An Analysis of Maya Foodways: Stable Isotopes and Oral Indicators of Diet in West Central Belize
AuthorHarvey, Amanda R.
StatisticsView Usage Statistics
Data on stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes and oral indicators of diet from the sites of Tipu and Baking Pot in western Belize offer insights into the transition of Maya life after Spanish contact. Tipu is a borderland town occupied from the Preclassic period until A.D. – 1707, when the Spanish forcefully removed its inhabitants. It is best known for its Colonial occupation and visita church with 600+ interments. Baking Pot was a regional civic-ceremonial center continuously occupied from the Preclassic (~700 cal B.C.) to the Terminal Classic periods (cal A.D. 900/1000), during which time the site center was abandoned. While outlying settlement areas continued to be occupied, the site center was not reoccupied until the Late Postclassic (cal A.D. 1280 – 1420). The two sites are within 16 km of each other, are found in the same environmental setting, and likely belonged to the same trade networks. They represent life in west central Belize before and after Spanish contact.Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes and oral indicators of diet were analyzed to answer questions about the intersection of identities and social roles of food production, procurement, processing, distribution, and consumption. The two sites have the same δ15N value, suggesting similar protein resource use through time, most likely low-order, C3-energy animals and freshwater mollusks. Tipu has a slightly higher δ13C value implying an increased reliance of maize. At Tipu, males and females from the pre-Columbian structure had different diets than individuals buried in the church, suggesting a change in gendered access and roles associated with food after Spanish contact. Only intersectional identity divisions uncovered this pattern.Both sites have high rates of calculus, likely from increased silicon and ammonia in fruits and not marine protein. Baking Pot has a slightly higher rate of caries, also potentially elevated by fruit consumption as they consumed less maize than Tipuans. At Tipu, females had greater rates of caries and AMTL, while males had more calculus. Tipu has one of the greatest rates of periodontal recession of any Maya site. Social factors, such as tobacco smoking, rather than biological factors may be the cause. The frequency of the five oral conditions suggests that the oral well-being and food consumption patterns of Tipuans were more like precontact sites than other Colonial sites.