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.
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.
The ancient Maya are known to have relied heavily on maize horticulture. In spite of the fact that maize was responsible for both the ideological and physical survival of the Maya, there was significant variability in the degree to which it was consumed. In this chapter, direct evidence of food consumption provided by the stable isotope composition of carbon and nitrogen is reviewed in terms of variability that existed across time, space, and social variables. Relationships between diet and significant temporal developments such as agricultural intensification, the collapse of Classic Maya society, and the Spanish conquest are examined, along with the use of diet to reconstruct political economies, gender, and status differentiation.
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.