Landscape with Bees: Apiculture in Yucatán after the Spanish Invasion


This is an abstract from the "After Cortés: Archaeological Legacies of the European Invasion in Mesoamerica" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

In this paper we examine how European colonization and the shift to industrial capitalism altered beekeeping in Yucatán from AD1600 to the present. Honey and wax produced from stingless bees were circulated throughout the Mesoamerican world system during the Postclassic period. In the wake of the European colonization, honey and wax were in high demand as tribute and repartimiento goods, which shaped new ecologies and communities of practice involving both native (Melipona beecheii) and introduced (Apis melifera) bee species. Although traditional apiculture with stingless bees has persisted to the present day, we don’t know when European bees were introduced or how apiculture of mixed bee species altered ecologies, vegetative communities, and practices under demands for intensified production of honey, wax, and derivative alcoholic beverages (balche, mead, and distilled spirits like Xtabentun). We examine archaeological, material, ethnobotanical, and soil chemical evidence from the remains of an apiary, likely for Apis melifera, at Hacienda San Pedro Cholul, a henequen plantation situated on the outskirts of Mérida. The importance of this research is underscored by the disappearance of traditional beekeeping and possible extinction of Melipona beecheii in the wake of neoliberal globalization today.

Cite this Record

Landscape with Bees: Apiculture in Yucatán after the Spanish Invasion. Hector Hernandez, Mario Zimmermann, Rani Alexander. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450615)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -94.197; min lat: 16.004 ; max long: -86.682; max lat: 21.984 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 24511