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Maya Diets of the Rich and Poor: Paleoethnobotanical Evidence from Copan

  • David L. Lentz (a1)

Analysis of plant remains recovered from excavations at Copán in western Honduras has provided substantive data regarding agroeconomic systems of the prehistoric inhabitants. The time span of the deposits ranges from the Gordon/Uir phase (900-400 B. C.), which may have been non-Maya, to the Coner phase (A. D. 700-900+), which encompasses the collapse of the Classic Maya cultural manifestation in the valley. Several traditionally recognized mesoamerican cultigens were identified including corn, beans, and several species of Cucurbitaceae. In addition, remains of a number of economic tree species were discovered, suggesting a reliance on arboriculture as part of the subsistence strategy. Pine charcoal predominated in all deposits and may have been the preferred wood for fuel and construction. Analysis of edible-plant-species distributions from low- and high-status Late Classic dwellings using the Shannon-Weaver index revealed that elite individuals had a higher diversity of available foods, a situation that may have led to nutritional stress among lower-status individuals and, ultimately, social unrest.

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L.Kaplan 1980 Variation in the Cultivated Beans. In Guitarrero Cave: Early Man in the Andes, edited by T. F. Lynch, pp. 145148. Academic Press, New York.

A.Magurran 1988 Ecological Diversity and Its Measurement. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

P.Manglesdorf 1974 Corn: Its Origin, Evolution, and Improvement. The Belknap Press of Harvard University, Cambridge.

J.Marcus 1982 The Plant World of the Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Lowland Maya. In Maya Subsistence, edited by K. Flannery, pp. 239273. Academic Press, New York.

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Latin American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 1045-6635
  • EISSN: 2325-5080
  • URL: /core/journals/latin-american-antiquity
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