Dietary Implications from an Inundated Shell Midden at a Classic Maya Salt Work


During the 2013 field season, an inundated shell midden was excavated at the underwater ancient Maya salt production site of Eleanor Betty, one of the Paynes Creek Salt Works. Excavations revealed that the midden was located 16-30 cm below the sea-floor and extended both inside and outside of an underwater wooden structure. During the spring of 2015, analyses were performed to identify the shell species, assess the nature of the midden (cultural or natural), and evaluate dietary implications of the shell remains. Approximately 4,733 number of individual specimens (NISP) were recovered, with 3,979 fragments identified as Crassostrea rhizophora (red mangrove oysters). A total of 264 minimum number of individuals (MNI) of C. rhizophora were present. Several lines of evidence are presented to indicate dietary use of the oyster shells by the salt workers: The shell was mixed with charcoal and briquetage, indicating this was a cultural midden. Butcher marks were found on 37% of the shells, with a notch being the most abundant break. A narrow range of shell sizes, as shown by Height-Length Ratio (HLR) measurements, indicate the shell was deposited as a single event.

Cite this Record

Dietary Implications from an Inundated Shell Midden at a Classic Maya Salt Work. Valerie Feathers, Heather McKillop, E. Cory Sills, Rachel Watson. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404329)


Spatial Coverage

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