Accepted paper:

Anthropology is the future of zooarchaeology in the Maya world


Kitty Emery (University of Florida)

Paper short abstract:

Increases in number and detail of Maya zooarchaeological studies reveal a heterogeneity in animal use that must be understood through collaboration with other anthropological specialists, particularly in such fields as ethnology and iconography.

Paper long abstract:

The study of archaeological animal remains from the Maya region integrates zoological taxonomy and ecology with archaeological context and anthropological themes. Recently, zooarchaeologists have probed such issues as climate change, environmental impact, economic and political integration, cuisine, and ritual. Increases in number and detail of zooarchaeological studies in the last decade now allow diachronic comparisons of Maya-animal interactions among regions, polities, communities, and people. These have created a new picture of heterogeneity in ancient Maya animal use. Our interpretations thus require a deeper understanding of the meanings of animals for the ancient Maya and a move away from interpretation of archaeological animal remains as reflective only of food. This more detailed understanding benefits from collaboration with other specialists among the anthropological branches. As an example, Maya ethnographic data is a rapidly disappearing resource with enormous potential for zooarchaeology. Recent work in the Atitlan highlands and Peten lowlands of Guatemala has revealed much about such topics as animal product re-use and discard, hunter's interpretations of sustainability and appropriate prey, the mechanics of food sharing and trade, and the cosmological significance of animal carcass curation. Iconographic imagery revealing continuity in animal themes from Colonial through Preclassic periods provides a vital link between the ancient and modern Maya attitudes. Zooarchaeologists need expert collaborators in such fields and, as such, interdisciplinarity among the branches of anthropology is vital to the future of zooarchaeology.

panel P052
The future with/of Maya anthropology