Representations of the Noble House: A Cross-cultural Comparison between Collective Tombs of the Ancient Maya and Dynastic Europe. Journal of Social Archaeology 4:368404.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Ancient Mesoamerica
  • ISSN: 0956-5361
  • EISSN: 1469-1787
  • URL: /core/journals/ancient-mesoamerica
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 26 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 254 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th July 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.