Interpreting Maya Economic Activity Using Paleoethnobotany

Author(s): Jessica Devio

Year: 2017


Paleoethnobotany is a subfield of archaeology that requires an extensive knowledge of archaeology and botany. Because highly specialized skills are required, presenting data can be difficult. Botanical data must be conveyed in a way that is understood by fellow archaeologists while adhering to standards of botanists. Conveying this information becomes even more difficult when we begin to combine micro and macro botanical methods. Botanical datasets can contribute to a wide range of topics that enhance our understanding of Precolumbian societies. This paper focuses on the contribution that paleoethnobotany can make to our understanding of ancient economies. I focus not only on the subsistence economy, but the contributions to our understanding of economic production, distribution, and consumption on a broader scale. I present a case study from the site of Xunantunich in Belize. Thousands of small unifacial bladelets associated with Late Classic Maya households were discovered at the site and were initially interpreted as crafting tools. A sample of 38 previously washed bladelets and 62 unwashed artifacts yielded starch from several plant species. The results suggest that at least one household at Xunantunich engaged in plant processing activities that exceed that of normal household production activities.

Cite this Record

Interpreting Maya Economic Activity Using Paleoethnobotany. Jessica Devio. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431913)


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): 15256