Diet and health among the Classic Maya of La Corona and El Perú-Waka’
Foodways were an important part of ancient Maya society and encompass the types of food eaten; how food was produced, acquired, prepared, and consumed; and the cultural practices and beliefs related to food. Diet is shaped not just by the local environment and subsistence practices, but also by complex social, political, and economic relationships. Researchers have drawn from a wide array of sources to learn about ancient foodways, including faunal and paleobotanical remains; geochemical residues; epigraphic texts and iconography; and Colonial documents and ethnographic studies of modern Maya people. Human skeletal remains are a valuable, direct source of information about health and food consumption through observation of pathological lesions and measurement of stable isotopes. Skeletal remains analyzed in this dissertation come from several Classic Maya archaeological sites in northwest Peten, Guatemala: La Corona, El Perú-Waka’, La Cariba, and Chakah. This study seeks to reconstruct the health and diet of the sites’ inhabitants using both osteological and isotopic analyses, combined with evidence from archaeology and other sources. Various facets of identity have been reconstructed through osteological and mortuary analysis, and analyses have been carried out for eight groups (site, sex, age, time period, social status, settlement zone, migration status, and deposit type). This dissertation finds that the people of La Corona, El Perú, and their satellites were consuming a mixed diet high in maize and protein. While the evidence is limited, the data suggest that the sites’ inhabitants were not significantly more unhealthy than other maize agriculturalists in the region. Variability among different groups within the sample suggests social heterogeneity among the Maya living at these sites. In some cases, these differences influenced health outcomes and access to dietary resources. The most significant differences were found among those living in different settlement density zones. Urban dwellers consumed more maize and meat and were less likely to experience episodic stress in childhood than non-urban individuals. For the people of La Corona and El Perú-Waka’, where you lived mattered.