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Ancient Maya Salt Making Activities as Revealed Through Underwater Excavations and Sediment Chemistry, Paynes Creek National Park, Belize

Author(s): E. Cory Sills ; Heather McKillop ; Christian Wells

Year: 2017

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Summary

Underwater excavations at Early Classic Chan b’i (A.D. 300-600) and Late Classic Atz’aam Na (A.D. 600-900) ancient Maya salt works in Paynes Creek National Park, Belize, reveal activity areas associated with a substantial salt industry for distribution to the southern Maya inland inhabitants. At these sites, wooden architecture and salt making artifacts are abundantly preserved in a peat bog composed of red mangrove. We describe the excavation methods at this shallow, submerged underwater site, screening, analysis of recovered material, and collection of sediment for chemical analysis. The artifacts are overwhelmingly briquetage—pottery used to evaporate salty water by heating over fires to make salt. These excavations coupled with the results of sediment chemistry at Chan b’i indicate additional activity areas inside and outside of wooden buildings some of which are not evident from the artifacts recovered during excavations. The spatial distribution of briquetage and chemical analysis is evaluated in relation to interior and exterior of buildings and lines of palmetto palm posts. An abundance of briquetage and charcoal and the scarcity of domestic artifacts indicate that the sites were specialized salt works and not physically attached to households adding a new interpretation at the place of production.


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Cite this Record

Ancient Maya Salt Making Activities as Revealed Through Underwater Excavations and Sediment Chemistry, Paynes Creek National Park, Belize. E. Cory Sills, Heather McKillop, Christian Wells. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431477)


Keywords

Geographic Keywords
Mesoamerica


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15656

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America