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EXAMINING CHRONOLOGICAL TRENDS IN ANCIENT MAYA DIET AT MINANHA, BELIZE, USING THE STABLE ISOTOPES OF CARBON AND NITROGEN

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 July 2017

Jocelyn S. Williams
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Trent University, Peterborough, ON, K9L 0G2, Canada (jocelynwilliams@trentu.ca)
Shannen M. Stronge
Affiliation:
Golder Associates Ltd., London, ON, N6L 1C1, Canada
Gyles Iannone
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Trent University, Peterborough, ON, K9L 0G2, Canada (jocelynwilliams@trentu.ca)
Fred J. Longstaffe
Affiliation:
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, N6A 5B7, Canada

Abstract

We present the results of stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses of bone collagen and bone bioapatite from the ancient Maya center of Minanha, Belize (ca. 100 B.C. to A.D. 1260). The purpose of this research was to reconstruct diet and investigate the influence of sociopolitical and environmental factors. Overall, diet was relatively stable over time, with maize being a staple in all periods. Maize consumption reached its peak in the transitional Early to Middle Classic periods and decreased over time. When isotope data from dry periods were compared to normal periods, there were no significant differences, although comparisons of isotope data by burial location and type suggest that the apical or ruling elite consumed a more diverse diet, with more animal protein, relative to the lesser elites. The temporal variability in maize consumption seems best explained by sociopolitical factors documented at Minanha and within the Vaca Plateau. This study demonstrates the resilience of ancient subsistence practices in the face of climatic instability and highlights the impact that social and political factors can have on diet and subsistence economy.

Este trabajo presenta los resultados del análisis de isótopos estables de carbono y nitrógeno de colágeno y bioapatita óseos del antiguo centro maya de Minanha, Belice (aprox. 100 a.C. hasta 1260 d.C.). El propósito de esta investigación fue reconstruir la dieta de la población e investigar la influencia de factores sociopolíticos y ambientales. En general, la dieta fue relativamente estable a través del tiempo. El consumo de maíz alcanzó su pico durante la transición entre el Clásico Temprano y el Clásico Medio y disminuyó con el tiempo; sin embargo, se mantuvo como alimento básico a lo largo de la historia del asentamiento. No se registraron diferencias significativas entre los datos de isótopos de períodos secos y normales. Comparaciones de los datos de isótopos con base en la ubicación y el tipo de entierro sugieren que los individuos pertenecientes a las altas élites consumieron una dieta más diversa y con más proteínas de origen animal que las élites menores. La variabilidad temporal en el consumo de maíz parece estar relacionada con factores sociopolíticos documentados en Minanha y en la Meseta de Vaca. Este estudio demuestra la capacidad de recuperación de las antiguas prácticas de subsistencia frente a la inestabilidad climática y destaca el impacto que pueden tener los factores sociales y políticos sobre la dieta y la economía de subsistencia.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © 2017 by the Society for American Archaeology 

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EXAMINING CHRONOLOGICAL TRENDS IN ANCIENT MAYA DIET AT MINANHA, BELIZE, USING THE STABLE ISOTOPES OF CARBON AND NITROGEN
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