Maya Peasantry: Crop Diversity Past and Present

Author(s): Mario Zimmermann

Year: 2017


For several years, peasant communities on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, have not produced high enough maize-yields to sustain populations in the area. This is despite the fact that modern-day demographics are considerably lower than population estimates for the heights of Maya cultural development during the pre-Columbian era. Some scholars have argued that maize was not the sole staple for the ancient Maya. Root and tree crops are among the candidates for alternative staples given their productive potential and adaptation to the tropical conditions of the Yucatan Peninsula. A review of ethnographic as well as archaeological and ethnohistoric sources regarding Maya dietary patterns provides a picture of inconsistencies and temporal dissociations. On the other hand, recent advances in paleoethnobotany promise to provide more direct clues on alternative crops that had been successfully cultivated in the past. A better understanding of the role of maize within ancient Maya diet would allow us inform present day policies and decision-making processes. I argue that the archaeological record can contribute to the knowledge upon which a dialogue between scholars, politicians, and Maya farmers will be found to improve the living-conditions of the latter and increase the level of dietary auto-sufficiency in the area.

Cite this Record

Maya Peasantry: Crop Diversity Past and Present. Mario Zimmermann. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429159)

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 12144