Trade of Animals among the Ancient Maya

Project Investigator: Erin Thornton

Have we been underestimating the extent of ancient Maya animal trade? What does this mean in terms of ancient Maya economics?

As part of her PhD research in the Environmental Archaeology collections, Erin Thornton studied ancient Maya animal exchange using the innovative new technique of strontium isotope analysis. Here is a quote from her recently published article abstract (JAS 38 2011):

Isotopic analysis provides an additional means of identifying and sourcing non-local animals. 87Sr/86Sr values from Maya zooarchaeological remains indicate that regional and long-distance transport and exchange of animal goods was more common than previously recognized. Widely distributed animals including deer and peccary were among the animals exchanged, which questions their common interpretation as locally-acquired resources. The isotopic results contribute to our understanding of how animal products were integrated into Maya economic and exchange networks. The research is also relevant to human mobility studies in Mesoamerica.