Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales and Eduardo Corona-M.
Interest in the first hunter-gatherer populations of Mexico has increased in the last fifteen years. Exploration of the Late Pleistocene localities involved in the early peopling of Mexico, including the discovery of new ones and reanalysis of known ones, and the application of new methods and techniques (e.g. AMS radiocarbon dating, stable isotopes, scanning electron microscopy, palaeobotanical analysis) have increased. Archaeozoology has contributed to this expansion by increasing the record of terrestrial vertebrates, improving understanding of the record and delimitation of distributional ranges of extinct species. There is now more information on the type of diet of some extinct herbivores and hypotheses about the status of local palaeoenvironments have been provided. Questions remain about the interactions between human migrations and the environments, specifically the degree of influence that humans had in the extinction of mega- and mesofaunas, and the diversity of subsistence strategies employed by hunter-gatherers in the Late Pleistocene.
John K. Milhauser
The Basin of Mexico was the political, demographic, and economic core of the Aztec Empire. Its landscape of lakes and marshes shaped settlement patterns, the flow of resources, and the subsistence base. This chapter focuses on the lakes’ nonagricultural resources—waterfowl, fish, other edible plants and animals, reeds, and salt—and on the people whose livelihoods depended on them. Exploiting aquatic resources brought people together as they shared territories, followed local rhythms of production, and participated in networks of exchange. To understand the forces that shaped demand for these products, and the lives of their producers, this chapter looks beyond subsistence economies to consider the cultural and commercial networks in which lacustrine products were embedded. As such, this investigation adds to a growing literature on rural Aztec economies that were regionally varied and interdependent.
Tanya M. Peres
Hydrographic features dominate the Olmec heartland. Fishing, travel, transport, and trade via watercraft were essential parts of daily life. This chapter synthesizes archaeofaunal, iconographic, and biological data about human–animal relationships during the Formative period in the Gulf Coastal lowlands of Veracruz, Mexico. Aquatic environments were reliable sources of physical sustenance for the Olmec and Epi-Olmec, and fresh-water fish, turtles, and local and migratory water birds made up the daily diet. Animals found in marine environments were elevated to a sacred status and venerated in iconography, and jade and ceramic effigies and pendants became important parts of spiritual sustenance.
Kitty F. Emery
Maya zooarchaeology can be used to answer a broad range of questions about the ancient Maya environmental and cultural history. Animal remains represent the impact of human activity on animal populations and the landscape as well as the full range of subsistence, economic, political, and symbolic practices of ancient peoples, households, and communities, all at a very local scale. As such, they can provide perspective on many of the major debates in Maya archaeology. Here, I explore the information that zooarchaeology in the Maya area has provided on questions of climate change, deforestation, and animal population management (both hunting and husbandry), as well as the contributions of animal remains to questions of ancient Maya community hierarchy, crafting, and economics, and the interrelated powers of politics and religion.