Weeds, Seeds, and Other Maya Needs

Author(s): Venicia Slotten; David Lentz

Year: 2016


Our understanding of the diet, subsistence, and agricultural practices of ancient Maya commoners has been remarkably enhanced thanks to many years of archaeological investigations at Cerén led by Payson Sheets. The recovery of paleoethnobotanical remains at the site has revealed not only the storage of various well-preserved foodstuffs, but also extensive house gardens and agricultural fields filled with lasting impressions and carbonized remains of a diverse set of plant species including maize, manioc, agave, squash, chili peppers, cotton, and tree crops such as avocado, guava, calabash, nance and cacao. Besides the annual crops, recent excavations within Cerén’s agricultural fields reveal a strong presence of weedy species and lesser known woods, suggesting a diverse assemblage of plants comprised the ancient agricultural biome. The large amount of small seeds and achenes recovered from the cultivated fields for the most part represent annual weedy species that would have been relatively easy to manage by the Cerén inhabitants, if so desired. Modern Maya associate many useful applications with these intrusive plants and the strong presence of the weeds at Cerén suggests that the weeds possibly held a positive and tolerable relationship with the villagers.

Cite this Record

Weeds, Seeds, and Other Maya Needs. Venicia Slotten, David Lentz. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403832)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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