The Stable Isotope Ecology of Agriculture in the Eastern Maya Lowlands from the Preclassic through Colonial Periods
The reconstruction of subsistence strategies using stable isotope analyses is integral to understanding the role of maize agriculture in the development and decline of ancient Maya society. Here we present stable carbon, nitrogen, and sulphur isotope data from over 230 radiocarbon dated human skeletal remains from western Belize dating from the Preclassic through Colonial periods (~1000 BC-AD 1700). Stable isotope data are also compared to paleoclimate proxy records to interpret the climatic contexts for changing agricultural practices. Results indicate that the Preclassic (1000 BC-AD 300) Maya of western Belize had diverse diets incorporating both maize and wild foods, which may have promoted resilience in the face of social reorganization and changing ecological systems at the end of the Preclassic period. During the Classic period (AD 300-900/1000), inter-individual isotopic variations indicate that high-status individuals had a narrow and highly specialized maize-based diet, which may have created a more vulnerable socio-economic system that disintegrated due in part to drought conditions during the Terminal Classic period. While maize continued to be a dietary staple through the Postclassic and Colonial periods, agricultural systems were impacted by severe multi-year droughts that resulted in high levels of mortality and migration across the Yucatán Peninsula.
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The Stable Isotope Ecology of Agriculture in the Eastern Maya Lowlands from the Preclassic through Colonial Periods. Claire Ebert, Julie Hoggarth, Kirsten Green, Carolyn Freiwald, Jaime Awe. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 445205)
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min long: -94.197; min lat: 16.004 ; max long: -86.682; max lat: 21.984 ;
Abstract Id(s): 20735