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The Bioarchaeology of Colonization and Missionization at San Bernabé, Lake Petén Itzá

Author(s): Katherine Miller Wolf ; Timothy Pugh

Year: 2016

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The Spanish established the San Bernabé Mission in the heartland of the Itzá Maya area at Tayasal in the Petén Lakes region around 1710. Census data suggest that the mission was at the center of a multi-cultural community of 126 individuals in 1712, yet within three decades the population size had reduced by 70% potentially due to epidemics and flight. Excavations by the Tayasal Archaeological Project have recovered 46 individuals from 33 graves in the mission’s cemetery that shed light on what occurred after the arrival of the Spanish to the region. The skeletal remains of those interred within the walls of the mission highlight the impact of cultural contact, colonization, and the subsequent missionization of an indigenous group. The bioarchaeological analysis of the San Bernabé sample reveals that life in San Bernabé was one of sickness, disease, and a short life expectancy. Skeletal data that informs us about colonization is not often available, especially for Mayanists, and the case of San Bernabé provides clear data about the deleterious impact that colonialism had on the Maya.

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The Bioarchaeology of Colonization and Missionization at San Bernabé, Lake Petén Itzá. Katherine Miller Wolf, Timothy Pugh. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404148)


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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