A Diachronic Interdisciplinary View of Maya Foodways

Author(s): Marc Zender

Year: 2017


This paper reviews archaeological, iconographic, epigraphic, and linguistic evidence for Maya foodways, documenting both the remarkable stability of some traditions and the equally significant changes in others, mostly due to cultural contact, civilizational rupture, and generational shift during some two millennia of Maya history. Although hardly a frequent topic of Maya monumentality, with a few notable exceptions, numerous ceramic vessels, murals, and graffiti depict and/or hieroglyphically reference Classic comestibles and beverages, and modern Mayan languages share numerous terms for these items, suggesting a long antiquity for various foods and drinks. Similarly, archaeologists have long documented the instruments and places of consumption, and have had surprising success in recent years in the direct chemical identification of ancient foodstuffs. Less clear has been the social settings for which various foods were considered appropriate: legacies of several periods of contact with Central Mexican culinary traditions (in the Early Classic and Postclassic periods), and the wholesale transformation of the royal court and its cuisine in the wake of a disastrous early 9th century civilizational collapse. And yet, surprising details about the dynamic social and political roles of food emerge if one takes a diachronic view informed by evidence from several distinct but complementary disciplines.

Cite this Record

A Diachronic Interdisciplinary View of Maya Foodways. Marc Zender. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431236)


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): 17150