Famine Foods and Food Security in Ancient and Modern Yaxuna

Author(s): Harper Dine; Traci Ardren

Year: 2017


Food as an object of study can reveal relationships between biological necessity, culture, and oppression. The 1996 World Summit on Food Security declared that "food should not be used as an instrument for political and economic pressure," yet archaeology shows myriad ways in which food access was manipulated in the past, and the ramifications of those manipulations. In the Maya area, prestige foods have tended to be the focus of analysis. In this paper, we emphasize the importance of the archeological study of foods of low social status, including those referred to as famine foods. Through a survey of rejolladas and house gardens in the modern village of Yaxunah, and a review of the literature on Maya agriculture in times of hardship, we present a working list of the most efficient "famine foods" in Maya history, an analysis of the potential stigmas tied to those foods, and a portrait of the changing nature of food security insurance. We tie these observations to modern attitudes toward low status or poverty foods held by Yucatec Maya speakers in Yaxunah. We aim to illuminate the history of Maya food-insecure households and local efforts to integrate new foods during times of social disintegration.

Cite this Record

Famine Foods and Food Security in Ancient and Modern Yaxuna. Harper Dine, Traci Ardren. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431317)


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): 17443