Reconstructing ancient Maya nursing behavior and children's diets at Tikal, Guatemala

Author(s): Lori Wright; Ethan Grossman

Year: 2017


We examine the ancient Maya nursing practices and children’s diets at the archaeological metropolis of Tikal, Guatemala, through stable isotopic analysis of permanent teeth in adult skeletons. Stable carbon isotope analysis of tooth enamel permits a measure of the relative amount of carbon from maize foods in the diet, and helps track the introduction of solid foods into the children’s diet. Stable oxygen isotopes in tooth enamel reflect the sources of water that children consumed, and shed light on the duration of breastfeeding. By sampling canines, which form between birth and 4.5 years of age, and by measuring isotope ratios on microsamples of enamel from different stages of canine growth, these data bring into focus the nature of dietary change in the first few years of life. Third molars form in later childhood, between 9 and 12 years of age, giving a measure of older childhood diet in the same individuals. Here, we report on the analysis of mandibular canines from 80 Tikal skeletons, and third molars from 48 skeletons. These data provide a means to test hypotheses about differential access to nutritional resources among social groups at Tikal by examining childhood diets and nursing behavior more directly.

Cite this Record

Reconstructing ancient Maya nursing behavior and children's diets at Tikal, Guatemala. Lori Wright, Ethan Grossman. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431814)


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): 15408