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Geographic Origins of Child Sacrifices: Radiogenic Strontium Isotope Analyses from Midnight Terror Cave, Belize

Author(s): Samantha Lorenz ; Naomi Marks ; James Brady

Year: 2016

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Summary

Midnight Terror Cave, located in the Cayo district in Belize, has produced the largest skeletal assemblage reported from a Maya cave. Large-scale modification of the cave for public gatherings indicates that the space was used ritualistically; most of the individuals recovered are believed to be human sacrifices. The assemblage size permitted us to select a relatively large sample of permanent lower first molars from juveniles for radiogenic strontium isotope analyses. Juveniles were the only age subset tested in order to have a sample large enough to draw conclusions about the geographic origins of these individuals. Strontium isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr) were measured by thermal ionization mass spectrometry (ThermoFisher Triton TIMS) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Tooth enamel samples were analyzed along with samples of bone from local fauna and soil samples collected from within the cave. Strontium isotopic ratios of the tooth enamel samples ranged from 0.707929 to 0.709296 ± 0.000030. These values are consistent with the range of variation in the Northern and Southern Lowlands of the Maya region observed by Hodell et al., 2004. Future work will test adult males and females as well as infants to determine if recruitment practices differed by age and sex.


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Geographic Origins of Child Sacrifices: Radiogenic Strontium Isotope Analyses from Midnight Terror Cave, Belize. Samantha Lorenz, Naomi Marks, James Brady. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403353)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America