Mesoamerican Plants of the Night: A Paleoethnobotanical Perspective

Author(s): Venicia Slotten

Year: 2017


The ancient Mesoamerican landscape has been extensively researched archaeologically, with the field of paleoethnobotany allowing for a better understanding of what plants the ancient people valued agriculturally and in their economic, ritual, medicinal and other daily practices. Typically, archaeologists interpret the archaeological record in terms of how the ancient peoples interacted with the artifacts and navigated through the landscape during the daytime. What about nightly practices? How have nighttime activities left their mark on the paleoethnobotanical record in Mesoamerica? The ancient Maya associated much of their environment to various night-related practices. The ancient nightly landscape can even be imagined through nocturnally active plants that either bloomed, were fragrant, or visibly illuminated in the dark. Mesoamerican interpretations of their environment can be seen through both their linguistic classifications of various species and also their nightly medicinal applications and preparations. Some plants held more of a symbolic meaning for the Maya, where nightly conditions determined their management strategies or even foretold the fate of the world. Ethnobotanical data helps illuminate how the ancient peoples at various Mesoamerican archaeological sites interacted with and viewed their nocturnal environment.

Cite this Record

Mesoamerican Plants of the Night: A Paleoethnobotanical Perspective. Venicia Slotten. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431047)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14935