Let’s Talk Turkey: Turkey Use and Management at Postclassic Mayapán


The ancient Maya utilized two species of turkeys: the Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata) native to the Yucatán Peninsula, northern Guatemala, and northern Belize and the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) from Central Mexico. The exact timing of Wild Turkey domestication and its introduction to the Maya area is unknown, although evidence as early as the Preclassic exists. The Ocellated Turkey was never fully domesticated but many scholars have proposed the Maya may have managed the species. To understand when the Wild Turkey was introduced to the Maya, whether the Ocellated Turkey was a managed species, and how these two species were treated compared to each other we used a combination of osteometrics, demographic profiles, and stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis on turkey remains from the Postclassic site of Mayapán. Previous research here found an abundance of Ocellated Turkeys hypothesized as an example of animal management and an absence of Wild Turkeys. Our results show the presence of both species however isotopic analysis reveals a difference in diet between the two, interpreted here as a difference in animal management strategies. In this paper we discuss these isotopic differences and the implications they have for understanding ancient Maya human and animal relationships.

Cite this Record

Let’s Talk Turkey: Turkey Use and Management at Postclassic Mayapán. Lori Phillips, Erin Thornton, Kitty Emery, Carlos Peraza Lope. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430468)


Geographic Keywords
Central America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -94.702; min lat: 6.665 ; max long: -76.685; max lat: 18.813 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14876