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Life and death in the southeastern Maya periphery: Bioarchaeological and isotopic analysis of the Uxbenká burial population

Author(s): Willa Trask ; Kristin Hoffmeister ; J. Alex Canterbury

Year: 2017

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The southern Belize region is typically considered geographically and culturally peripheral to the primary activity areas of the ancient Maya. Although researchers have documented the development of a "southern Belize style" in terms of architecture and material culture, to date very little systematic work has been undertaken to understand health, diet, and mortuary behavior in the region. Ten years of excavations at Uxbenká have yielded rich evidence of a continuous occupation spanning from the Late Preclassic to the Terminal Classic, with evidence of human activity at least as early as the Archaic period. Human burials were recovered from a diverse range of civic and residential contexts, providing substantial insight into life and death among the ancient Maya of southern Belize. This paper draws on skeletal, dental, mortuary, archaeological, and isotopic data as a means to investigate health, diet, and mortuary trends at Uxbenká during the span of its occupation. We also identify continuing evidence of ancestor veneration and status disparities reflected in burial practices and mortuary treatments. These studies expand our understanding of the biological consequences of increased social complexity as the Uxbenká polity transformed from a small agricultural community into an important regional geopolitical center.

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Life and death in the southeastern Maya periphery: Bioarchaeological and isotopic analysis of the Uxbenká burial population. Willa Trask, Kristin Hoffmeister, J. Alex Canterbury. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431967)


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): 17189

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