Presentation Type

Poster

Title of Abstract

Dietary Isotopic Analysis of Human Remains from the Maya Terminal Classic Period in Ambergris Caye, Belize

Abstract

Stable isotope analysis was done on human skeletal remains to determine the importance of maize and marine foods in the diet of the inhabitants of Ambergris Caye, Belize during the Late Terminal Classic Period (ca. ninth century A.D.). Maize was an important staple in the Maya diet but, because of the caye’s saline soil, it is thought that maize would not have been grown on the island and it would not have been prominent in the diet of the inhabitants. Thirty bone samples were taken from the coastal sites of Chac Balam and San Juan to test this isotopically, and to determine if seafood was more important in the diet than in other parts of Belize. Both the carbon and nitrogen isotope results vary considerably among individuals, with a linear range that suggests the variation was based on the consumption of seafood. This study emphasizes that the dietary practices of ancient Maya people were at least partially controlled by the local ecological setting, and that analysis of the diet provides insight into the lives of the people.

Categories

Engineering/Physical Science

Research Type

Course Related

Mentor Information

Dr. Robert Tykot

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Dietary Isotopic Analysis of Human Remains from the Maya Terminal Classic Period in Ambergris Caye, Belize

Stable isotope analysis was done on human skeletal remains to determine the importance of maize and marine foods in the diet of the inhabitants of Ambergris Caye, Belize during the Late Terminal Classic Period (ca. ninth century A.D.). Maize was an important staple in the Maya diet but, because of the caye’s saline soil, it is thought that maize would not have been grown on the island and it would not have been prominent in the diet of the inhabitants. Thirty bone samples were taken from the coastal sites of Chac Balam and San Juan to test this isotopically, and to determine if seafood was more important in the diet than in other parts of Belize. Both the carbon and nitrogen isotope results vary considerably among individuals, with a linear range that suggests the variation was based on the consumption of seafood. This study emphasizes that the dietary practices of ancient Maya people were at least partially controlled by the local ecological setting, and that analysis of the diet provides insight into the lives of the people.