The People Behind the Practice: An Ethnological Encounter with a Maya Forest Gardener

Author(s): Jena Gray

Year: 2016


In recent years, alternative subsistence strategies have been explored by archaeoethnobotanists and others to describe ways in which the ancient Maya managed their land. Through a contextualized analysis of contemporary Maya interaction with their environment, ethnobotanists hope to gain insight into the past. Forest gardening, a sustainable, agroforestry system similar to permaculture practices, offers a glance into how the Maya cooperate with the land. This paper seeks not to provide an interpretation or comparison of contemporary to ancient Maya peoples but rather to illuminate an experience with Maya forest gardening within the jungles of western Belize.

Through pairing a recent personal account with the academic field of archaeoethnobotany, this paper will entertain the intrinsic link between plants and the people who cultivate and use them. Explored within this text are the cultivation, medicinal uses, and food usages of cacao, life-everlasting plant, and the breadnut tree. Additionally, this presentation offers a brief portrayal of specific Maya ideologies and philosophies that lie behind their land management practices in order to better and more adequately understand the people behind their practice.

Cite this Record

The People Behind the Practice: An Ethnological Encounter with a Maya Forest Gardener. Jena Gray. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404242)


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Spatial Coverage

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