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Prehispanic Maya diet and mobility at Nakum, Guatemala: A multi-isotopic approach

Rand, Asta J., Matute, Varinia, Grimes, Vaughan, Freiwald, Carolyn, Zralka, Jaroslaw and Koszkul, Wieslaw 2020. Prehispanic Maya diet and mobility at Nakum, Guatemala: A multi-isotopic approach. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 32 , 102374. 10.1016/j.jasrep.2020.102374

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The site of Nakum has been the subject of extensive archaeological investigation, but little is known of the subsistence practices or mobility of the Prehispanic Maya who lived there. This study employed a multi-isotopic approach to investigate the diet and mobility of the Nakum Maya. Despite the poor preservation typical of tropical environments, the isotopic compositions of five human bone samples were compared to carbon, nitrogen, and sulphur isotope baselines developed from 16 archaeological faunal specimens from Nakum. The bone collagen carbon and nitrogen results indicate that the Nakum Maya consumed a maize-based diet supplemented with other cultigens and animal protein. Stable carbon isotope values from the bioapatite of five human bone and seven human tooth samples show that maize was an important dietary component throughout life, although two individuals consumed less maize during childhood. The bone collagen sulphur data and strontium isotope results from three teeth indicate that the Nakum individuals consumed local foods. However, two human oxygen isotope values were lower than the local range developed from human bone and tooth enamel samples, indicating these individuals moved to the site from outside the Maya region. Although the faunal sulphur values were much higher than expected at an inland site due to the underlying marine carbonate limestone geology, one faunal sample exhibited a very low value, suggesting that it was imported to the site over a considerable distance. Finally, this is the first study to publish baseline sulphur isotope values derived from Maya faunal remains and contributes to a better understanding of this isotope system in the Maya region.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 2352-409X
Date of Acceptance: 16 April 2020
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2023 14:27

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